With a Friend…
Friend: Gosh, I’m really looking forward to seeing you.
Me: Yeah, me too. It’s been ages. See you at the restaurant on Monday.
Friend: Great. Oh, by the way, you’re vaccinated, right?
Me: No. Is that a problem?
Friend: Well, yeah. Don’t you think it’s something we should do? I stood in line to get mine. Can’t be too careful. I protect you and you protect me and all that.
Friend: Yeah. Don’t you care about others?
Me: Of course I do – including my family who need me. I’m not inclined to take an experimental treatment for something that’s not deadly to someone in my condition.
Friend: So you’re a scaredy-cat.
Me: Not like you, I suppose.
Friend: I’m not that scared. I just got back from visiting my family in Wyoming and I’ve been hiking and out to restaurants as long as they require masks. Does that sound like I’m scared?
Me: Well, can we meet on Monday?
Friend: No, you’re not vaccinated and I can’t take the chance I’ll pick up COVID from you.
Me: But you’re vaccinated so you can’t get it.
Friend: Well, even vaccinated people can have breakthrough infections.
Me: So the vaccine doesn’t work?
Friend: It works to keep me from the worst of the symptoms.
Me: But you can still get sick?
Me: But if I’m not sick and don’t have symptoms why can’t we meet?
Friend: You might be a carrier.
Me: But if I’d had the shot we could meet?
Friend: Of course.
Me: You just told me that vaccinated people can get sick. If they can get sick, can’t they be carriers?
Me: What about I protect you and you protect me and all that? If the vaccinated can be carriers, I might catch COVID from you.
Friend: But I don’t have any symptoms.
Me: Neither do I. So why can’t we get together?
Friend: Well, that’s just how I feel about it.
Me: I guess that’s true. But how do you think about it?
Friend: I’m just following the science.
Me: So am I.
Friend: Yeah, all that conspiratorial stuff.
Me: Why do you say that?
Friend: Because the scientists I’m following say so.
Me: Well, so do mine.
Friend: But they’re a bunch of hacks.
Me: And why is your science superior to my science?
Friend: So you’re an expert now?
Me: No, but I can read and make my own decisions. Why is your expertise superior to mine?
Friend: Because the government agrees with my scientists. Even CNN and Facebook and the rest are working hard to tamp down all the false information.
Me: Since when do you trust the government? You’ve hated them since Vietnam.
Friend: Well, now that Trump’s gone we have a chance of believing them.
Me: But Trump promoted the vaccines big time. Why did you hate him?
Friend: You must be a Republican.
Me: I was, but I’m in remission.
With My Dentist’s Office…
Office: Hi, John. Time to make an appointment for your annual cleaning and check up.
Me: Okay. Let’s find one for first thing in the morning.
Office: Great. How about next Thursday at 8:00?
Me: Fine. See you then.
Office: By the way, you’ll need to mask if you haven’t been vaccinated for COVID.
Me: Why? I’m going to be mouth-breathing in the same space for at least twenty minutes while you do the cleaning. Plus, I’ll be spitting in the bowl four or five times. Five minutes in the waiting room is going to kill the receptionist?
Office: The rules are in place to protect others.
Me: But even the CDC studies are couched in terms like “may have”, “estimated”, “could have”, and “perhaps.” Their guidance isn’t based on double-blind controlled studies.
Office: The rules are in place to protect others.
Me: If I was vaccinated I could come in without a mask?
Office: That’s the guidance so far. Do you want the Thursday appointment?
Me: But the vaccinated are getting sick more often than the unvaccinated in the UK and Israel.
Office: The rules are in place to protect others. Do you want the Thursday appointment?
Me: Call me back when you guys come to your senses.
Office: That could be a while…
With My Doctor Friend…
Doctor: [Social Media post] I can’t get over these anti-vaxxers. You just can’t fix stupid.
Me: [In private conversation] You’re a doctor. Why are you so eager to get everyone jabbed with something that’s not thoroughly tested?
Doctor: It is tested. The effort that’s gone into this is incredible. You clearly don’t understand the threat that COVID represents.
Me: Well, I’ll agree with the “incredible” part. Both the mortality reports and the safety analysis are not credible.
Doctor: So, you’re a doctor now? You understand the biology and mechanisms at work in COVID and the vaccines?
Me: Not entirely, no. So you’re an epidemiologist and understand the statistics of the infection and mortality rates?
Doctor: Not entirely, no. But I’ve been trained to follow the science coming from the CDC and NIH.
Me: I haven’t. Which of us is at a disadvantage?
Doctor: Funny. Look, if we didn’t rely on experts at higher levels of understanding we’d never get anywhere. Can’t you see that?
Me: Of course. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t alternative trains of thought to examine. Is there consensus about the so-called vaccine?
Doctor: There is among those who matter.
Me: So who is it that “matters?”
Doctor: The CDC, the NIH, and the licensing boards.
Me: So is your career dependent on their being right or on your agreement with them?
Doctor: I see where this is going. Let me clarify, I have no medical reasons for doubting them.
Me: Since we’re talking about financial incentives (and I’m not saying you have one), why do you suppose the federal government paid hospitals for every COVID case they treated?
Doctor: Obviously for the overwhelming number of cases they had to treat. Hospitals weren’t prepared for that kind of onslaught and needed help.
Me: So the hospital wouldn’t dream of over-reporting cases because of the extra money?
Doctor: Maybe a little, but not to any great extent, no.
Me: So in 2019 there were 58 million cases of influenza in the US and in 2020 there were 850 thousand. Does that sound at all odd to you?
Doctor: Well, something’s off.
Me: And the money had nothing to do with it? Any idea on why the experts would want to subsidize this?
Doctor: You sound conspiratorial.
Me: I’m not labeling it, just trying to get at the truth. If the reporting of the threat is off, maybe there’s no reason to take the shot.
Doctor: But don’t you want to get back to normal life?
Me: I think “normal” died in March 2020. Just like “normal” airline travel died in September 2001.
Doctor: At the risk of repeating myself, you sound conspiratorial.
Me: Label it what you will. Travel has not been the same and it’s now getting worse with vaccine passports. But back to the science. Do you still have confidence in the CDC, NIH, and medical boards?
Doctor: Yup. Everything falls apart if we don’t have consensus and standards of care. You can’t have everyone off being cowboys and doing their own thing.
Me: I agree. But neither can we suspend our own common sense and agree with experts when they tell us that grass is blue and not green.
Doctor: But they’re not saying that.
Me: They’re telling us that COVID cured the seasonal flu.
Doctor: Well the numbers might be off, but that doesn’t make them wrong about COVID risks and the vaccine to counter it.
Me: These are the same experts who are apologizing for once saying that men can’t have babies. If I approached you with a hypodermic needle and asked you to roll up your sleeve, what is the first thing you’d say?
Doctor: “What’s in that thing?”
Me: And if I said, “Trust me, it’s good for you,” what would you say?
Doctor: “Not until I know what’s in it.”
Me: And what’s in the COVID vaccines?
With a Churchman…
Me: So pastor, I see you closed your church during 2020 for COVID.
Churchman: Yes, it was an easy decision to make. We were loving our neighbors.
Me: How so? You didn’t want to meet and build each other up in love and encouragement?
Churchman: The unknown dangers of COVID made it dangerous to meet. Why would I subject the flock to that?
Me: Perhaps the danger was unknown at the beginning. But after that initial two weeks to flatten the curve didn’t you begin to suspect the government’s narrative?
Churchman: No. We seemed to be on the same page – protecting people.
Me: So you agreed with the governor that church was non-essential?
Churchman: Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. We just saw it as too big a risk. And so, by the way, did our insurance company.
Me: But even the early statistics were not too scary.
Churchman: We must have been reading different newspapers. We were scared. Besides, following the Romans 13 exhortation to obey the authorities is just good witnessing for our church.
Me: Didn’t you have a problem when the civil government allowed the abortion mills to remain open but decided to shut churches? That didn’t seem wrong to you?
Churchman: Of course it was wrong. But they are the authorities and Romans 13 says we must obey them.
Me: But Romans 13 says we are to obey them because they’re ministers of good to us. They punish evil doers. Doesn’t that imply that we may disobey them when they allow evil and punish good?
Churchman: No. The scripture says we must obey unless they order us to sin. Closing churches was a wrong-headded public policy, not a sin.
Me: Isaiah pronounced woes to them that call evil good and good evil.
Churchman: That’s the Old Testament.
Me: Well, it is old. It doesn’t apply to us now?
Churchman: Not in the same way as the New Testament.
Me: Okay, New Testament scripture says that wives are to obey their husbands. If a husband beats his wife, does that command still hold?
Churchman: Well, that’s different. He’s abandoning his responsibility to love his wife.
Me: But government singled out churches for closure and allowed casinos and abortionists to remain open. Haven’t they abandoned their responsibility to be ministers of good to us?
Churchman: I don’t see it that way.
Me: Apparently not. What about when Paul told his readers to submit to the church leaders? What if you demanded a 30% tithe?
Churchman: You’re setting up straw man arguments. Of course people would abandon our church, but we would never do that.
Me: I’d hope not. Just trying to illustrate a point. The commands to submit to church leadership and for wives to obey husbands are not explicitly conditional but Romans 13 is.
Churchman: I think you are twisting scripture to suit your own purposes.
Me: I’m just trying to understand what it all means. Let me ask about a different scripture. In Leviticus, we see commands to quarantine the sick, not the well. Shouldn’t that have been our guiding principle?
Churchman: There you go with the Old Testament again.
Me: Sorry, I forgot. Do you consider your flock to have been scattered during this whole mess?
Churchman: No, not really. Our giving hasn’t fallen off much.
Me: So how does that relate to the flock being scattered?
Churchman: Well, if they had scattered, the giving wouldn’t have held up.
Me: Making payroll and keeping the insurance paid?
Churchman: You make us sound pretty mercenary about it.
Me: But your analysis of the flock’s scattering is based on dollars. Since you’ve re-opened, how is actual attendance?
Churchman: Well it’s lower, but we attribute that to fear and the mask mandate.
Me: The one imposed by the governor?
Me: If you eliminated the masks would your attendance be back to normal?
Churchman: Maybe. It’s hard to tell.
Me: Sounds like scattering to me.
Churchman: What are you getting at?
Me: John 10:12-13
Churchman: That’s a pretty ugly thing to say.
Me: There’s no joy in having to say it.
Churchman: This conversation is over. If you were a member of my church, you’d be subject to church discipline.
Me: If I were a member of your church, I’d already not be allowed in the building.
~John Bingaman, September 2021