I am tired of people misusing Christianity for all kinds or political and moral messaging. Whether it’s intellectual know-it-alls who explain away all the bits of the Bible that don’t fit with contemporary moral proclivities or those who get sucked in by crazy conspiracies and then justify them from loopy readings of the Bible. Indeed, some of this isn’t’ just odd, it is downright dangerous and blasphemous.
I do hope people realise that most Christians don’t support or agree with this banner that was displayed at an anti-lockdown protest yesterday in Australia. I suppose a few Christians might like the banner, but that doesn’t make it true or helpful.
This is a Difficult Year
I will address this appalling sign shortly, but first of all, I want to say that I understand how many people are frustrated and fed up and hurting during the COVID-19 pandemic. I doubt if there are many Australians who don’t feel at the very least one of those emotions right now. I have seen many struggling Aussies over the last 19 months and I know it’s hard. No one wants to be in the situation that we’re currently experiencing.
When it comes to protests, my view is that it’s unwise, even selfish, to protest right now (that was my position last year as well). At the same time, we are right to be concerned by any Government that stifles peoples’ right to protest, even when we disagree with their point of view. Two things can be right at the same time. The higher biblical ethic however isn’t to push for my rights, it is to love the other. I’m not arguing here for or against lockdowns. Neither am I advocating for or against other measures taken during the pandemic. It’s not that I don’t have opinions about such things but that I’m aware of the fact that I’m not a medical professional and these are complex matters and I don’t have to shoulder responsibility for millions of people. It may well be the case that we won’t know what the right course of action was for several years to come. Uncertainties and confusion have often been compounded by the unnecessary politicisation of the pandemic and by the actions of a few inflammatory journalists.
Don’t Mangle the Bible to Support Conspiracies
My concern here, however, is the so-called Christian messaging present in these protests. If you are someone who claims to follow Jesus Christ, before making any decision first ask, am I faithfully promoting the good news of Jesus Christ? Another question I should ask is, am I loving my neighbour by joining in this unlawful rally? While I am sure there were a few well-meaning Christians protesting yesterday, that is no excuse for screwing up the beautiful Christian message by blending it with anti-VAX conspiracy theories.
Am I faithfully promoting the good news of Jesus Christ? Am I loving my neighbour by joining in this unlawful rally?
There is a difference between someone who declines vaccination as a result of carefully thought out reasoning and one who is saying no because they’ve swallowed hearsay and conspiracy theories. For me, I’m convinced taking the vaccine is sensible and that it is foremost about loving others and putting their health above my own (I’ve had my first round of Pfizer).
The Bible itself is not anti-medicine anymore than the Bible isn’t anti-science. The apostle Paul tells a young Timothy, I hear that you’re unwell, take something for it (1 Tim 5:23). In the Bible, when people are hungry, the answer is to give them food. When people are tired, they sleep. We are physical creatures made for a physical world; not just disembodied minds or spirits. God has given us a world that we can understand and use by means of science and technology and medicine.
The Bible talks about people who advocate and believe wonky ideas and calls on churches to guard against them. For example, in the First Pastoral Epistle, the apostle Paul famously calls out obsessive speculation and the division it brings:
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7)
Scholars can’t be certain about the precise content of these myths and genealogies. However, in chapter 4, Paul talks about people who were advocating distorted views of marriage, food, and other everyday norms. The apostle is adamant that such abuse of Christian doctrine is harmful to peoples’ physical and spiritual well-being. He warns that it comes through “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.” (1 Timothy 4:2)
The Meaning of the Blood of Jesus
When people mix the Christian message with speculative theories we find absurd statements such as the banner which many journos are enjoying sharing around on social media: “The blood of Christ is my vaccine”.
What an awful slogan. This kind of misrepresentation is as detrimental to the Christian message as that of the false teachers Paul spoke against.
This kind of misrepresentation is as detrimental to the Christian message as that of the false teachers Paul spoke against.
Just in case someone is wondering, the blood of Jesus does not have physical properties that will somehow mingle with our cardiovascular system to fight and destroy viral infection. Such superstition is medieval, not biblical.
However, I will never ridicule the idea of the “blood of Christ”. Christ’s blood is crucial and central. Without this blood, there is no Christianity. The shedding of blood goes a long way to demonstrate the true horror of human sinfulness and the extraordinary length God went to bring atonement and deliver reconciliation.
Blood is used in many different ways in the Bible, but most of the time it signifies death—often a sacrificial death. Blood speaks of sacrifices conducted in the Old Testament which prepare the way for the sacrifice that actually does something; that atones for human sin: the death of Jesus Christ.
… you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you, who through him are believers in God … (1 Peter 1:18-21)
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)
Let me explain it this way, while the biblical language of blood may be unusual for many of us, we do understand the concept of sacrifice. The notion of someone laying down their life in order to save others is a common theme in literature and film. In real life, such events are often mentioned on the news for they are rare and wonderful examples of love.
We do understand the concept of sacrifice–the notion of someone laying down their life in order to save others.
Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance has these words engraved in the interior of the building, “Greater love hath no man”. While these words aptly describe the sacrifice of our war dead, they are in fact words spoken by Jesus. These words speak of the greatest sacrifice we can make for the sake of another, and the point to the ultimate sacrifice; the cross:
… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
When protesters distort the Christian message and attach it to something like the anti-vax movement, people will understandably mock them. Sadly, they may also go away with the wrong view of Christ and of Christianity. I’m thankful that most Christians have more sense, and hopefully better theology. For the rest of Australia, please don’t judge the truly sublime message of Jesus Christ by a few dreadful banners. Instead, find a Christian church, open a Bible, and discover the good news of Jesus for yourself.
First published at murraycampbell.net