(A minor update to article was done on Feb, 2022)
This past year has brought some of the most stressful and confusing times for many of us. With the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic around late 2019, life seems to have changed so quickly for everyone around the world. We’ve barely had sufficient time to properly process all that has been going on while still trying to keep up with work, family, and other commitments. Adding to the stress of our current moment are all the social and societal pressures we feel around us. It seems like a lot of the messaging in the news and media has moved from fear-mongering to hate-mongering. Some of the vitriol we see and hear coming out of the mouths of politicians and public figures has been downright disturbing. However, more disturbing has been how friends and even family have turned against each other in the debates and arguments concerning COVID, vaccines and public policy.
This is not a usual type of article or subject for this blog (nor do I intend it to be). I’ll be upfront in admitting that I have my own opinions (which will inevitably come out in this article), but remain open to hearing other viewpoints and respecting the fact that others may disagree for their own reasons. We can recognize and respect our differences without name-calling each other “anti-vaxers”, "conspiracy theorists" or “brainwashed sellouts”. Neither is gracious or profitable in times like these. We all have God-given intellect and conscience. It is wrong for us to disregard the use of our powers of critical thinking (Jam. 3:7; 1 Thes. 5:21) or to go against conscience (Rom. 14:23). Both are given to us by God for us to use and we should not fault each other for this.
There are many factors at play in all of this. As with most complex situations, there are seldom simplistic solutions. My goal here is not to solve every problem (I can’t), nor to go into an in-depth examination of all the arguments for and against the new vaccines (many other more qualified people have attempted to do that), nor is it to give medical advice (each person should weigh the risks vs benefits in consultation with their medical professional). Rather, my focus is on some of the tensions, the factors that lead some people to opinions that differ from what seems to be the mainstream narrative in popular media and some of the dangers I perceive at this moment.
The Politicization of a Pandemic
One thing that should be clear to all is how politicized this situation has become this past year! It is one of the major things that makes weeding through all the various voices so difficult and stressful for many who want to seek the truth.
I want to lay out a few of the factors that lead many to think through things differently concerning vaccines, mandates and the pandemic with the hopes of facilitating understanding (even if we still hold differing conclusions). I think part of the problem is the incredulity some feel at the fact that others could possibly come to different conclusions on these matters. I will link out to sources to make it easier for people to check into things themselves if they so desire.
The CDC and WHO have been sources of public medical advice and guidance. While many highly value their recommendations, some have heavily criticized the CDC and the WHO during this time for political bias and publishing conflicting data or recommendations. Others have raised serious concerns over suppression and censorship of doctors and scientists who have challenged the dominant narrative in most of the public news and media. Recently, the Rome Declaration which has been signed by over 7,200 physicians and medical scientists around the world attests that
"physicians are increasingly being discouraged from engaging in open professional discourse and the exchange of ideas about new and emerging diseases, not only endangering the essence of the medical profession, but more importantly, more tragically, the lives of our patients..."
Even the prestigious British Medical Journal has spoken out about political censorship in academic journals. In Canada, MP Derek Sloan raised these concerns in a press conference. There have been several other Canadian physicians and doctors who have attested to censorship and silencing - forcing them to use alternative platforms. For example, Professor of Virology at the University of Guelph, Dr. Byram Bridle, has experienced censorship and slander after challenging some of the current narratives. Others have also spoken of the censorship happening when they have tried to speak up including practicing frontline doctors.
Shutting down scientific dialogue over these important issues will not help anyone in the long run and only delay the type of clarity that is needed. As a concerned layperson, I want to know that scientists and medical experts are free to have these dialogues and debates as they seek to find the best way forward. Disagreements and differences of opinions or hypotheses are not inherently bad. Rather they are a necessary part of the scientific process. Without it, how are we to be sure what we may think is the best way forward actually is the best way forward?
The fact-checking we’ve all seen under social media posts with certain keywords begs the question - who fact-checks these fact-checkers and what credentials do they have to fact-check these things? By way of illustrating the conundrum, one of Facebook’s supposedly independent fact-checking sources, Lead Stories, is staffed by Democratic donors. Though it claims it “is self-funded with no outside investors” - according to its own About page, it seems to be funded at least in part by a Chinese company called ByteDance LLC (which owns TikTok), and Facebook and Google are on its own list of funding sources (perhaps via ad revenue?). This brings up some questions about potential conflicts of interest. Facebook itself has admitted in court that its fact-checks are really just opinions.
In the 2021 Canadian federal elections, Facebook contracted the Liberal government-funded CBC to fact-check the elections. This is hardly an independent source and obviously highly biased. Truly independent fact-checkers should be free from political party affiliation or funding. Even the British Medical Journal has pointed out how Facebook uses its fact-checks to justify censorship.
Facebook’s fact-checking and "shadow-banning" of content has a lot of power to influence and shift perceptions. Similar concerns exist for Google and other Big Tech giants. These companies wield incredible power to control what information is put before us and even what can be found through their search engines. Thus, some are suspicious of the inherent bias of what is pushed as the prevailing narrative when only a handful of powerful corporations can control or influence a majority of public dialogue. It’s a good reminder as to why we ought to be cautious of how social media and its algorithms (which may lead to ideological echo chambers) can skew our perception of reality. These days we must intentionally search for the counter-argument.
This doesn't necessarily mean that every one of these fact-checks is wrong or compromised, but it does remind us that there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. Every fact has to be placed within a narrative to be made sense of and depending on who is writing the narrative, you'll come out with differing positions. You can easily see how "fact-checking" can end up in what seems to be a never-ending spiral of fact-checking the fact-checks.
News Media & Studies
In Canada, many of our mainstream media outlets receive heavy government funding or have significant party affiliation which skews their reporting. For example, the CBC received over $1.2 billion in tax-payer dollars for funding in 2019-2020 and the Liberal government has recently given a further $61 million in subsidies to undisclosed media companies this year. This sort of State-sponsored media runs contrary to the idea of a “free press” and any presumed neutrality of reporting. These media outlets can and have been used to advance political party ideals.
A lot of what we watch is not news but rather political propaganda.
For example, in the news, U.S. Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has come under a lot of scrutinies over leaked emails that connect him to funding gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology where COVID-19 is suspected to have originated. Even liberal news media sources such as MSN are starting to pick up this story reporting that the emails reveal that Dr. Fauci colluded to try to smear experts. This is now pending a full investigation, while it was previously dismissed as conspiracy. However, it is yet another aspect that makes many distrustful about the mainstream narrative.
Another example is regarding alternative treatments, other news agencies have called drugs such as Ivermectin "horse de-wormer", even though many clinical doctors have found promising results using it to treat COVID patients and the drug was awarded a Nobel prize in 2015. Obviously, I cannot recommend any medical treatment! (That is a discussion for an individual and their own healthcare provider to assess.) However, I do wonder why there seems to be a tendency to cast doubt on every other treatment option other than the mRNA vaccines in popular media. Shouldn't we want to find good prophylactic and early treatment measures to help with COVID in tandem with vaccines? I am encouraged to see some investigation within the medical/scientific community of some studies on alternative treatments, and others that are skeptical. Still, it is good to see investigations into early outpatient treatments for COVID instead of waiting for people to get so bad they need a ventilator. There's even a real-time meta-analysis of 63 different studies which indicate an over 60-80% improvement in case outcomes when used as Prophylaxis or early treatment. However, perhaps a factor that may influence the hesitation to look into it more is the fact that if there is an effective treatment for COVID, the emergency use authorization for the vaccines would be called into question.
In any case, many would like to see a more well-rounded approach to the pandemic considered rather than the top-down, government-mandated one-size-fits-all strategy we've been forced into.
Corruption in government or big corporations is a well-known, long-standing, and ongoing problem. A truly free press is supposed to help to mitigate this in free societies. Yet many news outlets either downplay or totally ignore stories that would otherwise make headline news while highlighting only one side of the story (for example - the mainstream media totally ignoring or skewing huge peaceful protests or rallies against vaccine mandates with tens of thousands of people in the streets). It seems like we have lost a truly “free press” in most of the big Canadian media networks which are funded using taxpayer dollars. The independent news sources available in Canada are few and often struggling to compete. Many often play to the extremes on the other side. This can potentially skew the reporting done on the pandemic, especially if there are only the extreme sides represented to the broad public. I don't know what is the answer in this regard other than reading broadly from sources with differing leanings. The attention harvesting profit model for "click-bait" media tends to produce high incentives for sensationalization. Keep that in mind when you're tempted by the media to be outraged at something online.
Many have noted a “cult of the expert” (not my phrase) emerging. “Listen to the experts” is an often repeated phrase. Yet everyone is selective of which experts they listen to. Why is it that the experts governments cite are often on government or pharmaceutical payrolls? Why listen to some experts and not others - especially when they each seem to be well qualified in their fields of study? To a layperson like myself, this seems like simply competing appeals to authority. The fact that people can cite different medical journals, studies and articles to argue for either side of the debate demonstrates the diversity of opinions within the “expert” community. Several different organizations of medical practitioners, researchers, and scientists have been birthed in this time to challenge the narratives put forward by politicians and big media corporations such as the Canadian Covid Care Alliance, Doctors for COVID Ethics, Physicians for Informed Consent, Liberty Coalition Canada, TrialSite News and the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. Just recently, US Senator Ron Johnson hosted a panel discussion with many world-renoun medical experts, doctors and scientists to discuss the pandemic response, vaccines, treatments and clinical experiences. You can see a highlight video below. The full 5 hour video is available here.
In weeding through all the expert opinions, I always try to remember that, “The one who states his case first seems right until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17)
For the average layperson such as myself, I may not have the level of expertise in these fields to fully understand all the arguments. But at the very least it tells me that these issues are still in debate and there is not a universal consensus on many things. There is no “the science” . There is just science that follows the scientific method of hypothesis, testing and revision of hypotheses based on findings and data. It is the nature of science to continue to evolve and change as more data is gathered and processed. At least for now, it seems like those who claim that “the science” is on their side do so by selectively citing sources and experts within their own orthodoxy - and this goes for both sides of the argument! We must consider the cross-examination and without the freedom for these discussions to take place, it only hinders and obscures the search for truth all the more.
The Money Trail
Nick Hudson of Pandemics Data and Analysis has scrutinized some academics as being on the payroll of “Big Pharma” which compromises their objectivity. An article in Science pointing out Big Pharma payments to FDA advisers after drug approvals notes some key findings that:
Of 107 physician advisers who voted on the committees Science examined, 40 over a nearly 4-year period received more than $10,000 in post hoc earnings or research support from the makers of drugs that the panels voted to approve, or from competing firms; 26 of those gained more than $100,000; and six more than $1 million.
Of the more than $24 million in personal payments or research support from industry to the 16 top-earning advisers—who received more than $300,000 each—93% came from the makers of drugs those advisers previously reviewed or from competitors.
Others assert that there is no conspiracy and we should trust what their studies say. However, there have been concerns about the FDA being funded in part by the companies it is supposed to regulate. Dr. Michael Carome, director of the health research group for the nonprofit advocacy organization Public Citizen, and a former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official has said, “Instead of a regulator and a regulated industry, we now have a partnership... That relationship has tilted the agency away from a public health perspective to an industry friendly perspective.” This obviously does not automatically mean that everything the FDA or Pharma does is wrong or corrupt, but it does cast serious concerns over conflicts of interest.
If one looks at the stocks of all the big pharmaceutical companies and their ties to politicians and cultural elites, one can readily deduce many plausible reasons for skepticism. This past year, there were 50 new billionaires made in the healthcare sector, with many from the pharmaceutical industry. Even before the pandemic, there were concerns about Big Pharma paying medical journals - pointing to conflicts of interest that may skew the findings of some studies. It seems like this is a “catch 22” with a lot of the medical industry since funding is a big question and large pharmaceuticals are often the ones who have the capital to fund research and studies.
Big Pharma's Shady Past
It is no secret that there is big money at play in Pharmaceuticals during this pandemic. This year Pfizer recorded its highest stock prices ever in August, and Moderna (a company founded in 2010) has seen 500%+ gains in its stock price this year and 2000%+ gains since the start of the pandemic. Forbes reported that Pfizer expects to exceed its previous projections with $33.5 billion dollars in revenue in 2021. However, in the past, these same pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and more have had multiple lawsuit settlements and fines against them for malpractice sometimes in the billions of dollars with many of them being for falsified claims.
Let’s just take one example from these to illustrate. Valdecoxib, a drug made by Pfizer and marketed under the brand name Bextra is an anti-inflammatory drug approved by the FDA to treat arthritis and menstrual cramps in 2001. In 2004 Pfizer acknowledged serious cardiovascular risks associated with the drug and in 2005, Pfizer withdrew Bextra on the recommendation of the FDA, citing increased risk of heart attack, stroke and a sometimes fatal skin reaction. By 2009, the US Department of Justice fined Pfizer $2.3 billion dollars after it was revealed that one of its subsidiary companies pleaded guilty to marketing the drug “with the intent to defraud or mislead.” This is just one example of many others that are publicly available such as Johnson & Johnson in 2012 for $1.2 billion, Pfizer in 2004 for $430 million, and AstraZeneca in 2010 for $520 million.
Even after FDA approval, some drugs have been later shown to have unexpected side effects and have been recalled. A Yale study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that "Nearly one out of every three drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have a new safety issue detected in the years after approval." Thus, blind trust seems to be unwise. It is not unreasonable for some people to want to see long-term proof of safety for novel vaccines produced by these same companies. I've also personally experienced this. I was prescribed a previously FDA-approved drug in my teens (Accutane) that was later recalled in 2009 after $33 million in lawsuits. The drug was shown to cause severe side effects such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and be linked to Severe depression/suicidal thoughts and birth defects, among other things.
Pfizer's own trial data has been analyzed and shown that their own data shows that there are serious concerns. The following video from independent scientists and medical experts explains:
Although some of the new vaccines are FDA-approved, Pfizer's own clinical trials are estimated to be completed May 2, 2023, and Moderna's is estimated for October 27, 2022. There have also been concerns about some of these clinical trials for the novel vaccines unblinding their control group after facing pressure to vaccinate their control group. This means that the data from such studies would no longer have a control to compare against which seriously undermines the integrity of such studies. This is not to throw unnecessary shade on the FDA or safety studies. I’m glad there are regulating bodies that attempt to protect the public from potentially harmful drugs. However, we must admit that FDA approval is not a perfect guarantee - especially with how short a period of time the COVID vaccines have been on the market. It seems like, given this history, some people are warranted to be a bit wary and cautious.
Remember, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Where there’s big money involved, the temptation to evil is ever stronger.
This is not to say that pharmaceuticals do no good and are always corrupt. I’m thankful for the legitimate contributions to healthcare modern medicine has made! Neither am I anti-vaccine. I've probably had more vaccinations than most (I've done missionary work and travel in the jungles of South America, throughout the Caribbean and Africa) and I hope that the novel technology does continue to develop and potentially improve our future vaccine technology. Effective and safe vaccines are a great blessing to us. However, greed can be a very compelling motivator and at least during these emergency orders, these pharmaceutical companies bear almost no liability on these vaccines based on a new application of mRNA technology. This can provide little incentive to keep them accountable.
Perhaps they are acting in good faith. I sure hope so! Their history does not necessarily mean they are willfully misleading people in this case (let's guard against conspiracy hunting). I definitely don't wish the worst fears about the vaccines to be true. I would love to see that they are effective and safe in the long term. I have many vaccinated friends and family whom I love and want them to live long and healthy lives. However, if these pharmaceutical companies falsified claims before and we're lacking studies with proper control groups, then some level of caution and due diligence is reasonable.
Important Questions to Ask
As you've probably gathered by now... I have questions! (But maybe not as many answers...)
There seems to be a vaccine-only fixation dominating the popular conversation as the only way out of this pandemic. Yet there are promising alternative treatments as well as alternative strategies such as Focused Protection of the vulnerable as laid out in the Great Barrington Declaration (published Oct 4, 2020) which now has over 860,000 signatures from doctors, medical & health scientists and concerned citizens around the world. This makes many of us wonder—why are these alternatives not being considered as a part of a more holistic pandemic response strategy? Why is it that patients who are diagnosed with a positive COVID test are sent home with no or very minimal advice on how to self-care and what they can do to reduce the risk of worsening?
Why is it that natural immunity after a prior COVID infection is not recognized even though it has been shown to be broad and long-lasting? Why are we vaccinating teens 12 and older when there are studies indicating that boys aged 12-15 "are four to six times more likely to be diagnosed with vaccine-related myocarditis than ending up in hospital with Covid over a four-month period"? This seems like a poor risk vs benefit analysis. There's even been a recent move to vaccinate kids as young as 5 years old who are at a statistically zero percent risk of severe disease. When does this stop? Why are we pushing boosters? Even the FDA's recent advisory panel voted 16 to 2 against the booster shots for people over 16 with some citing concerns over the 1000x increased adverse effects of these vaccines compared to other traditional vaccines (This is not to induce fear to the vaccinated - these seem to be a small percentage of adverse effects overall when we look at the total number of vaccinations, but they comparatively significant when compared to the rates for other vaccines in the past). Ontario has recommended against the Moderna vaccine in men 18-24 years because of the increased risk of myocarditis. Recently, two top FDA officials resigned - potentially in reference to an article in The Lancet warning against the boosters. Israel has reported that even 4th boosters are ineffective - so why the continued push? Also, just how poor of a vaccine is this that we always need boosters every 6 months? Think of all the other vaccines you've ever gotten - has any of them needed that many boosters that close to when you first got them? No. So, doesn't this at least show these new vaccines are comparatively poor by traditional standards?
What's up with all the previously healthy and young professional sports athletes suddenly getting cardiac problems after vaccination? The New England National Review in January 2022 reports 484 athlete cardiac arrests, serious Issues, with 282 dead, after vaccination. And while some media like the UK's Daily Mail insist that the increase in football (soccer) players getting heart attacks has nothing to do with the vaccine, it still leaves the question - why the sudden uptake in athletes experiencing heart problems?
Why is it that we are threatening to fire healthcare professionals who have made an informed decision not to get vaccinated when hospitals are already short-staffed and these same people were heralded as heroes of the pandemic only a short while ago? Are we really saying that the same healthcare professionals who worked tirelessly through the pandemic (and many of which have gotten and recovered from COVID) are uninformed of the risks or deserve to have their livelihood forcibly taken from them? Why is it that after two years of the government spending hundreds of billions of dollars on COVID response we don't have 1 new ICU bed capacity to show for it? In fact, ICU capacities in Ontario have actually been cut back! Why is the media fear-mongering the vaccinated to be afraid of the unvaccinated when the vaccine is supposed to protect them? It seems ironic that the vaccinated would be more afraid. Why is the media hyper-fixated on case counts yet doesn't report any hopeful news like deaths being zero in Ontario for some days during August and the 7-day average remaining around 10 or under for the majority of the past month (mid-Aug to mid-Sept)? This should be good news to celebrate! Instead, we're continually fed a narrative of crushing fear.
Why are statistics reported without context - such as deaths due to COVID? According to Public Health Ontario, the majority of deaths due to COVID-19 are among the elderly (60+ years - see graph). The average age of death from/with COVID is actually greater than the normal life expectancy of 82.4 in Ontario. According to Statistics Canada, "Of the over 9,500 COVID-involved deaths between March and July, the majority (90%) had at least one other cause, condition or complication reported on the certificate." After over a year of data, we know pretty conclusively that the demographics hit most hard by the virus.
Yet the way some statistics are reported makes it seem like it's the same threat across the board. Additionally, Ontario lost 1000 ICU beds during this pandemic. Additionally, at least currently, it seems like vaccination status does not affect hospitalization with the new variants (see graphs of hospitalizations and ICU from Jan 22, 2022). It has become clear now that the vaccines are inneffective against new variants like Omicron. So why the continued push toward vaccination and boosters? Especially when the myth of the "pandemic of the unvaccinated" has been dispelled quite thoroughly (see scientific review article here and video below)?
What connections do expert sources leading the pandemic response have to pharmaceuticals or politics? When have they last worked in clinics? Why are they a better source to assess a situation than local doctors making decisions for their particular area and context? What do they stand to lose or gain? Whose payroll are they on?
Various experts from different disciplines such as Dr. Peter McCullough (an internist, cardiologist, epidemiologist and a full professor of medicine at Texas A&M College of Medicine, who is the editor of two medical journals and published over 700 studies in the literature) who has testified before the Texas State Senate, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford University Professor of Medicine), Dr. Crystal Luchkiw (Family Doctor near Barrie, Ontario), Dr. Eric T. Payne (a practicing physician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics & Neurology), the University of Calgary), Dr. Julie Ponesse (ethics professor), and many others have voiced serious concerns. What about these experts? Why does the government health officials ignore these experts - especially when the Canadian Charter of Rights explicitly says that for the government to suspend our rights, it must be "reasonably demonstrable"? It should up to the government to prove their case before they can suspend people's rights in Canada.
For some who have been de-platformed or censored by mainstream and social media, it is difficult for me to imagine what they stand to gain by putting their reputations and jobs on the line to speak out. Some are literally risking their license and livelihoods. Typically these types of people who are researchers and scientists aren’t the ones who generally crave the limelight and 15 minutes of fame (though it is theoretically possible they may have ulterior motives, so far I haven't heard many compelling reasons why credentialed individuals would do what they know is career suicide for a lie). They’re usually in those industries because they prefer to be in a lab or doing research quietly or treating their patients without much public fanfare. However, big pharmaceutical companies and politicians do have a lot to gain in continuing to dominate the public narrative.
Sources and Bias
Now, I realize that some will view all of this as crazy conspiracy theory nonsense and others will express disbelief that other people can’t see it. Many of the determining factors of where you land depend significantly on what weight you give to which sources. However, whether or not one agrees with all the charges of censorship, corruption and bias, we have to be realistic and admit that everyone has some bias (even this author!). So, we must also factor these biases into how we weigh what is presented to us.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? I sure am! It’s a difficult path to try to sort through all these things and get to the truth on many of these issues. There are so many sources, so much misinformation, so many voices claiming to be authorities. As I said, my aim is not to try to answer all the questions or claim I have it all figure out. Nor is it to shame or criticize people who have made an informed decision to take the vaccine or refrain from it. These are complex issues and I don’t have all the answers, nor do any of us - not even the experts. Thus, humility, charity, gracious listening and dialogue are important tools for all of us going forward.
Some experts and lay people will look at the data one way and choose to pursue vaccination as what they consider to be the best course of action. Others may be more cautious and want to give more time to wait and see. Yet still, others may have strong disagreements with these new vaccines and want to pursue alternative strategies. That's OK. We should respect each person's right to make their own uncoerced medical decisions.
Our Outrageous or Gracious Response
Perhaps one of the most concerning trends these days is what can only be called a form of hate-mongering by politicians. The use of divisive language - labelling the unvaccinated as “those people” and a “threat to all of us” - is really dangerous. Our outrage media culture also doesn’t help our present situation. Many stories are designed to sensationalize and divide society into us versus them. The fact is that over these past two years and beyond, fear has sold headlines while adding headlines to our furrowed brows.
We’re fracturing our societies even more as we turn on each other. In a year where many have lost loved ones, jobs, time with family, travel opportunities and much more - the last thing we need is to be the source of more sorrow to each other! Somehow in this pandemic, it seems that many have lost the art of gracious disagreement, persuasive arguments and continued dialogue. Instead we bite and devour each other. Harsh rhetoric, condescending tweets, sharp sarcasm, memes meant to shame the other party, and manipulative tactics are what can seem to dominate our social media feeds. These don’t convince anyone, they’re designed to coerce, demonize and shame those who disagree. This causes those who are hesitant to just dig their heels in deeper. Shaming and segregation of others is no way to live and is often a symptom of coming totalitarianism. A divided people can never hope to stand united against tyranny.
The extended lockdowns that our governments have imposed on society had negligible effect on COVID-19 mortality and spread and, “not an effective way of reducing mortality rates during a pandemic" according to a study from John Hopkins University. However, there were some serious other effects lockdowns did have on society. Perhaps the extended lockdowns and isolation have added to this dehumanization of “the other” since we’ve interacted through virtually mediated ways and not had to wrestle face-to-face with the humanity of the other person. We tend to speak and interact much differently when we’re in person. On a screen, we can easily make a person into a target to be destroyed instead of an individual to be respected. (So go meet with people and have a face-to-face conversation!)
The concern of totalitarianism and governmental authoritarianism is no boogeyman either. With the looming threat of vaccine mandates that significantly violate personal freedoms, we should be on guard. There are several factors that make these mandates highly questionable. It's becoming more and more clear that these mandates are more about political control than they are about health. Many freedoms are freely given up yet have to be fought to be regained. Governments seldom give back power after they’ve gained it. We have a lot to learn from history in this regard. Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California said this in his 1967 Inaugural Address:
“Perhaps you and I have lived too long with this miracle to properly be appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and it's never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. And those in world history who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”
There are no perfect solutions in this life. Everything is a trade-off, weighing potential risks and benefits. Is it reasonable to risk important freedoms for all for the threat of a virus that is over 99% survivable for the majority of the healthy population, and for which we know the specific demographics at the highest level of risk? Such coercive measures seem unwarranted especially with so many unknowns as previously discussed. Hasty decisions done in the name of an "emergency" now may end up costing us down the line. Many of the other costs of these measures have often not been properly factored into our analysis.
Life Beyond the Pandemic
Like I said at the beginning, my goal isn't to solve all of this. It's not even to convince you of my own viewpoint. I've included some sources and references in this article to help us understand some of how people come to differing conclusions. Some of us are trying to honestly wrestle with the preponderance of data and sources to come to some understanding of the truth of things. You don't have to agree with other people's or my conclusions. However, we should try to understand how they came to those conclusions instead of being dismissive.
In Canada, according to the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, the case fatality rate of COVID is 1.8%, which works out to about 71.69 deaths per 100,000 people. This means that for the majority of the healthy population, COVID will not be a fatal disease. Praise God for that! This is not to downplay the real danger of the disease, especially to the elderly, immunocompromised and those with underlying comorbidities. I’m not denying that COVID has caused excess deaths. However, what it does mean is that COVID will not be the end of the world. We will have to live with each other beyond this pandemic - unless you’re willing to sever all ties to people you say you love and care about over this.
The End of the Matter
How will you look back on how you spoke, acted and your attitudes to others 10 years from now? How will the policies and precedence we set today shape the tomorrow we have to live in? What choices would we look back upon and regret? Are the things you’re saying online things you could say to someone’s face in that same tone? It's far too easy for us in these stressful times to let it get the better of us. However, everyone has had a difficult almost two years now. Many of us lost loved ones, jobs, opportunities, relationships, etc. We're all tired of this pandemic and want it to end. We do each other no favours treating each other as if we wanted to extend or worsen the situation.
Perhaps Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4 is apt to end here:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:26-32)
It's quite possible that in such a complex situation there may be several issues that you or I are wrong on. With the rapid rate of change over these past two years, it may even be possible that by the time this article is read some things have changed or become outdated. That's why it's important for our speech to be seasoned with graciousness - because we may each have to eat our words later! It would be a great tragedy in all of this if we end up losing our humanity and community in all our bitter squabbling. The saddest thing for me has been seeing our communities torn apart. I would hope that even with the friends and family I disagree with now, that after the pandemic we would still have love and respect for each other because we did not forsake being loving in our disagreements.
Let’s continue to endeavour to be kind and gracious even in the midst of confusing and volatile times. Let's put away the sharp sarcasm, the jabs and passive-aggressive comments. Christians can disagree, but they can do so graciously - not allowing any corrupting talk to come out of their mouths. Let us also continue to recognize that we don't have to have it all figured out - we're not tasked with omniscience. We can trust God with that and act out of faith and not fear. He's still on the throne and still in control - so we look to Him together.
This is the only sure and safe path out of this pandemic.