Most Americans are unaware of the practice of self-immolation. It is the action of setting fire to oneself, especially as a form of protest or sacrifice. It has a centuries-long recognition as the most extreme form of protest possible by humankind. The world was given a visual display of this act during the Vietnam War. Thích Qu.ng Ð.c, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk, burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963. Qu.ng Ð.c was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led by Ngô Ðình Di.m, a staunch Roman Catholic.
Photographs of his self-immolation circulated around the world, drawing attention to the policies of the Di.m government. John F. Kennedy said of one photograph, “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”
While people around the world were mesmerized at the sight of such a willful act, few were inclined to follow the monk’s action. Christians historically have viewed suicide as a grave sin and an example of self-idolatry. An underlying distressing principle is that a successful suicide allows no time for repentance. We place a high value on life as reflected on heartfelt views on abortions.
Christian missionary physicians spent their lives serving and extending the lives of those society throws away. Dr. John Dreisbach a Christian pioneer in the treatment of leprosy in Africa was one example. His reason for giving his life in this pursuit was simple: This is what the Bible commands us to do. When we decide to sacrifice our lives for unreasonable beliefs, we are skirting with idolatry. We often think of idols as material possessions but they can be less tangible. The love of money, prestige, envy, lust that are sometimes called the cardinal sins can be all consuming and lead to idolatry. Most Christians believe that God is the author of medical science and he gave that medical knowledge to human beings. It is for that reason most believers visit doctors and go to a hospital when medical treatment is required.
Christians as a rule do not view seeking medical treatment as a contradiction to their religious faith. We are now in the midst of a COVID pandemic that has claimed more than 5,712,394 lives worldwide. In the United States, that number will soon reach 1,000,000. There are more deaths in the United States than any other country in the world. Medical scientists estimate that at least 300,000 persons now deceased would still be alive if they had taken the available COVID vaccines. There are reasons a third of our population fall into an unvaccinated category: Some are too young to take the vaccines, the lack of access to the vaccine, lacking the fear of contracting COVID, concerns for vaccine side effects, lack of trust in the vaccines, mistrust of institutions, and those who have accepted varied conspiracy theories.
Candace Amber Owens Farmer an American conservative author, talk show host, political commentator, and activist said, “I am not getting this vaccine. Ever! Never going to get it. I don’t care if I’m on my deathbed and they say it can save you, I’m not going to get it. I’m principally now opposed to it, and I do not understand why anyone who is healthy, able-bodied and young would ever get this vaccine if you’re not at risk of Covid.” A North Carolina Burke County man, Chad Carswell, said he will not get the COVID-19 vaccine even if his refusal denies him the opportunity to receive a kidney transplant. Ms. Farmer and Mr. Carswell are not alone in their opposition to taking the vaccine. A popular refrain of Mr. Carswell is “I was born free, I will die free.”
For some, a fetishistic belief in Liberty has become a form of idolatry. The Holy Spirit reminds us that our time on this earth is limited. God, through His mercy, has given us gifts and time to bring glory to Him. We must examine our hearts and ask God to enable us to wisely use the gifts He has bestowed upon us and we must humble ourselves before the Lord.