There was one simple way to avoid a COVID-19 vaccine mandate—most of us were vaccinated in the past year and thus the recently instituted mandates simply do not apply. If we get vaccinated first, “they” can’t make us do it.
But for those of us who have not yet done so in specific industries and in different parts of the world, resisting the vaccination mandates requires more creative action. And sometimes the best protest can be to do what is needed in ways that are better than required or expected, with creativity and dignity.
In considering how to respond to vaccine mandates, some people have expressed concerns about these impositions on personal liberties and perhaps even freedom of conscience. These are always important questions to consider, but we should not let them confuse the importance of a necessary public health response. We must ensure we are protesting the right thing. Risking the health of our families and communities is a poor and self-defeating form of protest.
So I suggest we launch a public relations campaign to church members and perhaps the wider community—something along lines of “Don’t get vaccinated because you have to, get vaccinated because you can.” Making better voluntary choices is the best way to resist vaccine mandates.
We can choose to be vaccinated as a good, loving, and caring action, even if we might have a few lingering questions or while protesting against feeling like we are required to. If we feel we need to, we will protest against mandatory vaccination by being the first to volunteer and by being one of the highest vaccinated groups in the population. We are vaccinated because we love others, care for our families, and seek the best for our communities. It might not look different from the person next to us in line who is doing it grudgingly just to keep his or her job, but our state of mind and commitment to honoring God and loving others make it different. It is one way that we can “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20, KJV).
But there is another step we can take in this act of resistance. Jesus taught strategies for non-violent and gracious resistance against demands placed on his followers by the authorities in his time: “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles” (Matthew 5:41, NLT). This is a way to faithfully reclaim the initiative when imposed upon, even if seemingly deprived of choice. So how might we “go the second mile” in resisting vaccine mandates?
If you “have” to get vaccinated, take someone else with you who doesn’t have to—perhaps a friend, a family member, a fellow church member, or someone who might not have easy access to a vaccination center—and protest together by them doing it voluntarily.
Alternatively, recognizing the vaccine privilege that we have in developed nations, including the availability and choice of vaccines, raise your voice to #EndCOVIDforAll. For example, Micah Australia—a coalition of Christian justice and development agencies, including ADRA Australia—is part of an ongoing campaign to urge the Australian government to provide greater access to vaccines and other pandemic and post-pandemic support to developing nations, particularly to our Pacific neighbors. Let’s go the extra mile regarding vaccine equity, for the well-being of our neighbors.
In discussions about vaccine mandates, much has been made about the value of freedom. Freedom is important and its defense is a perpetual task. But we also value truth, life, and love for others. If we feel we ought to resist vaccine mandates, let’s do it creatively and in ways that also advance these other values: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But . . . use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13, NLT).
Nathan Brown is an author and journalist, as well as book editor at Signs Publishing Company, based in Melbourne, Victoria.
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