Watching First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe organize immunization clinics so that more people can receive their COVID-19 vaccines is a reminder – too often forgotten today – that the Christian religion believes in supporting the well-being of the community.
After all, Jesus Christ traveled in groups – his apostles and disciples together seeking to put mankind on a better path, living a less selfish life that emphasized faith, helping others, and seeking the good of all. Material success in this world has never been the goal.
Yet in the United States, many Christian groups argue that financial wealth in this life is a sign of God’s favor. This is nothing new to America – the belief that comfort on Earth is a sign of God’s favor has traveled here with the Puritans. Over the years in the United States, we have seen followers of the prosperity gospel, the rise of mega-churches, and a renewed focus on wealth. This way of life centers believers on individual choices rather than collective actions.
This is a problem, given that we live in an age where solving big problems – from climate change to a pandemic – depends on people working together. Some of the biggest resistance to immunizations or masks – actions that protect each other – have been right-wing Christian leaders, including some in New Mexico.
This is why it is encouraging to see the leadership of local Christians in Santa Fe.
Earlier this week, the First Presbyterian Church hosted an immunization clinic in conjunction with the New Mexico Department of Health. About 160 people showed up and church pastor Reverend Andrew Black said he hoped other congregations would join the nation in fighting the omicron variant.
What is so important about these initiatives is that they can reach people who might be uncomfortable getting injections in another location. As one woman who came to the church clinic said, “I feel at home here.
Reaching the unvaccinated – to at least try to reduce the number of hard-core deniers – will take effort on a personal level, with friends and trusted leaders reaching out and making vaccinations seem less threatening.
In the early parts of the deployment, other churches, including the Catholic community of Santa Maria de la Paz, organized vaccination clinics. Now, as efforts redouble to reach those who have refused immunizations and to widely expand the third booster, a faith community is a place of trust for people.
More than 75 percent of adults in New Mexico received two injections and 34 percent of them received their booster. As admirable as these numbers are, large pockets of people lack protection against omicron, a frightening and contagious form of COVID-19.
The goal, remember, is to stop the virus from mutating. It means to stop the spread. Getting vaccinated and wearing masks – improve the quality if you can – will help New Mexico come out of this pandemic. Churches and their leaders are great places to get the job done.