In the prior column in this series, we looked at the question of the alleged relationship between the hotly debated Covid vaccines and abortion. We found that contrary to rumor, the vaccines do not contain any fetal tissue, nor were any babies aborted to make the vaccine. Instead, there are lines of cloned stem cells which trace thousands of generations back to abortions performed several decades ago.
Furthermore, these clones of clones, of clones…of stem cells are not present in the vaccines. In one case they are used upstream in the production of the vaccine, and in other cases the vaccines are tested on these stem cells. This is true of many, many medicines, including measles, rubella, and polio vaccines, as well as many other non-vaccine-related medications. In fact, it is true of two medications that have become highly favored in some of the same circles as those who morally object to vaccines; for example, Ivermectin and HCQ.
But, although establishing the facts accurately is important (and required by the 9th Commandment,) getting the facts right is not enough. We need to get the morality right as well.
For Christians, the Bible is the source of our moral code and all other authorities are subordinate to it.
The question is whether various Christian thought leaders, clergy, celebrities and internet influencers are right when they teach a moral principle which goes beyond forbidding Christians to sin, but further condemns Christians for benefitting downstream from sins in which they had no part and no control, including sins that occurred before they were even born.
Do the sins committed at the origin of something carry their moral taint down through generations (or the thousands of generations of cloning cells) or through the various stages of scientific discovery and then morally defile everyone who receives that thing or even receives benefits from it?
The general Biblical principles is first explicated by Jesus himself in Mark 7. The Pharisees and their scribes attack Jesus and His disciples for eating with unwashed, that is "defiled" (literally, "common") hands, when they come from the marketplace. The traditions which were popular at the time held that since the marketplace might contain something defiled, it was necessary for Jews to wash (actually the same word in the Greek as "baptize") their hands to purify themselves. The idea is that the defilement rests on objects in the marketplace, that it contaminates the hands of those who touch those objects, and when a Jew comes home and lifts a piece of bread to his mouth the moral contamination goes from his hand to the bread and then into the man when the bread is consumed, hence defiling him.
The Gospel account makes clear that there were many other such rules governing contact with the world. A study of Rabbinical writings from before and shortly after will confirm that. Certain violations are designated a "mother of uncleanness," which then bears uncleanness down through the 'children' from contact to contact to contact.
Instead of dismantling this complex system from within, Jesus demolishes the foundation on which the whole thing is based by declaring,
"Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear."Mark 7:14-16 NASB
Jesus' view is so countercultural that even His own disciples don't seem to understand (and I think that includes many of his disciples to this day,) so He explains it further:
"Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts…"Mark 7:18-21 NASB
Let's leave aside for now the resurgent debate about whether Jesus is abolishing dietary laws. What He is undeniably doing here is rebutting a concept of moral purity that says what goes into a man is the sin-bearing agent, rather than what comes out of a man. And this is not just about ritual purity; Jesus goes on to list moral failings; "evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders,…" etc.
The pharisaical doctrine affected more than just hand-washing and ritual purity, it governed economic life. It held that to benefit from sin is to participate in sin. That's the religious premise behind the criticism of Jesus and His tendency to eat with tax collectors. Tax collectors were, indeed, a morally corrupt lot. John confronted them about the common practice of using their power to defraud. Jesus did not declare salvation as coming to the house of Zacchaeus until he offered to give restitution to those whom he had defrauded.
The debate was not whether tax collectors' gains where ill-gotten, but rather whether their sin contaminated the recipient of any benefits of the money. It did not, otherwise Jesus would have been guilty of the sins of the tax collectors who held banquets in His honor or acted as patrons of His ministry. He would have been guilty of the acts of prostitution which purchased expensive perfumes that were used to anoint Him, or of the evil deeds of Herod's steward which came to His followers through donations from the steward's wife.
The example of Jesus and of His immediate disciples, and then later of Paul in the controversy over meat sacrificed to idols, all stand witness against the made-up moral principle that not only is it wrong to sin, but also wrong to benefit downstream from some "mother of uncleanness" in which the beneficiary had no role.
Of course, if someone disagrees and wants to hold to the idea that the defilement of the original acts travels down through space and time, I'd ask them to apply that everywhere. To Ivermectin and HCQ and Tylenol to all the scientific knowledge which has come down to us from grave-robbers and unjust wars and starvation experiments. We must expunge all that knowledge from our society, to shield ourselves from moral contagion, right? And what of finance? The U.S. government is a large funder of abortion; does that taint the dollars which were printed in order to do many wrong things, including fund abortions? Do the dollars carry the guilt of all injustices we have committed in war?
As I sit writing this, I am within a couple of hundred yards of the Youghiogheny River which, you may note, is an Indian name. I sit on land taken in many cases illegally and often using genocidal germ warfare. Do I sin by living here? No, what goes into a man cannot defile him. Only what comes out of him can defile him. The people who performed those abortions in the 60s and 70s defiled themselves because what came out of them were "murders." (Mk. 7:21) But their sin is their own, not ours.
Now, of course, there are many other issues connected with vaccinations. As I said, I'm dealing with one at a time. There may still be good arguments against vaccine usage, but the idea that we are not allowed to benefit from someone else's sin is a view which is found in the New Testament only in the mouths of Jesus' critics, not in His own.
Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”