The Debate is About Public Health

September 4, 2021

Last week I stood in a room at the hospital with family gathered around at the death of a husband, a father. He was my age and had been on a ventilator for two weeks. It took him a week to be put in ICU, because all the beds were taken.

And then, I got a text from a friend of mine who was in the ER with COVID-19. This past Sunday his brother died from COVID-19 in South Georgia. He was 47.

Seven months ago was a difficult time here at the church. Over 20 of our members had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Several had been in Intensive Care. Two had died. And we were all anxiously waiting for a vaccine to be approved and made available to all.

With this Delta-variant-impelled wave, this time is much worse and definitely more frustrating. Frustrating, because the seriousness of this wave is mostly preventable if people went out and got vaccinated.

I understand that there may be those out there who are hesitant about getting the vaccination because of your current, serious health concerns. Please know that I am not writing this column to you.

What I do not understand is how this vaccination has become so political and so polarizing.

This debate is not about freedom. It is about public health. And for those parts of this country who have somehow deluded themselves to think that requiring masks or vaccinations is an infringement of their liberty, they have only shown how ignorant they are about the concept and limitations of freedom.

his debate is not about what political party you belong to. Our former president instigated Project Warp Speed to develop a vaccine for COVID19 … and was vaccinated himself. Our current president has set goals and benchmarks to get our population vaccinated … and also was vaccinated himself.

With ICU beds and ER rooms overflowing in our state, over 95% of those in those beds are unvaccinated.

We know both from statistics and from personal stories that you can still contract COVID-19 if you have been vaccinated. But we also know from those same stories that the vaccine will help prevent you from the seriousness of this pandemic.

As followers of Jesus, we remember when Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36) And we also remember the simple response of Jesus: “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Loving our neighbor is the same as loving God. The two cannot be separated from one another.

Translated into this present moment, here is what these commandments mean.

I love God and love my neighbor by wearing a mask. I wear a mask because it not only protects myself, but it also protects you from me if I am carrying the virus.

I love God and love my neighbor by physically distancing myself from others. I physically distance myself from others not only because it protects myself, but it also protects you from me.

I love God and love my neighbor by washing my hands frequently and thoroughly for the same reasons that I wear a mask and physically distance.

And I love God and love my neighbor by getting vaccinated. I get vaccinated because I know that it helps promote public health. It works for the common good. And as believers in Jesus that is how we are called to be.

So let me plead with you: If you know someone who is not vaccinated, please, please, please, urge them to get vaccinated. There is no excuse. Have them do it for themselves. Have them do it for their family. Have them do it for the common good.

I do not want to see any of us on a ventilator again …

… especially when I know that it can be prevented by how we act now.

David Armstrong-Reiner is pastor at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 2375 Ga. Highway 20 in Conyers. Contact him at