(Editor's Note: The following was originally published in the Fall 2021 issue of the Grovestead Newsletter.)
I was having a conversation with my pastor on our front lawn this summer when a car turned up the lane. The vehicle pulled right in front of us and stopped. It was my neighbor from a few houses down. The man got out of his vehicle, walked right up to us, and with no uncertain irritation asked me point-blank: “Are you vaccinated?”
I was a bit dumbstruck, as you can imagine. But answered that we had already gotten COVID naturally, and didn’t see the need for the vaccine now.
“That doesn’t matter!” he yelled at me. “I asked if you were vaccinated!”
“According to the studies I’ve looked at, natural immunity is at least as effective as the vaccine, and longer lasting,” I told him. But he would have none of it.
“I haven’t heard anything about that from any of the news sources I’ve seen.”
I cited the recently released study from Nature on T cell immunity.
“I don’t care what your nature magazine tells you to do, what kind of rutabagas you can eat to cure you from COVID.”
“No, Nature, the scientific journal.” He looked at me blankly.
Then he turned to my pastor, who I managed to introduce, albeit awkwardly, given the circumstances. “You’re a pastor?” He asked. “You need to tell your people to get vaccinated.”
My pastor graciously replied that it wasn’t his place to do so.
My neighbor looked back at me and declared, “I don’t feel safe around you.”
“Well,” I calmly replied, “You’re the one on my property.”
He took a step backward and looked at me for a moment. Then he turned to my son who was standing nearby and asked him if he could water his trees while he was on vacation next week. Then he left.
Now, I’ve had some odd neighbor interactions before, but this one takes the cake.
I have been neighbors with that man for over nine years and up to this point, we had a very a cordial, if not warm, relationship. We’ve had the couple over on numerous occasions, taken care of their dog while they vacation, entertained their grandkids while in town with farm tours, and brought meals when sick. But this recent interaction betrayed an undercurrent we haven’t encountered before COVID vaccines came on the scene. And he’s not the only one.
All Are Welcome Here… Except You
In the last few months, we’ve been disinvited from gatherings, berated in public (and private), received calls and letters without provocation criticizing us for being reckless and not loving our neighbors. Folks with whom we have had great relationships have suddenly come to loathe us as if decades of love and goodwill amounted to nothing. To the best of our knowledge, we have not chastised anyone for their decisions on these matters. But somehow, just by living our lives, we have brought great offense to many. You might almost say there were spiritual forces in high places.
I do understand that there is genuine concern for our well-being, and we receive the calls, letters, and floggings in love. But what the proponents apparently do not understand is how counterproductive their efforts are; nothing makes me more resistant to a “solution” than one that is being forced upon me for my own good. When coercion begins, scientific inquiry has ended. And it just got a lot harder to persuade me with evidence that could not speak for itself. If we, as rational creatures, are not free to draw our own conclusions based on the evidence, then we are not free at all. If we cannot respect each other’s decisions to live according to our consciences, we have no basis for goodwill and community.
I share my thoughts here for a few reasons. First, to let you know you’re not alone. Second, this is a historic marker in American history, in the evolution of liberty in a secular society. I want my kids to know where their mom and dad stood.
Whenever the term ‘the greater good’ starts being bandied about, I know that something unpleasant is afoot. Civil discourse and respect for differing opinions have left the room and it’s time for Bad Cop to make his case. Utilitarianism is the view that teaches whatever benefits the greatest number of people is the right thing to do. It is the moral compass of the materialist.
And what we have been seeing these last many months with vaccine mandates, public banning, and various forms of social shaming is an outworking of the utilitarian view. “You don’t have to listen to a minority of people who are being harmful to the greater good,” says Don Lemmon of CNN. “The people who are not getting vaccines, who are believing the lies on the internet instead of science, it’s time to start shaming them. What else? Or leave them behind. Because they are keeping the majority of Americans behind.”
In contrast with utilitarianism, Jesus taught that even the smallest minority is important to Him, that the desires of the majority can never come at the expense of the minority, that the ends do not justify the means.
Margaret Sanger was one of the better-known eugenicists of the 20th century. She had lots of plans for the greater good. One of them included sterilizing people she deemed unfit for human propagation. Or, in her own words, “cultivation of the better racial elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks—those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization” (Sanger, The New York Times, 8 Apr 1923).
As a eugenicist, Sanger succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. “Eugenic sterilization is one of the many indispensable measures in any modern program of social welfare,” declared Sanger’s Birth Control Review (Vol 17 No 4, 1933)—an influential issue, featuring an article from Dr. Ernst Rudin, Hitler’s Director of Genetic Sterilization and founder of the Nazi Gesellschaft fur Rassenhygiene [Society for Racial Hygiene]. Before Hitler was defeated and the full extent of his Final Solution was uncovered, eugenics was a widely celebrated science, endorsed by politicians, scientists, and celebrities alike (what would we do without celebrities?).
“After World War II, nobody was a eugenicist, and nobody had ever been a eugenicist,” writes the late author Michael Crichton. “In retrospect…there was no scientific basis for eugenics. The eugenics movement was really a social program masquerading as a scientific one” (Crichton, Why Politicized Science is Dangerous).
Millions perished under this coercively-applied weed treatment. The Greater Good, it turned out, was neither.
Love Thy Neighbor
For what it’s worth, we have our reasons for saying, “no, thanks” at this time (and time is the keyword here). If discourse and respect are allowed back into the room, and coercion can take a coffee break, we’d be happy to share those reasons.
For the unvaccinated, who have never been infected, COVID can be truly dangerous, and that danger increases exponentially with age and/or health complications. We have lost friends to COVID, and we are fully aware of the threat it poses.
But there’s still a lot we don’t understand about COVID vaccines and gene therapies in general. Concern over a new therapy that was developed at Warp Speed and mass-injected into billions of people is not unfounded. According to Johns Hopkins University, “A typical vaccine development timeline takes 5 to 10 years, and sometimes longer, to assess whether the vaccine is safe…” For comparison, it took 20 years to develop the polio vaccine, with many tragic missteps along the way.
The issue here was never one of efficacy but trust: how can we be sure vaccines are safe without long-term, longitudinal studies, as previously required for every other mandated vaccine in U.S. history? What is the impact of novel gene therapies on young children, who are least at risk from natural infection, as they mature into adulthood? What is the impact on gestation and fertility? We don’t know, because the studies have not yet been run. In August, the NIH funded a $1.67 million study to explore links between COVID vaccines and menstrual changes, because “women have reported experiencing irregular or missing menstrual periods, bleeding that is heavier than usual, and other menstrual changes after receiving COVID-19 vaccines” (NIH, 30 Aug 2021).
We can all appreciate that COVID doesn't give us the luxury of time. But neither did any of the other diseases that ravaged the world for centuries. We should at least acknowledge that risks exist either way and allow people to make up their own minds about how they want to entertain those risks. Loving thy neighbor is central, the second greatest commandment. But that goes both ways: forcing your neighbor out of employment or privileged society for their personally-held convictions seems to fall short of the definition in my book.
For those in elevated risk categories, there are vaccines. For those who are otherwise healthy and would rather let their God-given immune systems build lifelong resistance, they should be allowed to without fear of reprisal from coercive governments or irritated neighbors.
Respect and goodwill are the only ways forward. Jesus didn’t give us utilitarianism, or a notion of ‘the greater good’. He gave us the Golden Rule. And we would do well to follow it.
Rory Groves is a technology consultant and founder of multiple software businesses. Several years ago he moved his family from the city to the country to begin the journey towards a more durable way of life. Rory and his wife Becca now reside in southern Minnesota where they farm, raise livestock, host workshops, and homeschool their five children. He is the author of Durable Trades: Family-Centered Economies That Have Stood the Test of Time.
Sanger’s Connection to Nazi's:
Sanger’s Birth Control Review (Vol 17 No 4): https://web.archive.org/web/20150731191233/http://library.lifedynamics.com/Birth%20Control%20Review/1933-04%20April.pdf
Sanger, “Human Weeds” quote: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger
Johns Hopkins: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/vaccines/timeline
Michael Crichton quote (politicized science): https://www.michaelcrichton.com/why-politicized-science-is-dangerous/