You don’t have to agree with any or all of what I say, but I’m going to say it anyway. I think the covid vaccines are wonderfully good things, and we owe a debt of gratitude to former President Trump and his team members who oversaw their development at warp speed and to President Biden and his team members who have overseen their quick and effective distribution. I think, too, that everyone who is able to receive the vaccine ought to receive the vaccine – for their own good and for the common good.
If you’re not angry yet, keep on reading. (We do love our anger.)
As it turns out, virtue is not enough of its own reward.
President Biden has set a goal of having 70% of us (adults) vaccinated, or at least on our way to full vaccination, by July 4. Though we may not make it, I think it would be a good thing if we did – for our own good and for the common good. Call it vaccine virtue.
18 percent of us say we will never be inoculated with one of the covid vaccines. Simple math, then, says that over 80 percent of us are at least open to the idea, so the 70% goal is hypothetically reachable. As of today, we are at about 64% fully or partially vaccinated. Again, simple math says nearly 20% of us could, and I think should, receive one of the vaccines. Reaching the goal is not so much a problem of the availability of vaccines as it is of the motivation to put up with the poke. While they don’t think it is a bad idea, at least a portion of those in the yet-to-be-inoculated crowd just don’t seem to be able to get around to it.
Since virtue is not enough of its own reward, we’ve introduced a variety of incentives, rewards more rewarding than virtue, to motivate those slackers.
The Founders may not have anticipated this manifestation of the glories of federalism, but depending on where you live, the rewards of vaccine virtue vary. Several states are offering tickets for a lottery reserved for the vaccinated. Across the state line in Ohio, vaccine virtue is rewarded by a chance at the Vax-a-Million million-dollar prize for those recently vaccinated. They are giving away guns in West Virginia. Prisoners in Delaware are given good behavior credits for getting the shot. You can see some of the state-by-state rewards for virtue here.
Note that those of us who live in Indiana may be eligible to receive a box of Girl Scout cookies. If they allow a retroactive reward for my virtue, please make mine Do-si-dos.
Washington state seems to have found the most – what shall we say? – innovative reward for vaccine virtue in its Joints for Jabs program. As the news story explains, “state-licensed cannabis retailers are permitted to give one free pre-rolled joint to customers who are 21 or older when they receive their first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.”
The traditionalists among us may opt for a free Budweiser beer. Even in Indiana, though I am not sure I want to mix my Do-si-dos with a bottle of Bud.
Maybe we should forgo the rewards, however.
We Protestants rightly, but sometimes too quickly, reject works righteousness. By grace through faith, we say, and, yes, rightly so. While good works may not get us to heaven, they are, nevertheless, if not their own reward, to be done for the sake of their good. We do justice and love mercy not for a joint, a Bud, or a Do-si-do, but because it is right and good. We visit orphans and widows in their affliction and keep ourselves unstained from the world not for a good behavior credit, but because it is good work God desires of all people.
I am not more deeply loved by God for having gotten a vaccination. Deeply loved by God, I took the jab for the sake of doing good, perhaps its own reward.
If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, take a pass on the joint, the Bud, and the Girl Scout cookies. Do it for the common good – and for your own good.
*Apologies to those of you who are under 40. The title of the post comes from a very long-ago ad campaign you would not remember. “For all you do, this Bud’s for you.”