Hillsong Founder Considers Vaccines A 'Personal Decision,' No Matter How Many Congregants Die
This week, 34-year-old Stephen Harmon, a member of the Hillsong megachurch and graduate of Hillsong college, died from COVID-19. Just a little over a month earlier, he had been mocking vaccinated people and the vaccine, tweeting "I got 99 problems but a vax ain't one." And even as he lay dying in the hospital, he swore that if he recovered he still would not get a vaccine. Even as he lay dying, he mocked efforts to encourage vaccination, tweeting "Biden's door to door vaccine 'surveyors' really should be called JaCovid Witnesses. #keepmovingdork."
Following the news of his death, Hillsong founder Brian Houston tweeted out his condolences.
'Ben has just passed on to us the devastating news that our beloved friend, Stephen Harmon has passed away from Covid. Heartbreaking.
You likely know of Hillsong as the wannabe-hip gay-hating church where Justin Bieber was baptized by a guy who was later accused of sexual assault by his nanny. Or the church that made your last “Parks and Rec”rewatch feel a little awkward after you found out about Chris Pratt's membership in it.
While Houston described Harmon's death as "heartbreaking," he didn't seem to think it was heartbreaking enough to push his other congregants to get vaccinated, calling it a "personal decision."
"As a church, our focus is on the spiritual well-being of the people in each of our local communities. On any medical issue, we strongly encourage those in our church to follow the guidance of their doctors," Houston said in a statement to KCBS-TV. "While many of our staff, leadership and congregation have already received the Covid vaccine, we recognize this is a personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals.
Except it's not. Those who don't get the vaccine are making a decision that affects more than just themselves, so it is our business. The Delta variant is spreading through these people and the more it spreads the more it mutates, until at some point the vaccines that we were responsible enough to get don't work anymore. And contributing to possible deaths in this way does not seem like a particularly Christlike thing to do.
You know what's a personal decision between an individual and their doctor? Abortion, which the very holy Brian Houston vehemently opposes. Also a personal decision? Getting married to a person of the same sex! Houston opposes that, too and fought against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia. He would also not allow an LGBTQ person to have a position of leadership in his church.
Via Houston's "Do I Love Gay People?" essay:
Everyone is welcome at Hillsong church except for known predators, those who are disruptive, or those who have adversarial agendas.
So if you are gay, are you welcome at Hillsong Church? Of course! You are welcome to attend, worship with us, and participate as a congregation member with the assurance that you are personally included and accepted within our community. But (this is where it gets vexing), can you take an active leadership role? No.
This won't make everyone happy and to some, this stance may even be seen as hypocritical. We are a gay welcoming church but we are not a church that affirms a gay lifestyle.
So ... just to be clear — Houston's policy against LGBTQ people is more strict than his policy on vaccines. It's too intrusive to ask people if they've been vaccinated or to encourage parishioners to get vaccinated, but it's not too intrusive to tell people not to get abortions or marry the person they love. Is that how it works?
This guy has an actual chance to influence people in his church, to save the lives of those in it, and he does not care enough about them to even try. How very holy of him.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse