Vax. For 2021, the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year was vax. Merriam Webster’s word of the year was vaccine.

Still, the long and short of it is that no matter how many times we have said it, heard it and read it, for millions of Americans it’s not sticking.

Shaming and stigmatizing doesn’t drive the point home either. Also, keep your statistics and your personal stories of those who regret not getting it.

Even if, or when, they get infected, there are those who hold out hope that this is just a hoax, or it will not be as bad as projected. No needles and no masks, the unvaccinated continue to choose their personal liberty over their community.

I know, I know. This is America. You have rights. But shouting them, printing them on t-shirts, flying them high on your front porch or sticking them to the back of your car’s bumper doesn’t prove your point. Because I still don’t get it, and I am especially confused when I hear it from Christians.

Not even quoting from the greatest commandment set — love God and love your neighbor — works, though they go hand in hand. And I don’t even have to ask for a show of hands as to Christians who have heard this in Sunday School, in Bible study or in a sermon.

Christianity was meant to be a neighborly religion. Still, many of us hear none of it when it comes to the word vax or vaccine.

Because American politicians and political pundits pit neighbor against neighbor, as if all of life is defined by being a Democrat or a Republican.

Because in America, you can choose who you want to be your neighbor. Because you can exclude those you don’t want to see as your neighbor.

Just raise your voice loud enough. Raise dead issues and enough money at private parties. Raise the cost of living. Raise your fences so you don’t have to see what is going on after you’ve made these decisions.

Then sit in churches and hear sermons that don’t cause you to even raise an eyebrow or lift a finger to change our collective condition.

And maybe that’s it. Because American capitalism thrives on hyper-individualism, on choosing our self-interests over the needs of others. Its propaganda programs us to chase the images of success and wealth, which is not to be confused with following in Jesus’ footsteps.

Because Jesus was a poor Jewish man, who slept on people’s couches and depended on the generosity of those who followed him. He didn’t know a thing about prosperity. No life insurance, even his tomb was borrowed.

So, I just don’t have it in me. I cannot stomach what I am seeing in American Christianity and from some of its leaders.

We share the same Bible but are not able to get on the same page when it comes to this virus and the vaccine. What page is Matthew 22:39 on in yours? What version are you reading? Now, let’s all read it and discuss it together.

Because I didn’t order this third season of COVID-19, and I’ve never been a fan of it. I hate that I must keep up with the names of all these variants. Still, I wear my N-95 mask and keep my distance out of love for myself and my neighbor.

Because we’ve been in this pandemic for too long. I am starting to forget what life was like before it. And that both scares and saddens me.

Increasingly, I am drawing the comparison in conversation about what life used to be like. This business used to be here. There used to be more people there.

I cannot help but think about the loss of community. I am mourning the loss of neighbors I will never know or meet or wave to from across the street – all due to the way we heard one word, even when said repeatedly.

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