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A polarizing vaccine provides some pro-life hope

Herbie Newell is the President and Executive Director of Lifeline Children’s Services and its ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, Families Count and Lifeline Village.
Herbie Newell is the President and Executive Director of Lifeline Children’s Services and its ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, Families Count and Lifeline Village. | (Courtesy of Herbie Newell)

Seemingly, every subject in 2020 comes with serious debate in our ever-polarized world. We can certainly add the Covid-19 vaccine to the growing list of divisive issues. A majority (51%) of Americans are reluctant to take a vaccine either because of the efficacy, the known side effects, the rush to market, the reprogram of the human genome, the potential usage of abortifacients or simply a rational skepticism of vaccines in general. Presumably, the rest of the US public’s concern about the vaccine seems to be outweighed by the belief that with widespread implementation of the vaccine comes the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only the Lord truly knows when this pandemic will pass; however, in all of the hype about the vaccine and FDA approval, let’s not miss that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) met recently and made a decision, that at least on the surface seems “pro-life.”

In preparation for millions of doses of the Covid-19 vaccine becoming available, the CDC issued its pecking order for those who should be prioritized to receive the vaccine. Residents of long-term care facilities and front-line health care workers were voted almost unanimously as the first group of Americans to get a Covid-19 vaccine, followed by adults with high-risk medical conditions and those who are 65 and older.

In a world which has increasingly embraced euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, and devalued the vulnerable, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought an increasingly pro-life bent to our policies and procedures for protecting the vulnerable. While we may doubt the effectiveness of masks, the motivations of the CDC with vaccines, and the overall response to the pandemic, all of these decisions certainly seem bent to defend the lives of the elderly and the most vulnerable among us, and we should position ourselves to build from it. The question for us is: are we ready?

Every decision has consequences, and every decision we make in contradiction to God’s order and biblical revelation brings not only immediate consequences, but also many unintended future ramifications. In 1973, when the majority of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices decided to legalize abortion, they had no way of understanding the long-range social ramifications of this single decision.

The Roe v. Wade decision wasn’t just a war on babies tucked within their mothers womb. Inextricably, Roe v. Wade ushered in a war against life in general. The logic followed that if the government had authority to determine when life begins, then the same government and her people would have a right to determine when life should end. It is always a terrifying proposition when the government and her people assert themselves in the position that only God can rightfully hold.

As pro-life image bearers of God, we are called to reach out to the marginalized, the elderly, the oppressed, the weak, and all of those whom society labels as “less than.” Indeed, we do this to mirror the life of our Savior, to show the gospel, and to help do our part in repairing creation.

Throughout the Bible, care for widows is inextricably connected to care for orphans and other vulnerable people. Elsewhere in Scripture, God calls upon His people to care for the elderly. For example, the psalmist begs in Psalm 71:9, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” Unfortunately, today’s elderly need to continually have this prayer on their tongues and in their hearts, because unnatural death is creeping at their door. Our world advocates for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide equally as much as for open access to abortion.

In contrast to today’s prevalent view of aging, the Lord tells His people in Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Advanced age is not a curse, but a blessing from the Lord, and as God’s people we must act counter culturally to agree with God’s order. If we do not care for the elderly and the terminally ill, then we have replaced the sovereignty of God’s rule and reign with the idols of self and convenience. 

Embracing a pro-life position means acting consistently. We can’t call ourselves pro-life if we aren’t willing to care for our aging parents or if we are willing to breeze past a slow-moving older woman as if she were a speed bump impeding our progress. We cannot truly claim a pro-life ethic if we aren’t willing to do what we can to protect those who are the most susceptible to severe illness as a result of COVID-19. We must see the elderly as beautifully aged and made in the image of God. While their physical bodies may be fading away because of the effects of a fallen world, they are due dignity, respect, concern, defense and protection.

Failing to esteem the elderly as God intended has a huge cost. Think about the amount of wisdom bound up in the retirement home or nursing facility closest to you. There are men and women who have learned life’s hardest lessons through both success and failure. They are image bearers who have immense wisdom and experience where motor skills and other physical faculties are lacking or diminished, yet we are so quick to forget about them because they are largely out of our sight and mind.

Government was created to represent the protection and authority of God for all people; however, it seems we have placed personal autonomy and authority on the throne, and in turn we expect our governments to protect our individualism. We throw truth away as rubbish and worship the preferences of man over the order of the Creator.

Consequently, being pro-life has been narrowed to simply defending the rights of a baby yet to be born; however, bring pro-life must be firmly established in a much greater recognition. We must understand that being pro-life is rooted in acknowledging that God alone deserves power to give and take lives, and if we think we have the power and authority to pronounce when life begins, it only follows that foolishly we also believe that we have the authority to determine when life should end. When we lose our pro-life ethic, we lose. Governments who were meant to be the terror of bad behavior have become a terror to life. 

Let’s pray that steps taken during the COVID-19 pandemic are a reverse in the right direction to defend life from the cradle to the grave.

Herbie Newell (MBA, Samford University) is the President and Executive Director of Lifeline Children’s Services and its ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, Families Count and Lifeline Village. Under Newell’s leadership, Lifeline has significantly increased its international and statewide outreach, attained membership with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and achieved international accreditation under The Hague Treaty, begun an extensive foster care ministry, and started its (un)adopted strategic orphan care ministries in more than 10 countries. Herbie speaks nationally at conferences and events, and regularly preaches throughout the world on gospel-driven justice. He and his wife, Ashley, live in Birmingham, Alabama and are parents to a son, Caleb, and daughters Adelynn and Emily. His first book Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life, released on January 21, 2020.

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