‘Christians Can Help’ Fight COVID-19
Now is the time for Christians to link arms and move forward over the next several weeks to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
“We are not done with coming out of a dark place. These will be a critical couple of months” as people get vaccinated against the virus, said Collins in an online presentation offered Sunday, Apr. 11, by Biologos, an organization that he founded and that is now led by Deborah Haarsma, former chair of the physics department at Calvin University and coauthor of the book Origins (Faith Alive, 2011).
The presentation was titled “How Christians Can Help End the Pandemic.”
“If we can’t get close to 80 percent herd immunity by later this year . . . this could go on and on,” said Collins.
He was referring to scientific research that has found that a virus such as COVID-19 will continue infecting people until 80 percent or so of a population has been vaccinated — or has come down with the disease — in order for widespread immunity to take hold.
Speaking especially to groups of Christians who have said they oppose getting vaccinated for any number of reasons, ranging from politics to skepticism about science, Collins said: “Your decision not to get vaccinated is not just about yourself. If you are going to be part of the health of your community, this is a ‘love your neighbor’ moment.”
Rolling up your sleeve and getting vaccinated, even if you don’t want the vaccine, is important. “Keep in mind that the vaccine is doing what it is supposed to do,” said Collins. “Our bodies have been designed by God to take on this kind of challenge and to get vaccinated.”
In 2006, Collins wrote the best-selling book The Language of God, in which he tells of his journey from atheism to Christian belief, showing that science is not in conflict with the Bible but actually enhances faith. The response to his book led to his founding Biologos, which focuses on the interaction between science and faith.
Also part of the Sunday-night presentation was Dr. David Anderson, senior pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Md., and host of a popular faith-based radio show that airs weekdays in the Washington, D.C., area.
Anderson said he is present on Wednesdays when his church holds a drive-in vaccination clinic.
Last week, he added, a church member who is pregnant asked him if she should get vaccinated; she wondered if it might cause a problem when she nursed her new baby.
“I didn’t know what to tell her,” he said.
Bringing this up during the online presentation, Collins said that by all means she should get vaccinated — and that research indicated she may pass along immunity to COVID-19 in her breast milk.
“I’m going to tell her this, and maybe she will be there” at the church to get vaccinated, said Anderson. He then added: “Getting vaccinated is not a question of your faith; it is a question of wisdom.”
While leading the NIH through this very difficult time, Collins said, he has grieved the terrible toll the disease has taken in the U.S., where more than more than 550,000 people have died from COVID-19, as well as around the world, where nearly 3 million people have died from it.
In the midst of this, he said, he has turned frequently to the Bible, especially to such Scriptures as Psalm 46, which begins: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. . . .” He also noted that he leans on 2 Timothy 1:7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
Collins said the NIH — the largest institution like it in the world — has worked hard, with Dr. Anthony Fauci as its main spokesperson, to provide scientifically sound advice to people — advice based on evidence from sound research.
“Dr. Fauci works for me,” said Collins. “He has run the part of the NIH that deals with infectious diseases for the past 35 years. He has been incredibly visible and has continued to give the best information we have about COVID-19.”
Collins said that if we all pull together and manage to gain herd immunity, then our lives can return to some sense of normalcy.
“Remember, we all have promises from God. If everyone gets together and locks arms, we want to see this pandemic in our rearview mirror.”