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First, a piece of illustrative humor that is itself old almost beyond reckoning. The story goes something like this:

A fellow’s home is in the way of an impending flood. While the roads are still mostly open, the sheriff drives up with his amphibious truck and urges the man to evacuate with him.

“No, no,” the fellow replies, “God will protect me! I have faith, I will pray, and God will protect me!”

A little while later, the flooding is much, much worse. So much so that a motor boat can pull up to his second story window. The people in the boat urge the man to climb aboard and evacuate.

“No, no,” the fellow replies, “God will protect me! I have faith, I will pray, and God will protect me!”

Later still, the flooding has become truly catastrophic, and the man is now clinging for life to the roof of his barely standing house. A helicopter comes along and tries to rescue him.

“No, no,” the fellow replies, “God will protect me! I have faith, I will pray, and God will protect me!”

After the helicopter leaves, the house collapses and the man drowns.

Brought before the Judgment Seat, the man complains bitterly to God about how ardently he’d prayed, how absolutely steadfast he’d been in his faith, yet God did nothing to save him.

“What are you talking about?” God replies. “I sent you the truck, the boat, and the helicopter!”

One might amend the above by adding, “and the vaccine.” Because I can guarantee you, NO ONE’s sacred book(s) even mentions them, much less forbids them. (Largely because vaccination did not exist when said books were written and assembled.)

The simpering, self-righteous buffoons who demand that God make a special intervention on their account, for no other reason than that they demand it, are not merely intransigently stupid. They are monstrously sinful as well. Because they are taking God’s name in vain.

Consider: God’s name is not “God”; the Bible is very explicit on this point. So how can uttering a phrase like “God damn it!” be an instance of “taking God’s name in vain”? Easy. If you say it – and mean it! – then you are being so vain as to presume to take God’s name to yourself, and command God who or what to damn. It is the astonishing arrogance and vanity to presume to tell God what to do. And the vanity is the same regardless of whether the person is telling God who/what to damn, or who/what to save.

The people refusing to get vaccinated on the grounds that “God will protect them,” are not asking anything of God in their prayers. They are not asking to be saved or protected, because if they were they’d be sanguine if God’s answer was “no.” They are demanding it on account of their self-determined superior faith and righteousness. And nothing precludes continuing to pray for salvation and protection – for one’s self and for others! – even after one is vaccinated. Indeed, the genuinely Christian thing to do is to get vaccinated less for one’s own protection, but out of loving concern for one’s community. But this latter concept is lost on many evangelicals, and all but entirely absent in most fundamentalists.

Refusing vaccines makes no more sense than refusing to live in a shelter, wear clothes, or eat cooked food. All of these behaviors are interventions on the so-called “natural order of things.” Objecting to vaccines because they are not mentioned in the Bible betrays a staggering level of infantilism on the part of the people making that objection, because these self-same people are using electricity, driving automobiles, are active on the internet, watch cable TV and movies, all of which are equally lacking in Biblical references. (Such people are also likely to be perfectly at ease with purchasing a breakfast from persons working on a Sunday, wear cotton-poly blends in their clothesii, shave their whiskers, and other behaviors categorically forbidden by the Old Testament.)

No, the people refusing vaccines on the grounds of their religious faith are not asking for God’s help; they are demanding God’s special intervention on their behalf. God’s help is already in the world: vaccines against COVID-19 exist, and at this stage they are the most tested vaccines ever to await upon final approval. (And if these vaccines are not God’s handiwork, then God is not omnipotent; there are elements of the world outside and beyond God’s control.)

Now, it is clearly pointless to even hope for – never mind insist upon – logical coherence from fundamentalists, as well as from many evangelicals. It is unlikely that any fundamentalist would ever budge a micrometer when confronted with the above argument (though some evangelicals might.) But I do wish to highlight, in conclusion, how the above argument was never presented to me when I was a kid going to Sunday school. I actually had to figure it out for myself. And then when I began hanging out around other highly educated people I discovered (somewhat to my embarrassment) that it was one of those things that everybody “just knew.” So despite the fact that I am not a Christian, or even a religious person, of any stripe, the above is not an especially controversial read on the third (in the Protestant and Jewish count) Commandment. (Catholics count them somewhat differently, because the whole “graven image” thing is a bit of an embarrassment for them.)

I do find it striking, however, that so many churches and Sunday schools don’t spend any time explaining why it is a sin to presume to legislate our will to God.

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i My controversial interpretation of the distinction: fundamentalists are intransigent dogmatists when it comes to THE sacred text. Which sacred text is THE sacred text will depend upon which religion the fundamentalist adheres to. Regardless, that sacred text is absolute and, more importantly, there is only one interpretation of that sacred text, all other being apostasy. Fundamentalists are, then, both absolutist and authoritarian in their every dealing with the world. On the other hand, the word “evangelical” is rooted in the same term as “evangelize”, which means “to spread the Good News.” At their root, evangelicals want to persuade the world while fundamentalists want to dominate it. These distinctions are far from absolute, and there are many evangelicals who are every bit as savagely intolerant as fundamentalists. But evangelicals are not necessarily so, the way fundamentalists are. Many are open to alternative interpretations within the scope of their sacred text.

ii Seriously, what is God’s issue with cloth of two or more threads?