When I was growing up in D.C. in the 1980s, many of my neighbors were Salvadorans who had fled the violence of civil war. My parents and many of their colleagues were active in opposing U.S.-funded suppression of leftists in that war and others in Central America. All of them held up Archbishop Oscar Romero as an example of highest virtue (never mind the Vatican delaying his cause for sainthood until recently). And since the March 24 anniversary of Romero's assassination usually falls during Lent—next Tuesday will be 35 years—the church in which I was raised remembered his martyrdom as we pondered the sacrifices that come with discipleship.
Let me get this out of the way: I am pro-vaccine. I had the full schedule of what was available when I was a child, thanks to my parents, and I’ve had the appropriate boosters as an adult. I’ve followed the recommendations each time I’ve traveled internationally. Even though the shot for yellow fever made me extremely loopy for several hours and the one for typhoid made me think my arm would fall off, it was all worth it.
That said, I’m also sympathetic to the reasons that other people don’t vaccinate or seek a delayed schedule.
Pastor F. Willis Johnson captured national attention last August after Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Johnson was photographed talking to an 18-year-old protester. He embraced the protester and moved him out of the way of police.
Since then, he has continued to engage with young activists, who remind him of the biblical figure of David.