A well-known Southern Baptist evangelist died yesterday of pneumonia and COVID-19. While I wasn’t acquainted with the 51-year old man, the Baptist Press report of his death quoted a couple of pastors local to me. It was a tragic death that is being mourned all over the SBC. I join those who pray for comfort and peace for his family and friends.
Notable in the Baptist Press article was this sentence: “Baptist Press was unable to confirm whether he had received the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Vaccination, I have been reminded, sometimes brusquely, is a personal choice and a private matter. I don’t argue with that. A family may certainly choose how they wish to utilize or not utilize the presence or absence of vaccination. In this notable case it was newsworthy, readers would like to know; thus, BP included the line. A secondary factor is that the evangelist spoke last month at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in Oklahoma. There are many reports of children getting COVID at the center. More news on this is sure to be coming. It was a serious outbreak.
Our age is such that it is newsworthy whether or not the deceased was vaccinated in the same way that in an earlier day famous people who died of lung cancer would have it noted in reports of their death. When Princess Margaret died in 2002, smoking was noted. She had a serious smoking habit, reportedly up to 60 cigarettes a day. There is a long list of celebrities who died of lung cancer. Sure enough, news outlets make note that they were smokers.
In contrast, ordinary people have their obituary written by family. Sometimes they write it themselves prior to death. Most anything can be included or excluded. Many are the obits I’ve read about people whose life is summarized, sanitized, and enhanced so as they are virtually unrecognizable to family and friends. Fair enough. It’s their obituary. Get the names and dates correct and use a free hand from there. No need to include any personal medical information.
COVID, and the multiple controversies and the rancor in its wake, puts us in a different mode. There may be a social good served by noting the status of vaccinations of the deceased. Free speech at work here. News outlets may certainly choose to pursue that aspect of death.
Regardless, it’s a difficult time and extremely difficult for those who have lost loved ones.
I was informed today that now is not a good time in my area to have an automobile accident because within the past week or so all the ICU beds have been filled with COVID patients.
I expect that there will be some predictable responses to this short article.
My earnest prayer and hope is that all my readers, family, and friends would be as I am, all vaxxed up.
If any readers are inclined to criticize me for making a COVID point about a dear brother’s tragic death, please note that Baptist Press felt it important to include the sentence above. Their journalistic instincts are correct in my view.