Pressure for enforced COVID vaccination (and more?)

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 18, 2020

As predicted, pressure is mounting in the United States for government policies which require universal vaccination against COVID-19. Bob Marshall predicted this when he thoroughly covered the vaccination issue for CatholicCulture.org, both in summary and in great depth. (Note that if you prefer to listen to Marshall’s vaccine analysis, you will now find audio links at the top of those articles.)

Bob recently alerted me to two specific examples. On May 28th, the Health Section of the New York Bar Association called for mandatory vaccination. On August 6th, USA Today published an op-ed advocating this. Such proposals have generally called for exemptions only for those certified as having a condition which makes vaccination a serious risk, while insisting that appropriate certificates of vaccination be issued to everyone, for inspection on demand. (Halt, citizen! Present your papers.)

I still scratch my head over the panic-stricken response to a pandemic which, in the United States, has resulted so far in 1.6% of the total population contracting the illness (many with no symptoms) and in .05% of the total population dying from the illness (which is 1 out of 2,000, mostly among the very elderly). Of course, we do not know what the results would have been in the absence of all protective measures. But this only highlights the reality of the situation: There is a great deal that we do not know, and yet Draconian solutions—even, perhaps, totalitarian solutions—have already been imposed, and more are being proposed.

A prime example is the advocacy for a rushed and potentially dangerous and highly-enforced vaccination program. Such advocacy is, at a minimum, premature, without a firm foundation in an extensive knowledge of the disease, and with potentially huge adverse social and even purely medical consequences.

Fear of loss of control

In the twenty-first century West, we seem remarkably afraid to die—to the point of imposing highly-restrictive socio-economic policies to continuously minimize that possibility. But in discussing this with others, I have begun to see the problem as something more than that: We are remarkably afraid of not being in control. This is undoubtedly true, and while this anxiety is to some extent embedded in the human condition, it is in a highly exaggerated form a signal feature of the fundamental loss of the Christian faith which plagues our culture.

In the secular West, we have sacrificed faith in God to the myth that we can control our own destiny. This myth has repeatedly exploded into dominance among society’s elites over the past 250 years. There are warnings against it throughout Scripture, but it has been adopted by the rich and powerful to some extent in every era—usually at the expense of those who are not rich and powerful, and who are therefore reminded daily (often by their “betters”) that they cannot control their own destiny.

In an affluent society in a technocratic age, accustomed to manage large populations, this myth of being in control is exacerbated by bureaucratic habits which appear to address every contingency, and by the intense need always to be able to identify particular persons who are at fault when things go wrong. When life is managed by bureaucratic policy, policy-makers come and go, although little enough changes when they do.

But there is a peculiar thing about governmental controls: They always tend to serve the interests of a culture’s elites. In the COVID era, this is already playing out in America in efforts to discourage religious worship while permitting many other kinds of gatherings, and in efforts to force religious schools to adopt the same problematic and expensive policies as public schools, which are funded by enforced taxation. God forbid that different groups of people be permitted to rely on their own responsibility and intelligence to arrange their own activities; and God forbid that any “counter-cultural” group should succeed in an activity for which failure has been mandated!

A great many important issues hang in the balance in our society today, and without claiming any superior knowledge on how best to deal with the COVID pandemic, I would simply point out that in these circumstances—which in a culture like ours inevitably appear to cry out for more government control—we must strive mightily to prevent the myth of human control from driving the effort beyond what is reasonable for the human condition. We have seen this happen again and again, on one pretext or another, ever since the age of secular totalitarianism was ushered in with the French Revolution in 1789. In truth, perhaps the most apt name for the modern period of Western history is The Age of Totalitarianism—or, more precisely, The Age of Human Control in Opposition to Faith in Christ.

Too Little Known

Even medical science has been in constant flux from the moment the COVID-19 virus first appeared. There is no blame here, for we simply have not had a long enough period to study the virus in depth to learn how serious it is, and in what ways. One day it may be predicted that the virus will disappear when the weather heats up; the next day we find it spreading in warm-weather states. One day it may be predicted that millions are going to die in our country alone; the next day we find that this is vastly overblown. One day we find that some of those who test positively for COVID-19 appear to have no symptoms. The next day we learn that some of them have actually suffered heart damage. And the day after, we decide that this damage may well be from pre-existing conditions for which nobody previously had any reason to test.

Sometimes, the results may be “worse” than predicted; sometimes “better”. The point here is both general and particular. In general, it is foolish to enforce massive long-term religious, socio-political and economic changes based on such uncertain forecasting—let alone a redefinition of human rights. In particular, vaccination is an intrinsically uncertain and risky business until long-term experience with a vaccine has provided far greater knowledge of both its safety and its efficacy. Compared with what we would like to know, even the greatest experts know far too little about the behavior and impact of the COVID-19 virus. But while not knowing enough can certainly cause panic, and panic can certainly be deliberately fostered, lack of knowledge is generally one of the best reasons to take things slowly, one small step at a time, and with respect for divergent data and opinions.

Finally, as I have already emphasized, there is a marked tendency in all societies for elites to use crises, whether perceived or real, as an excuse to press the social order in directions beneficial to themselves. This is especially marked in a society whose elites regard everyone who disagrees with them as (a) a menace to human progress; and (b) fit only to be ruled by others.

It seems to me that the COVID pandemic has revealed as much about what we stand to lose as what we stand to gain from the unceasing interest in it on the part of the “elites” to which I have so frequently referred. On the one hand, we can welcome medical progress; on the other, we ought to beware of the way crises are so often exaggerated and used by secularized societies to increase worldly power at the expense of those who refuse to put their trust in princes (Ps 146:3).

Or perhaps we also have some spiritual growing to do. Granted that we need true human prudence, perhaps in our own thirst for control over our own lives, we no longer believe this verse from the same psalm: “Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Ps 146:5).

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: wacondaseeds4507 - Aug. 18, 2020 11:08 PM ET USA

    Agreed. One aspect not addressed is nutrient status that many do learn and correct themselves. Specifically, studies show vitamin D and zinc levels are lower in those suffering most from COVID19. Both are inexpensive, thus Big Pharma does not embrace the obvious solution. Staying indoors, sunscreens, and dark skin reduce vitamin D status. The former two are examples of the law of unintended consequences. Thus, some recommendations are counterproductive at best and unnatural and harmful at worst.