The rhetoric about COVID-19 vaccine reached its highest level of fervor yet on Monday, July 5th, when the Chairman for the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church publicly stated this:
Those who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 are committing a sin they will have to repent for the rest of their lives. That’s according to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose spokesman said rejecting a jab is selfish.
Speaking to TV channel Russia 24, the head of the Russia Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion, explained that his parishioners regularly repent to him for not being vaccinated. They feel guilty because they passed the virus on to someone else who eventually died, he claimed.
“They come and say, ‘How am I supposed to live with this now?’ And it’s hard for even me to say how to live with it,” he explained. “All your life, you have to make up for the sin you committed.”
And so on, and so on. The Metropolitan further clarifies the “sin” this way:
“The sin is thinking about yourself instead of thinking about other people,” the metropolitan said. “We are responsible – each of us – not only for ourselves and not only for our loved ones, but also for all those who come into contact with us.”
Is that so? Was that ever stated in the Gospels? Was it ever stated by our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ?
Not exactly. As a matter of fact, this is some new “teaching” that is utterly alien to the Gospel, but which smacks of secular humanism, Tolstoy’s musings, and Communism. It has unfortunately inflamed many people in the Church because it seems to be Christian, and it was used widely during the COVID pandemic in the US to try to justify the most bizarre behavior the Orthodox Church has ever done in its 2,000 year history – to close church temples for fear of sickness!
To be sure, the idea of protecting one’s neighbor is noble, and Romans Chapter 14 has very direct instructions not to tempt fellow Christian followers by one’s own excessive efforts or one’s own laxity in fasting. However, every instance in which Christians are called to help one another is not because “we are responsible for one another” in any other way but for the sake of salvation, that is, for the sake of helping one another get right with God in preparation for eternity.
When kindness and love are applied to non-Christians, this, too is in the image of Christ, “love one another as I have loved you”, for Jesus loved (and loves) everyone, no matter whether they follow Him or not. To show this love is to at least “do no harm” to others, despite anything they might do to you.
If anything Metropolitan Hilarion says here is based in Christian teaching it is probably in reference to this common kindness and love shown towards everyone around us.
But that does not apply to COVID-19 vaccination, and in fact, the hierarch appears to be violating the Russian Orthodox Church’s own guidance in the area of both bioethics and logic.
The logic part of this involves the question: Is this real or is it propaganda?
We are seeing a massive propaganda push on the part of many leaders in the Russian government. Dmitry Peskov and Anna Popova of Rospotrebnadzor are pressing very hard for people in Russia to “change their nihilism” in regard to ignoring the calls to get vaccinated. President Vladimir Putin himself is on the record saying that mandatory vaccination will not be the law of the land, but that he still wishes everyone would get the jab. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin brought about the “Sobyacolypse” when he closed food courts all over Moscow and required that people show a QR-code proof of vaccination or one of two other medical tests proving a citizen either has sufficient antibodies or is tested virus-clean.
The Sobyacolypse is not really doing so well. Eating outdoors is still permitted without such tests, and it is summer, and Russia is notorious for having overheated buildings, so many people don’t really want to eat indoors anyway. From my own observations around the city, mask wearing is increased – maybe a bit more than 50% of the riders in the Metro are doing so with masks, but there are still plenty who do not do this.
And recently, at Russia’s great Monastery of the Transfiguration of our Lord on Valaam Island, the abbot overstepped his bounds by threatening all monastics with his “get vaccinated or you’re kicked out with nothing” message, which has since been slapped down as inappropriate and exceeding the abbot’s authority.
But here is another piece of information that flies in the face of the current propaganda push.
Sputnik V, the leading Russian vaccine, is being reported as “safe, and causing no problems.” However, my own student got their first injection of this stuff on the morning of July 5th, and by the end of the day he had a 102+ degree temperature (39C), was flat on his back, and said it felt like he had “two Empire State Buildings” weighing down on his chest.
Does this happen to everyone who gets the vaccine? No, of course not. But this is a problem, and it is resultant from the vaccine. So “no problems?” No. I do not believe this is true especially with such direct testimony as proof.
Now, let’s get to bioethics. In many of my previous pieces, I have pointed out the relatively high amount of hazard that comes with receiving a vaccine that is not completely tested, and which has carried a far higher rate of adverse effects than other approved vaccines do. The death toll attributed to COVID vaccination passed 20,000 people in combination with the United States and Western Europe a few weeks ago. That is 20,000 people who will never see another day again. 20,000 people leaving behind families, loved ones, dependents, and many of them felt fine when the received the injection and were not sick at all. Now, they are dead.
How is this ethical, then, to push so hard when there is this much risk? And what is the meaning of the hysterical push by non-medical experts, when more and more medical experts are calling out the politicization of COVID vaccination, noting that doctors are violating their oath to “first, do no harm” to people? They are doing harm to them. And further, with mRNA vaccines, the reports of secondary effects such as injury to those around the person who got vaccinated is also not in line with any notion of protecting your neighbor, even if that idea were in Christ’s gospel.
Finally, there is this: The Russian Orthodox Church has a massive document, entitled “The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church.” In it, the Church attempts to address 20th and 21st century issues in light of what the Church has always lived and taught her people. Section XII is about bioethics. Now, keep in mind that abortion is an extremely grave sin for Christians, especially Orthodox and Roman Catholic followers. For these people there are other sins, too, called “participation in someone else’s sin” or “silence” about when someone is doing something wrong, or worse, “defense of the sin committed.”
In other words, it is not only wrong to do certain things, but it is also wrong to refuse to address them, or to make excuses for having done them. With this in mind, let’s look at what the Bioethics section has to say about the topic of bioengineering:
A recipient assimilates donor organs and tissues entering his personal spiritual and physical integrity. Therefore, in no circumstances moral justification can be given to the transplantation that threatens the identity of a recipient, affecting his uniqueness as personality and representative of a species. It is especially important to remember this condition in solving problems involved in the transplantation of animal organs and tissues.
The Church believes it to be definitely inadmissible to use the methods of so-called foetal therapy, in which the human foetus on various stages of its development is aborted and used in attempts to treat various diseases and to «rejuvenate» an organism. Denouncing abortion as a cardinal sin, the Church cannot find any justification for it either even if someone may possibly benefit from the destruction of a conceived human life. Contributing inevitably to ever wider spread and commercialisation of abortion, this practice (even if its still hypothetical effectiveness could be proved scientifically) presents an example of glaring immorality and is criminal.
Sputnik V makes use of HEK293 cells, which are understood to have originated from a healthy, aborted female fetus. The most ambiguous references still indicate that this was likely the origin of the cell line, and it is not possible to discern whether or not the more ambiguous references came into existence by the work of activists in this field. This linked page is unambiguous, but we added emphasis for ease of view:
The line was cultured by scientist Alex Van der Eb in the early 1970s at his lab at the University of Leiden, Holland. The transformation was executed by Frank Graham, another scientist Van der Eb’s lab who invented the calcium phosphate method for transfecting cells. The source of the cells was a healthy aborted fetus of unknown parenthood. The name HEK293 is thusly named because it was Frank Graham’s 293rd experiment.
Other references go farther, saying that the fetus was female.
The first paragraph in our excerpt from Article XII of the Bases document calls to mind mRNA vaccines, derived from altering genetic material and injecting it into people. Further, the research on adenoviruses themselves is conducted using “humanized” mice, which are themselves genetically altered with human genetic material, making them supposedly better test subjects. SARS-CoV-2 bears many marks of bioengineering, some of which are very obvious: Who, for example, knows of any other sickness in which a person loses their senses of taste and smell at the onset? Has anyone considered this peculiarity? Just a thought. There are far more detailed research results that show the near-certainty that there is no way COVID-19’s parent pathogen originated anywhere else but a lab.
So, let’s examine this:
We have a very prominent and publicly visible hierarch in the Russian Orthodox Church, second in visibility only to the Patriarch himself, and in many ways, Met. Hilarion is the spokesman of the Church to the rest of the world. He goes public with this proclamation about vaccination that is in contradiction of the Russian Orthodox Church’s own viewpoint regarding bioethics no matter how one examines the nature of the vaccine, and which violates the Church teaching on involvement and participation with very grievous sins, and finally, which is purely political in nature, refusing to even acknowledge the dangers of the vaccine to people in general, including to people who do not care about the moral or spiritual teaching of the Church.
It is just “go get it… because!”
And even worse, as covered recently, the same hierarch called those who refuse the vaccinations, “stupid.” This is reckless speech, and it suggests hysteria or a directed propaganda drive, or both.
For me, as an American who is a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, and who knows Met. Hilarion from personal meetings, I find this sort of rhetoric very unfortunate, even heartbreaking. Met. Hilarion has been very instrumental in many very good ways to the Church – as a composer of Church music (and a pretty good one), and a very creative agency for showing high art and beauty as carriers of the Gospel. He is famous for these accomplishments, and as the Russian Church’s chief diplomat, we have often praised his cleverness in dealing with various international and geopolitical issues. He is not a bad man.
But here, he is absolutely wrong, and to make this most clear, in my opinion, his recent statements regarding COVID and its vaccine options are “ANAXIOS!”, a Greek word meaning “Not worthy!” – This is the strongest condemnation that the Church recognizes.
One would hope that this is just a result of temptation to hysteria; after all COVID-19 has been very good at bringing hysteria to the West at unforeseen levels. But it is very sad that an attempt is being made in Russia to duplicate this sort of thing. On one hand, it does not seem to be working. The Russian populace has stepped up the rate of vaccinations, but not by much, and probably only in certain places. The country still reports only a 12.6% vaccination rate.
Finally, a few personal words to guide the reader in understanding the expressed point of view here:
I am not an “antivaxxer.” I have never been one, nor do I see any reason to become one. For me, the “antivaxxer” position is an extreme borne by the internet and its amazing ability to pass junk data to uninformed people and get them to panic. I have a strong recollection of history and culture, and I use this to inform my opinion about the petty matters that seem so important here and now. Eventually COVID will be a “passé” issue. Indeed, in the US, the whole country is open and people seem very anxious to get on with living. That started to be the case here, but we are experiencing a temporary challenge with a COVID variant, and some people are trying to utilize the adage “never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Vaccines have helped the world overcome many of its most terrible illnesses. My toddler daughter got the full battery that almost all children get, the whole MMR routine, and she is fine. My wife and I also experienced the normal course of vaccinations in our lives.
But I am calling this COVID-19 vaccination drive up short because it is so highly politicized that it is not trustworthy. This long piece details the way a great many powerful people are simply being dishonest, and for what end? A vaccine that really isn’t a vaccine, requiring people to get it again and again, every six months or so? A supposedly deadly pandemic that is of horrific significance, yet its death toll stays firmly around one percent of those known to be afflicted by it?
Something is definitely off the mark here, and it is that point that seems necessary to repeat, even if it only gives each of us a moment to pause and try to think this through rationally, using our God-given ability to think critically.
I do not know if the conspiracy theories about COVID-19 being used as a test to see how easily people can be controlled, manipulated by THEM… are. I am not a big fan of that kind of thinking – it goes nowhere good.
But we certainly do have politically motivated, lemming-like behavior in evidence, and going along with it may bring similar results as those attributed to those maddened rodents, as they rush pell-mell off a cliff… just because everyone else is doing the same thing.
I am not having it. What about you?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.