“[Pilate] entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…'” (Gospel of John 19:9-11)
The letter was brief and sliced through any potential ambiguity. It destroyed any hope I held that this was merely a massive game of chicken. The correspondence in question effectively placed me on immediate unpaid leave, not due to poor performance or an ethical lapse, but because of my vaccination status. And although my circumstance indeed is one among thousands of individual stories resembling mine, somehow, it has left me feeling separated from the world around me. The question then is, given the odds, why have some of us chosen to defy the vaccine mandates?
The following summarizes my particular circumstances and personal views, which may provide a valuable backdrop for some. My family and I live in a region that only offers mRNA vaccines at the time of writing. We prefer to wait for a protein-based vaccine such as Novavax, for which we are prepared to provide informed consent, and will not be requesting a religious exemption feeling compelled to stand with everyone, regardless of faith or creed. My employer, the Government of Canada, rejected my written request to wait for a protein-based vaccine, as well as my bid to work from home, aware that I carried out my duties remotely during two previous lockdown periods. The reason is this – it’s not about mitigating risk or ‘public’ health; it’s about compliance. So why not comply?
In drawing out the answer, the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the Book of Daniel comes to mind. Whether the reader finds it fact or fiction, it paints an inspiring portrait of what it looks like to stand in the face of an overwhelming obstacle in refusing to bow to some king’s golden image.
The Book of Daniel 3:10-12 reads,
“You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
It requires little imagination to see parallels between king and state, golden image and collectivist mandates, and lastly, fiery furnaces and lost livelihoods. Similar to the non-compliant employee, these three OT figures choose to disobey the order, which sets off a series of events which we pick up in verses 13-15,
“Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, ‘Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Similarly, after denying my accommodation request, I informed my employer that nothing regarding my vaccination plans had changed. This declaration, which flew in the face of their ‘authority,’ prompted a written warning. In it, they confirmed my reception of all informative correspondence, stated I had yet to comply and reiterated I was required to receive at least one dose by a specific date or I would find myself on ‘administrative’ unpaid leave. They were readying the furnace.
The final warnings exhibited in both stories likely represent the apex from which many may decide to change course. And to be completely honest, as it relates to vaccine mandates, I don’t begrudge anyone who ignores my footsteps. The personal health and familial choices of others are none of my business. I can speak to my convictions and circumstances, but no one else’s, and I acknowledge and respect every individual’s right to choose. The right to freedom of choice is why I’ve allowed them to turn up the heat.
Daniel 3:16-18 continues,
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Still defiant, the biblical story concludes with all three thrown into the fire, miraculously spared by God, and pardoned by the king, conceding and formally recognizing their God’s authority over his own. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are vindicated. They have stood their ground and refused to submit to the mandate before them with little assurance of what lay ahead. With or without God’s salvation, they determined to remain principled and to do what was right in their own eyes.
Some believe it doesn’t matter whether or not a principled stand results in the desired outcome. Assurances of positive results are often of lesser importance to those who view life as a journey rather than a destination. Every day finds new opportunities to grow, not only in ability and knowledge but in character also. Our numbered years are full of unforeseen twists in the road. There are no guarantees – and so why not live those years as authentically as we can? As for my family’s present situation, if it’s true most regrets in life relate to the actions we didn’t take, then regardless of what comes from all this, at least I’ll have one less regret.