I have seen “science” twice now as “Science,” a stable and unerring form of truth. It is seen also to offer salvation through technology, namely, vaccines. Just note the social media celebration around the jab.
I appreciate science. I like vaccines. I am thankful for medicine and technology as part of God’s common and good grace to humanity. But we humans create idols of what is good. John Calvin rightly describes us as idol factories.
I wonder then if vaccination and public health have taken on a religious significance? Perhaps, especially if social media is any indication. I have at least a suspicion we might be noticing an unhealthy form of idolatry.
We have waited for fourteen months in anticipation for the day of our immunity. When the appointment comes, we prepare for the vaccine. We wash and ready ourselves by wearing a t-shirt to leave our arms open for the injection.
Soon, we enter into the secular cathedral to receive the medicine of immunity from the medical clergy whose instruction and advice we heed. We trust our body will strengthen.
And in an act of spontaneous adoration, we will post my experience on Facebook and use the liturgical words: “I am doing my part.” “We are all in this together.”
The high point of the liturgical calendar, however, follows months of preparation. Beginning in March 2020, we locked down. We wore the mask. We kept apart from the pollutants, that is, each other. Now, the vaccine promises to make us clean. Soon, we hope to gather with other cleansed bodies.
In the United Kingdom, the government sponsored a rave—no masks, no distancing. After a year of denying oneself, release comes. It is a secular carnival, a time of release and freedom. Lenten denial before the celebration.
If this is not a liturgical or religious experience, then I wonder what is? Humans are made for God. Our patterns of life, even if we deny it, reflect the supernatural goal for which we are created. We are worshipping animals.
It may be that the secular cultus of Science in so far as it works for the common good is not itself wrong. It simply is yet another reminder of the sacred in life.
If so, then perhaps we can see and know that the vaccine might be the medicine of immunity, but the Eucharist is the medicine of immortality. As the body gains antibodies to fight the virus through the vaccine, so the soul grows stronger against sin through the bread and wine.
It does so precisely because through the symbols, we come to experience the reality: Christ’s blood shed for us, his body broken for us.
If we let science, that sign of common grace, become Science, then we have exchanged the glory of God for a creature. Yet if we let science work for the common good and enclose in symbols of the Good, then perhaps we have come through this pandemic okay after all.