“It’s the Christian thing to do,” is a common phrase being thrown at Christians today who refuse to participate in getting the COVID-19 vaccination. The New York governor has even said “the vaccine is from God,” and that you are an “apostle” if you are inoculated. Christians are told to “love your neighbor” and if you don’t submit, you are somehow not acting in love. In this article, I will discuss how this “love your neighbor” is the latest guilt trip tactic and the new form of “don’t judge” used out of context. This narrative paints a distorted picture of how we respond. May my words be under the grace of Jesus Christ to explain the truth to the best of my ability. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Love Your Neighbor”
Matthew 22:39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is certainly a beautiful statement from our Lord Jesus Christ of which I have no disputes with it’s importance and constant relevance to our existence. My dispute is with the context it’s being used as rhetoric to shame Christians into decisions. As we read in Matthew 22, this is the second greatest commandment. What is the first? Love God with all your heart. In fact all of this chapter regarding the parable of the wedding feast shows that the kingdom of God is for everyone, not just the Jews. So it is ironic that those using this verse usually have a mindset that society/rights are not for everyone, only for the vaccinated. They’re advocating for an antithetical message, viewing the unvaccinated as new lepers who need to be removed from society.
Furthermore, we must love God first as this is the greater commandment. We must obey God over men. God says “thou shalt not murder,” how can I participate knowingly in that which has murdered the most innocent? “Love your neighbor” is self defeating in this application because it necessitates using the killing your neighbor first (the unborn). The unborn child in the womb was the first to rejoice at the news of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:41). Exodus 23:7, “Do not kill the innocent or righteous for I will not acquit the wicked.” and Matthew 18:6, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” I’m not advocating that people who got the vaccine are guilty of murder, just like I believe it’s unfair to assert that the unvaccinated are killing people for refusing to get it too. The thing to ask ourselves is there a qualitative difference between using aborted fetal cells from the 1970s just because the abortion is not from today? It would go against my conscience personally.
The summation of this line of “love your neighbor” being thrown at Christians essentially equates to, “if you really were a loving Christian, you would act and think exactly how I do.” The irony here being most people using this verse are not Christians, and have not read the Bible. To be blunt, there is no logical reason for me or anyone else to oblige someone’s opinion about Christianity who isn’t a Christian. More ironically, forcing people to act and think exactly like you is the opposite of “love your neighbor.” This “love” used in this way is self-seeking, boastful and proud, the opposite of what Paul tells us love is in his epistle to the Corinthians. This “love” claims a perceived moral high ground with it’s ultimate purpose is to silence opposition and get them to comply with them. That isn’t love. Love is based on free will, of which our Father in heaven gave to each of us.
Those who say religion has no place in medical and scientific discussions then by their own standard have no place to use religion (or deny religious exemptions) to coerce people against their conscience.
If the preservation of life is at the forefront of this vaccination, then any notion of aborted fetal cells being used in testing of any vaccine makes this argument null and void. There is a promise of life but only death is given. HEK293 stands for Human Embryonic Kidney cells that the vaccines are tested on, 293 stands for the number of abortions committed before the tissue was successfully harvested for use. Some say 293 is the number of experiments done to achieve the goal with the abortion numbers being either even more or less. Regardless, it is simply immoral for me to support something derived and developed by means of abortion.
According to Nebraska Medicine and many other medical sources, while the COVID vaccines do not contain aborted fetal cells, “Pfizer and Moderna did perform confirmation tests (to ensure the vaccines work) using fetal cell lines,” which is also a concern for many Orthodox Christians. Simply stating this you are labeled an “anti-vaxxer.” However, I and others are not against preventative medicine in general. It is just absurd to deem something “life saving” that is “life killing.” What about other vaccines that use aborted fetal lines? We as Christians should avoid these too while encouraging these companies to seek vaccines created without the use of aborted fetal cells in any part of the process. Should we avoid any other products that use HEK293 cell lines? Yes!
What Do Our Elders Say?
“Lay people must also honor monasticism in heart and in deed, so as to be able at least in some measure to partake of the grace of monasticism through others.” – St. Seraphim of Sarov – A Spiritual Biography, Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, NewSarov Press, 1994, p. 261.
Our monastics are the heart of spirituality in the Orthodox Christian faith. I believe the majority consensus of them is that we should avoid this vaccine, at least on Mt. Athos. The National Herald reports that 3,500 of 4,000 monks on Mt. Athos do not want the vaccination, some believing it is “the devil’s work.” That’s 88% of Mount Athos.
Elder Parthenius, the abbot of St. Paul’s monastery on Mt. Athos, says he does not bless anyone to receive the vaccine but that others can do as they please. He is a well respected spiritual father. Bishop Porfirii (Shutov), abbot of Solovetsky Monastery, one of Russia’s oldest and most venerated monasteries, expressed his concerns against taking the vaccine in a video, of which was swiftly removed from YouTube. Abbot Tryphon of All-Merciful Savior Monastery of Vashon Island, has also expressed his refusal and hesitancy over the vaccination, which may cost him his job.
Fr. Damaskinos of the Grigoriou Monastery, Mount Athos says, “The Holy Fathers told us not to take the ναccίnε.” Fr. Savvas, hieromonk in the Monastery of Holy Trinity, Edessa, Macedonia, Greece references Savvas Achileos; “the devil, the antichrist, will sit in the throne of public health.” One of the more well-known concerns of the vaccine and vaccine passports comes from St. Paisios which you can read here. Elder Julian of Prodromos Skete (Mount Athos) this year said the same as St. Paisios, that the vaccine is “in order to prepare people to accept the demonic sealing.” He cites a relevant verse especially when we think of synagogue in place of Church regarding this situation, “They will put you out of the synagogue; The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God a service’ (John 16:2).
“The Church believes it to be definitely inadmissible to use the methods of so-called fetal therapy in which the human fetus on various stages of its development is aborted and used in attempts to treat various diseases and to ‘rejuvenate’ an organism. Denouncing abortion as a cardinal sin, the Church cannot find any justification for it either even if someone may possibly benefit from the destruction of a conceived human life. Contributing inevitably to ever wider spread and commercialization of abortion, this practice (even if its still hypothetical effectiveness could be proved scientifically) presents an example of glaring immorality and is criminal.” [Source: http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/3/14.aspx] First, chapter 12, section 7, of the Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church (AD 2000).
As I’ve stated before in a previous article; sin is the real pandemic. Repentance and contrition of heart is our true cure. Ultimately, Metropolitan Hilarion expressed that getting vaccinated or refusing to is up to personal freedom of the individual. Regardless if you agree with my position in this article or vehemently disagree, there must be a freedom to choose for all of us. I pray for our unity and love to be preserved with us all in Holy Orthodoxy. I do not intend to be divisive, please forgive me if I have sorrowed or offended in this.