The Right Reverend Peter Carrell is the Bishop of the Anglican diocese of Christchurch in New Zealand. On the fifth of October, he sent out a tweet that began with the following:
Vaccine certificates…work to be done on [e.g.] whether they will be required for church attendance…and will be from November
Then, finally remembering how to form a complete and coherent thought, he added the following question:
Is there any reason why churches shouldn’t generally go with the flow of this measure for the safety of our nation?
By “our nation”, obviously, he means New Zealand whose Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, seemingly an adherent of the Zero Covid cult, imposed a severe lockdown in August after the country had its first case of bat flu since February. Sadly, sanity appears to be in short supply among the leaders of this, one of our sister Commonwealth Realms, and judging from the bishop’s tweet this applies to the ecclesiastical as well as the political leadership. Not that an overabundance of it can be found among our leaders in the Dominion of Canada. Quite the opposite, actually.
Note how the bishop’s question is worded. By asking “is there any reason why churches shouldn’t” rather than “is there any reason why churches should” he makes the use of vaccine certificates to be able to go to church into the default position and places the onus of proof upon those who object to this. That is the kind of crazy that in vulgar conversation is customarily associated with the feces of the winged mammal widely believed to have been the original host of the coronavirus.
The church is the institution established by Jesus Christ through His Apostles for the purpose of ministering His Gospel, the Good News about how He has brought the freely given, forgiving, redeeming, justifying, sanctifying, empowering, and transforming grace of God to us through His Incarnation, Atoning death and Resurrection to all people everywhere through the two-fold ministry of the preached Word and the administered Sacrament. To turn people away from the ministry of the church, other than as the disciplinary act commanded by the Apostle Paul in cases of extreme, un-repented sin, is to turn people away from Jesus Christ.
The sixth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John is one of the most important theological chapters in the entire Bible. The Discourse on the Bread of Life is foundational to the Sacramental theology of the Eucharist, perhaps even more so than the words of Institution in the Synoptic Gospels, for it is here that the concept of the body and blood of Jesus as the spiritual food that sustains eternal life is to be found. Right in the middle of this Discourse is a passage vital to Calvinist theology – the most explicit statement in all of Scripture of how those who believe in Christ have been given to Him by the Father in accordance with His eternal purpose and how it is His, that is Christ’s, mission to lose none of them but to raise them up to eternal life on the Last Day (vv. 35 to 40, a passage which is also essential to distinguishing the New Covenant concept of God’s “elect” from the Old Covenant concept of the same). One could say that this entire passage, in which the most important themes of Catholicism and Calvinism are seamlessly interwoven as one, is the most Anglican passage in all of Scripture. It is in this context, that Jesus makes the statement “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out” (v. 37). I quote, as always, from the real English Bible, the English Vulgate, the Authorized Bible, which was good enough for King Charles I and is good enough for me, but it is worth noting the Common English, Good News and New International Versions’ renderings in which “I will in no wise cast out” becomes “I won’t send away”, “I will never turn away” and “I will never drive away” respectively. However worded, the point is clear – Jesus doesn’t send those who come to Him away. The church, which is supposed to follow His example, ought not to send them away either.
The churches have been doing an absolutely terrible job of following Jesus on this since the beginning of the irrational bat flu panic. When government public health mandarins ordered them to shut their doors for months on end they did so. When the same odious bureaucrats told them they could re-open but only at a limited capacity, requiring them to pre-register those who would attend and turn all over the capacity limit away, they did so. When they told them that they could only allow people to attend on condition that they agreed to breathe their recycled carbon dioxide from behind a face diaper that covered their nose and mouth for the duration of the service they did so, thus turning away all who did not think they should have to give up breathing oxygen to hear the Word and receive the Sacrament.
In defending all of this obeying man rather than God and rendering unto Caesar the things that are God’s, the ecclesiastical leadership have trotted out a number of arguments, each entirely specious. The thirteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans in which St. Paul enjoins civil obedience upon believers and teaches the divine right of kings (that civil government has authority from God to act as His ministers in the punishment of evil) has been constantly trotted out. Those who bring up this passage fail to mention that in the examples of Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the Scripture provides us with clear exceptions to the rule of civil obedience, in Daniel’s case when government forbids the worship of the True God, in his friends’ case when government demands the worship of false gods. Nor do they discuss how the passage in Romans limits legitimate government authority – if the civil government has been given a sword by God for punishing evil, then it must wield that sword in punishing what God says is evil, not whatever it sees fit to punish. With these public health orders, governments have been punishing things that are not only not mala in se (literally bad in themselves, meaning intrinsically criminal apart from statutory law) but are indeed bona in se (good in themselves) and essential for healthy social and communal life, which is a clear abuse of the sword of the thirteenth of Romans, screaming out to heaven for vengeance.
Then there is the twisting of the Christian ethic with regards to loving others beyond all recognition. Jesus, when asked which was the Greatest Commandment of the Law (the Old Covenant), said that it was to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and that the second, which was like unto it, was to love your neighbour as yourself. At the Last Supper on the night in which He was betrayed and arrested, He told His disciples that He was leaving them with a New Commandment to love one another as He had loved them, which clearly has a self-sacrificial implication that was explicitly spelled out when He said that “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.
What does this look like in a time of plague?
For two thousand years it has been commonly understood that in times of plague the highest form of living out this ethic was when the healthy, at the potential jeopardy of their own health and lives, attended upon the sick and ministered to their needs. The way the Right Reverend John Strachan, first Bishop of Toronto, ministered to the sick and dying in that city during the choleric outbreaks of the nineteenth century is a classic example of this.
Contrast that with today when we are constantly being told that the loving thing to do is for healthy people to avoid all social contact with other healthy people until such time, if ever, that the government sees fit to allow them to socialize again. What is being called “love” in this perverse inversion of the historical understanding of the Christian ethic is far closer to fear. The words of St. John from his first epistle might be appropriate at this point “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love”. (4:18).
As bad as churches closing their doors, limiting their numbers, requiring those Satanic masks, and the like has been, for churches to join the vaccine passport campaign would be a whole new level of apostasy. Throughout the irrational bat flu panic governments have acted as if constitutional limits on their powers and protections of the rights and freedoms of the governed do not exist in a public health emergency and they are allowed to do whatever they want. In terms of what the constitutional law of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Realms such as the Dominion of Canada and New Zealand actually says, they are completely wrong in thinking this, of course, but they might be right in a practical sense in that so long as people are more afraid of the object of the public health scare than of losing their freedoms to tyranny and courts are willing to give government a lot of leeway, they can pretty much get away with doing whatever they want. This is a part of human nature every tyrannical and totalitarian regime has known and exploited.
Initially, perhaps, our governments were acting in bona fide, or the closest thing to good faith that politicians are actually of, and panicking themselves and not knowing what else to do, tried whatever their public health “experts” suggested. What we are now seeing is far more sinister than this. Having exhausted the public’s patience with lockdowns after lockdowns and having mostly achieved their initial vaccination targets only to discover that new waves of the virus keep coming, they are blaming their failure to do what no government has ever been able to do in the past, i.e., stop a virus, on those who have not been vaccinated to the satisfaction of the government.
That these people have not been vaccinated could, of course, be viewed as another failure of government – they failed to convince these people that the vaccines were safe enough and the virus dangerous enough for the risk associated with remaining unvaccinated to outweigh the risk of receiving the vaccines. Perhaps it never occurred to them that all of their efforts to keep people from hearing any information about the vaccines that was not positive and to demonize anyone who communicated such information make their own position less convincing rather than more convincing to anyone whose ability to think rationally has not been paralyzed by mass fear. Or that their bizarre attitude of “I’m vaccinated but you’re not being vaccinated puts me at risk” sends the message that they do not themselves really believe that these vaccines work.
Whatever is the case, they are now trying to compel where they failed to convince. The vaccine passport system punishes people for making what is a valid, legally protected, choice not to allow something to be injected into their bodies that they have not been properly persuaded is worth whatever risks might be associated with it. This is a completely unacceptable form of state bullying that evokes the whole “show me your papers” imagery frequently found in dystopic literature and film inspired by such historical totalitarian regimes as the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Churches were wrong to turn people away from Jesus in compliance with the earlier public health measures. For them to do so in compliance with the vaccine passport system would be to fully align themselves with Christianity’s opposite.
That brings me to a point that I raised at Dr. Adrian Hilton’s Archbishop Cramner blog in the comments section to a post entitled “Should you need a Covid vaccination certificate to attend church?” This post, Dr. Hilton’s response to the Right Reverend Carrell’s tweet, is well worth reading in its entirety. He gives the right answer, the negative answer, to the question in his title, and closes with the appropriate sentiment “There is neither clean nor unclear, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”.
To his excellent arguments I added the following comment, which I will close this essay by reproducing here:
It does not matter how one interprets the Book of Revelation. One could be a dispensationalist, who thinks that the Beast is a specific individual who will be revealed after the elect have been raptured. One could be a preterist who thinks that the Beast was an individual/system of the first century and that all Biblical prophecy was fulfilled in the year 70. Or one could hold to any of the positions in between that are more in keeping with how the Book has traditionally understood. Either way, it is obvious the Beast is not a figure to be emulated. Requiring people to show a vaccine certificate to be able to conduct an economic transaction is eerily close to the Beast's requiring his mark to buy and sell, as even some Roman Catholics, like John Zmirak a month or so ago at The Stream, are starting to observe. Requiring it for church attendance would be even worse. We are to follow Christ not Antichrist. Jesus' example was clear. When He came across lepers, He did not avoid them, but touched and healed them. Go thou and do likewise.