My Freedom and Your Freedom

Today I wanted to go to church. But I didn’t. I stayed at home.

Attending church is important to me. I am a spiritual person and I enjoy the weekly opportunity to worship the Divine, to pause, reflect and celebrate life and praise a God who I have a relationship with. It is a time where I connect with others who share the same faith or are seeking answers or desiring connection. It is a social network and a treasured community of people.

Today, and for the past several weeks, I have chosen to stay away from this place that plays such a significant role in my life.

The church has long been regarded as a place of safety. A place where the pursued could retreat, the battered be repaired, the anxious could receive peace. But today, for me, I felt that at church there was a sinister threatening shadow that might jeopardise my safety.

Let me clarify, that I believe the leadership in my church, like many churches worldwide, are willing to comply with health directives to keep people safe and have instructed people to wear masks and maintain the required physical distancing.

Covid has reached Queensland and it is spreading like wildfire. I am one of the “lucky” cancer patients who is not currently immuno-compromised. However due to long years of treatment, my immune system is weakened compared to others. I need to receive immunotherapy treatment every three weeks. This week is treatment week. Treatment is undoubtedly prolonging my life. If I contracted covid, I would miss treatment, which could have dire consequences.

Today I chose to avoid church, because even though I’m vaccinated, there is still a chance I will contract covid, due to the nature of this beast. I know that the statistics show that should I contract it, my chances of being very ill and requiring hospitalisation are low due to being vaccinated, but even a mild case could cause a deadly domino effect for me and possibly others. For instance I could have caught the virus at church, had no symptoms then unwittingly arrived at hospital carrying the virus. I do not want to be the person walking into a chemotherapy room and find out via the compulsory rapid antigen test before treatment begins that I had unknowingly brought Covid to the chemo ward.

I am not living in fear and completely sealing myself off from the world. I go to the shops for essential shopping. I have eaten out less, but there has been some times that I have ventured to an eating establishment for a special occasion. (I must say I do feel safer being able to take my mask off knowing that everyone needs to be vaccinated to be in that room, otherwise I would not be eating out.) I am staying home more and being very cautious when venturing out to be quick, choose less busy times or outdoor options. I am being very wary and limiting how I am socialising.

Today I considered it too risky to sit in a building for several hours with a large group of people, including a significant contingent of unvaccinated, and as it turned out, with people ignoring mask rules and not being careful about distancing.

There are many loudly voiced opinions about the vaccine and about the right to have freedom of choice. The Queensland government, (along with governments the world over), have been making rules which keep shifting and changing to deal with the pandemic. Goal posts keep changing as new medical information surfaces. Some interpret this as contradictory rather than merely a response to a changing situation and evolving research. There are political decisions being made to protect people, as well as some political decisions that don’t make sense and are hurting people and businesses in our society. It is frustrating, I understand that. I don’t agree with everything that is going on.

I do support the freedom of my unvaccinated friends to make their choice.

It is said that freedom often comes at a cost. Today the cost of their freedom to make a choice and not get vaccinated, or for their choice to not wear masks, meant that today I was not able to enjoy my freedom of attending church. Their freedom was at the price of my freedom. Contracting Covid for me, and for many others, could have life altering repercussions on our health. The experts would say, and the numbers of unvaccinated in hospitals show, that it can have life altering repercussions on their health too, but that is another rabbit hole to disappear down.

People can believe the minority of doctors, nurses, scientists and social media experts who espouse all types of theories about vaccinations. They can wait to have the vaccine at some other magical point in time when they feel it is “safe”, despite the worldwide success the vaccine has already heralded. They can read the sad stories about those who have endured negative side effects (and ignore the statistics on how many people who this actually happens to) and state this as a reason to avoid being vaccinated.

However as a member of the community who has a chronic illness, your freedom is affecting my freedom. Your freedom affects the freedom of my friends who have cancer and who do have compromised immune systems. It affects the freedom of those with disabilities and medical conditions. When unvaccinated people fill the hospital beds and elective surgeries are cancelled, the freedom of so many more people will be limited. It goes on and on.

Freedom comes at a price. Today I paid some of that price. I paid a meagre pittance compared to many others during this time of a global pandemic.

To be truthful, I don’t know exactly when I will feel entirely safe going to church while there is widespread community outbreak and vaccinated and unvaccinated mingling freely. I had considered going today, and being very careful. I really am missing going to church. When I heard about the unmasked people present, I was very glad I made the decision to stay at home.

It’s no surprise to me that there are differences of opinion within the church. While we share many common views, there will always be differences of opinion (religious or otherwise) within a group of people, even in a church. As individuals it is our job as Christians to share these respectfully and remain unified despite our different viewpoints.

I think the gospel should be preached to the vaccinated and unvaccinated equally. I do think that we need to care for one another by ensuring we hear messages from the church in safety. I know church leaders are trying to accomplish this through a variety of ways and I don’t underestimate the difficulties of being a leader during these times.

One of the Christian values I hold dear is caring for those weaker than yourself. In a society with foundational Judeo Christian values, there are many who are not Christians who agree with this value and seek to implement it.

Let’s consider the impact of our freedom during this time and consider how it may impact the freedom of someone who is weaker and vulnerable. Let’s take care and be considerate of one another.

One carefully considered excursion was a trip to the family farm to celebrate my beautiful neice’s 2nd birthday. (PS. Look at my hair growing! Almost one year’s worth of growth there!)

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