By James Borders, MD
As LMS president this year, I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to have a forum in these newsletters to express my ideas. As we enter the holiday season, I want to take some personal liberty to challenge beliefs of some in the faith community (of which I am a part) that I believe have factored into some having a reflex opposition to many elements of public health policy dealing with the pandemic.
Adhering to the original concepts of the United States being a “Christian nation” that required bloody conflict to establish, those equating American values with Christian ones may understand that in order to protect and preserve the Christian faith, a fervent Christian must be a fervent patriot, proudly touting American individualism and self-determination. Some of the reluctance to submit to any mandates regarding the pandemic may be the fear that to do so may set a precedent – that to forfeit any freedom may ultimately risk forfeiting religious freedom. This perspective is especially prevalent in some conservative Protestant Christian denominations, some of whom were vocal deniers of the reality of a pandemic, opposed the masking and social distancing advised by public health experts, and from whom was launched a “faith vs fear” campaign opposing COVID vaccination. One prominent San Antonio minister recovering from a bout of COVID-19 himself was quoted as saying, “Jesus is my vaccine” and a Tennessee pastor warned his congregation “not to show up with masks”.
One clergyman recently wrote that the motivation for the anti-science bias held by some populist conservative Christians is a deep fear that scientific discovery, left unchecked, may ultimately disprove the presence of God. This is odd to me, given the scientific contention that the universe, thought to be at least 93 billion light-years in diameter, actually had a beginning 13.8 billion years ago as an infinitesimally small point of dense matter. If science has proven this scenario to be fact, this should force any skeptic to reconsider a position taken against a planned creation. Science continually and increasingly affirms the presence of a matrix of incredibly intricate and precise design that should inspire child-like wonder and praise for a creator behind it all. To me, it takes a great deal more faith to be an atheist. The Judeo-Christian Bible itself acknowledges that “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts” and that “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom”. Critics charging biblical inaccuracy to the discoveries of science must consider that such a capable creator must condescend to using primitive and figurative language in his communication with man. Indeed, the biblical statement rings true to me that, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God”. As the minister of my youth often said, “Every mother should be a religious fanatic!”
I want to remind some of my fellow Christians that proud individualism directly contrasts Christian teaching to “submit one to another”. Jesus’ teachings promote a lifestyle that calls for personal sacrifice. He reserved his harshest criticism for the religious leaders of his day who complicated God’s simple laws of behavior meant for the common good into contrived complicated rules that served to excuse adherents from considering the welfare of others. He was sharply criticized for flaunting Sabbath laws to perform healings. The “good Samaritan” or “neighbor” was defined by him as the one who ignored established convention, protocol, or self-interest if necessary to address a person in need. He, despite being a Jew, praised a person not holding the Jewish faith as having the greatest faith he had seen. He showed his greatest kindness and compassion to contrite law-breakers and societal outcasts. In our day, faced with the proven benefits to others represented by getting vaccinated and masking, I have no doubt what Jesus would say and do.
I want to thank the local medical community for giving me the opportunity to serve as Lexington Medical Society president this year. It has been a challenging but rewarding year for all of us in medicine. It has offered our profession the opportunity to examine our processes, reorder our priorities, and reassure a fearful and skeptical public that we are here to speak for them, advocate for them, and care for them. I wish you every blessing this holiday season.
James Borders, M.D.