To say this last year has been challenging might be the understatement of the year. I don’t remember another time in my life when my emotional and intellectual energy was needed to process so many important issues and conversations. COVID-19, the U.S. election, and racial injustices in our country have demanded our attention and provided opportunities for me to learn, grow, and engage with others in meaningful but sometimes difficult conversations.
When COVID began to quickly spread in West Michigan in the spring of 2020, our governor mandated a stay-at-home order. My family took it in stride. We already homeschooled and my husband was fortunate to have a job that allowed him to transition to working from home. We were on board with staying home, wearing masks, and socially distancing from others to help mitigate the spread of this dangerous virus. How could we complain about these requirements when so many did not have the option to stay home and stay safe?
However, as the pandemic raged on, I started noticing a concerning trend. A growing number of my Christian friends and family were challenging the science behind social distancing requirements and mask-wearing. Many refused to wear them and believed that a strong immune system and plenty of vitamin D would stave off COVID. Conspiracy theories were spreading like wildfire on my social media feed and added to their belief that COVID-19 was nothing more than another flu.
I wanted to counter this misinformation, but I needed to do so carefully and with humility. And I did not want to alienate people. Whenever I was tempted to respond in frustration or anger, I would remind myself that speaking the truth in love would keep the lines of communication open with the hope of changing someone’s mind. However, I needed resources I could share that would be impactful for those who were skeptical. I relied heavily on BioLogos resources, Dr. Collins’ NIH blog posts, and the CDC website to equip myself to engage with my community.
I have been particularly thankful for BioLogos during this last year and how they continue to provide readers, like me, with excellent resources to learn from and to share with friends and family. Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a BioLogos virtual event with Dr. David Anderson and Dr. Francis Collins on “How Christians Can Help End the Pandemic.” The title intrigued me, as some evangelical Christians have really struggled to do just that—help to end the pandemic!
It takes courage to challenge peoples’ suppositions, even when love is the motivation.
This event exemplified how Christians and the scientific community can work together to advance God’s purposes and kingdom in the midst of the COVID crisis. Dr. Anderson, a pastor of a large, multicultural church in Maryland, shared some of his congregants’ questions and concerns about the vaccine. Are the vaccines safe? Were people of color represented in the vaccine trials? Are the vaccines derived from aborted fetal tissues? Can you get the vaccine if you are pregnant or nursing? What will our social gatherings be like once we are vaccinated? Practical questions that were answered by the leading scientist in our country, Dr. Collins.
As I listened to these Christian men share their knowledge and expertise, I wished that my skeptical friends and family could have watched the live stream with me. I’d love to have the opportunity to ask my friends and family questions about what they heard. Did any of Dr. Collins’ answers resonate with them and alleviate some of their fears or concerns? And if not, what would it take to convince them that the vaccine was safe and effective?
In a time where many evangelical Christians do not trust the scientific community, events like this are key to re-establishing that trust. I am thankful for pastors, like Dr. Anderson, who act as bridge builders between the scientific community and their congregations. It takes courage to challenge peoples’ suppositions, even when love is the motivation. I am thankful for Dr. Collins and all of the scientists who contributed to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. God has gifted these men and women with wisdom and intelligence that I am in awe of. And I am thankful for the doctors, nurses, and aids who have been on the frontline of this pandemic, working long hours under extremely stressful situations.
God, in his amazing love, has provided us a way out of this pandemic. As I walked into the vaccine center last week to receive my first shot, I thanked him for the gift of this vaccine. Not only was I being provided with protection from this deadly virus, but I was contributing to the health and well-being of those around me. And in a small way, it was my contribution to ending the pandemic.
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At BioLogos, “gracious dialogue” means demonstrating the grace of Christ as we dialogue together about the tough issues of science and faith.