By Norris Burkes Oct 3 2021
Have you ever noticed how two situations can seem unrelated, but you soon discover a connection between them?
The first situation developed this weekend while I was visiting my mother in a senior living facility in Chino, Calif.
Mom is 88 and needs a little extra help with daily living activities. So we hired an outside agency to provide a helping companion.
They sent Michelle, an active mother of two in her late 30s. She seemed just what Mom needed, a good conversationalist who’s present and comforting.
During our get-to-know-each-other conversation Michelle mentioned how she recently began attending Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills.
When I asked her what she liked about her church she said, “Pastor Jack! He speaks the truth and preaches the Bible.”
The church sounded familiar. Later that afternoon, an Internet search reminded me that Pastor Jack is one of many pastors promising a religious exemption for anyone hoping to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine. As I shut my laptop, I resolved that this situation would become an opportunity for a field trip.
Late Sunday morning, I made a fifteen-minute drive to a visitor parking space outside the megachurch. A few minutes later I began wading through an unmasked crowd of at least 3,000 people to locate the church office. There, behind a welcome desk, volunteers were handing out exemptions to anyone asking.
So I asked for one.
Signers of this two-page statement must attest that the vaccine violates the biblical word. The statement is reinforced with a mishmash of verses I found hard to follow. The document allows the Bible to say what we want it to say in order to help us avoid what we don’t want to do. (James 4:17; Romans 14; Romans 15:4; Acts 2:38-39; Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Psalm 139:13- 16)
The desk volunteers must have guessed that I was confused, so they sent me back into the crowd to find their assistant pastor, Steve Hurlbert.
When I found him, I asked him what theological issues the church had with the vaccine.
“Some people have a real problem with how the vaccines are made and their use of abortive fetal tissue,” he told me.
He then reinforced the exemption’s main point. The vaccines are “sinful” because they use the “fetal stem cell lines from aborted babies.” Hurlbert, a COVID-19 survivor, sees taking the vaccine as “a complicit action in the act of abortion.”
There is no church that has a bigger problem with abortion than the Roman Catholic church. So I reached out to Dr. Jason T. Eberl, Ph.D., Professor of Health Care Ethics and Philosophy, Saint Louis University, a private Jesuit research university.
Eberl hears Calvary’s argument as more than disingenuous because the legal test for any conscientious objector is “sincerity.”
“Just because someone drops the words, ‘fetal cell line’ that doesn’t mean that we automatically should give them an exemption.
For instance, no one is objecting to using the very same fetal cell line to test food additives or over-the-counter medication.”
Eberl asks, “Are they truly conscientiously objecting to using a product with these cell lines or are they buying into a political narrative…? If so, then they are using this as an excuse to avoid a vaccination mandate, and it’s not really a sincerely held objection.”
Eberl and others confirmed what I knew to be true, that there are no mainline religious organizations that have any opposition to this vaccine.
Like Pastor Hulbert, I went to seminary too. I too love Jesus and read the Bible. So I’m definitely in my lane to tell my Christian readers this vaccine doesn’t violate scripture. It’s not made from aborted babies.
As it turns out, Michelle’s choice in churches is not at all unrelated to my mother’s health. For you see, Michele, my mom’s caregiver and Calvary attendee, tested positive for COVID four days after our last visit.
Medical misinformation bolstered by biblical misquotes is killing people. My brother died last December from believing nonsense like this. I hope my mom isn’t next.
Contact Chaplain Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail (843) 608-9715.