As two Baptist pastors, we often preach lengthy sermons. Our message right now, though, to the citizens of the Show Me State is brief: Get vaccinated!
As we all know, the delta coronavirus variant has created a rise in COVID-19 cases in our state. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes for Health, last week called Missouri “the place that I’m most worried about” in terms of COVID-19 cases. And Collins, who like us is outspoken about his evangelical faith, previously urged his fellow Christians to get vaccinated, arguing that “this really is a love-your-neighbor moment.”
We agree. The Bible we both cherish is clear about the call to love our neighbors. That is why we joined with over 200 other pastors and ministers in Missouri, representing more than a dozen denominations, in releasing a plea this week for our brothers and sisters to get vaccinated. Together, we really can stop this virus from harming and killing more of our neighbors
The dangers of the delta variant to unvaccinated individuals are clear. More than 99 percent of the people who died in the U.S. from COVID over the last six months were unvaccinated. The vaccines work!
Even people who feel young and healthy should second guess taking such a grave risk. We have heard of too many cases in recent weeks of people struck down in the prime of their lives. With safe and effective vaccines available, we should not be attending the funerals of young adults who died from COVID-19 because they refused to get a shot in their arm.
Over the past 16 months, this virus has already claimed the lives of more than 10,000 Missourians — each made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We lament each death and the growing trauma in our communities that lingers for years as we see empty seats at our dinner tables and in our church pews. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, and the diligence of scientists over the past several months, we do not have to live in fear of burying our loved ones from this virus.
Low vaccination rates in our communities also put others at risk. Both of us have young sons who, like other children under 12, are not yet eligible for the vaccine. The increased spread of the delta variant among unvaccinated adults is a threat to the youngest among us.
As preachers who devote our lives trying to follow Jesus, we recall his warning to those who would cause “little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:2). As we have learned of outbreaks among children from unvaccinated adults at camps and even church events, we are angry at the ways our society ignores the vulnerability of our kids. For the sake of our children’s future, we need adults to be responsible in the present.
This is a moment that transcends politics. We appreciate the many Republican and Democratic leaders in our state and nation encouraging vaccinations. This virus does not care who you voted for, where you go to church, or whether you live on a farm or in a city. It threatens us all and that is why we must be unified in our response.
Jesus expects his followers to be “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). We are to be moral examples rather than cautionary tales. Hundreds of pastors like us are speaking out because too many Christians are ignoring what is required of them by their faith.
We wish we could say that our plea for vaccination was hyperbole or that perhaps the urgency of our plea was one that was primarily hypothetical in nature, a “what could happen if” type of discussion.
In reality, we both know people who are sick or have passed away from COVID.
In fact, there is one family that comes to mind (from one of our congregations) where a retired couple lives with their adult daughter, but the husband is not vaccinated. He is now quite ill from the delta variant while his vaccinated wife and daughter continue to test negative and show no symptoms. For obvious reasons, we cannot share more specifics but, suffice it to say, we are heartbroken by the very real and needless suffering of this Missouri family — what they are enduring is brutal.
The vaccine saves lives, while others die because of hesitancy, fear, stubbornness, or a litany of other reasons. The suffering doesn’t have to happen. Take the step that may very well save your life and the lives of several of those around you. Pick up the phone or hop online and schedule your vaccination today.
Come on, Missouri, let’s do our part in the healing of the nations. God has blessed us with vaccines that promise life when death has threatened us in this pandemic. We need to get vaccinated and put this virus behind us.
Brian Kaylor is president and editor-in-chief of Word&Way in Jefferson City. Christopher Dixon is chief operating officer of eLectio Publishing and pastor of West Finley Baptist Church near Fordland.