It’s been amply established that one of the biggest reasons this pandemic is still with us is because a number of churches refuse to take the most basic measures to keep both their flocks and their communities safe. Even worse, the churches and pastors who are willing to take this virus seriously do so at risk of attack for being weaklings.
We got a lovely example of this from Charisma News, which got the bright idea to run an op-ed attacking the pastor of a prominent Atlanta church for—horrors!—requiring his members to prove that they’re fully vaccinated before attending service in person.
Christian blogger Tiffany Benson turned her ire on William Flippin, pastor of Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church on the DeKalb County side of Atlanta. Late last week, Flippin announced that anyone who wants to come for in-person services has to show proof of full vaccination. Flippin recently began the second phase of reopening his church for in-person services, with only 200 people allowed in. Those who want to come have to register in advance and sign a one-time waiver stating that they never caught COVID-19 while at church.
Flippin believed it was common sense; he was “extremely concerned for the elderly members” of his flock. He also had a message for those who think that you don’t need a vaccine if you believe God can heal—“I believe in being covered under the blood, but you also have good sense.”
But Benson didn’t see it that way.
Let's not mince words any further. Those who want to take a vaccine can take it. Those who want to wear a mask should wear it. Not everyone who gets the jab or wears a face covering is a sheep. And not everyone who decides against these things is reckless. It only takes a small amount of time to research the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and masks. We have the God-given right to choose what we do with our own bodies.
The problem with Flippin's and other leaders' extreme approach is that they feel the need to put a mandate on someone else's medical decisions while having no authority to do so.
Benson wailed that we’re being pushed to take “an experimental vaccine with synthetic materials and technology.” Part of the reason a vaccine came out so quickly was because it was built on research dating back to the SARS outbreak of 2002-04.
Benson also rebuked Flippin for suggesting that those who believe merely in divine healing lack good sense, saying that it was not “foolishness to those who solely put faith in Him for healing and protection against COVID-19.” She also hinted that Flippin had given in to fear, claiming that same fear led people to shut themselves in for several months and has led people to “take part in a dangerous experiment.”
What’s dangerous, is suggesting that a Christian leader who wants to do his utmost to keep his flock safe is doing so out of fear. Have you considered that Flippin actually wants to not only protect his flock, but the larger community?
I look at this, and I think back to this past weekend, when my wife and I flew up to her hometown of Muskegon for the first time as a married couple. While we were there, we attended the Unity Christian Music Festival, one of the biggest Christian concert festivals east of the Mississippi. It celebrated its 20th anniversary a year late after the 2020 event was called off due to COVID-19 concerns. They only greenlighted this year’s edition after consultations with local health officials and government leaders; indeed, one of the sponsors was Mercy Health, one of the biggest health care providers in West Michigan. While I was there, there were numerous PSAs on the video boards urging people to get vaccinated.
I also think about how my church in Charlotte resumed in-person services last September. For much of the winter and spring, capacity was limited to 40 people, with masks required. Is that giving in to fear? Gee, I thought we were trying to keep our fellow members and our larger community safe.
I repeat—this kind of talk is why this pandemic is still with us. Benson ought to be ashamed for writing this with delta bringing some ICUs to the breaking point. And Charisma News ought to be ashamed for giving her a platform to spew this.