The Christian Response to the Measles Outbreak: Love Your Neighbor, Check Your Privilege, and Vaccinate Your Children

The Christian Response to the Measles Outbreak: Love Your Neighbor, Check Your Privilege, and Vaccinate Your Children February 5, 2015
Syringe and Vaccine
Creative Commons Copyright (Flickr) NIH

Look, I get that nostalgia is big right now.

We’ve got more 19th century beards, vinyl records, backyard gardens, and banjo music in the United States than at any other time in probably the past 50 years.

It’s a throwback to those halcyon days of previous generations.

But do you know what I’m not nostalgic for?

Measles.

Like not in the least.

I’d be just fine without a new revival of one of the world’s most infectious diseases.

Or any other disease, for that matter, preventable by a readily available vaccine.

Of course, nostalgia, like the decision not to vaccinate one’s children, tends to be primarily an indulgence of the white and wealthy. Parents who refuse vaccines tend to be in both of those demographics. Any time a trend like this, with such clear and dire public health consequences, skews white and wealthy, then we must acknowledge that it’s also a race and class issue.

Some, though, want to frame this as an issue about personal choice. It’s about what individual parents are compelled to do with their own children by the government, some argue.

For Christians, however, this selfish individualistic mentality — the what’s good for me and mine and who cares about anyone else — goes against the core teachings of Jesus. One clear ethic resounding throughout the life of Jesus and his teachings is that we don’t have the luxury of ignoring each other. Instead, we have a responsibility to care for each other.

Vaccines aren’t about individual choices or even individuals. It’s not about you and your children. It’s about us. All of us.

It isn’t about how best to love and protect my children.

It’s about how best to love and protect all of our children.

It’s about us as species finally making headway against killer diseases after millions of years of evolution and high child mortality.

It’s about us as a human family, joining hands to protect each other and particularly the vulnerable whose compromised or weakened immune systems can’t handle vaccines.

So maybe it’s time we love our neighbors’ children as well as we love our own.

So, if you are a Christian, and you are wondering whether you should vaccinated your children, look at the teachings of Jesus. That’s right, I think Jesus would have been pro-vaccine. He was a healer, after all. Vaccines have prevented scores of disabling and deadly diseases in children. And had they had vaccines in first-century Galilee, it might have cut down on Jesus’ miracle workload, which he seemed to dislike anyway.

In fact, the vaccines that have prevented polio or the measles might well seem like miracles to people who remember when those diseases ravaged lives, when they could not be stopped by science and vaccines but only prayed against in desperate hope.

So, when you take your children to the doctor, check your privilege as a white, wealthy, or healthy person.

Don’t let your privilege and personal choice harm others or put the vulnerable at risk.

Indulging in nostalgia is fine, really, just so long as you aren’t endangering your neighbor.

So spin your vinyl.

Pluck your banjo.

Grow your beard.

Plant your vegetables.

But love your neighbor.

And vaccinate your children.

 

"Have you ever seen this scene where the "future belongs to me" is sung from ..."

The Songs We Sing After Charlottesville ..."
"The American flag SHOULD be taken out of the sanctuary. Why? Well first off, my ..."

God Bless America. Are you sure ..."
"Every nation in "European" (as opposed to African and Asian) wars prays to the same ..."

God Bless America. Are you sure ..."
"Very good and thoughtful questions however you fail to continue questioning and stop at your ..."

The Redemption of Time: The Christian ..."

Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Sara Howerton

    Are you a real person or is this propaganda? Because I have come to the conclusion most of these blogs are just that.

    • Gert

      oh look, an anti-vacer. Sorry kiddo but real live Christians actually care about the suffering of others. Just like Jesus did.

      • Sara Howerton

        And you are a bully. What do you know about whether I am an anti-vaxer? You have no idea if my son is up to date on his shots.

    • Chris

      Without commenting on the article itself, let me assure you that I know many people writing articles about why you should vaccinate, and no, they’re not being paid off by the government/big pharma/name your bogeyman. They’re just really upset that people even think this is a thing people should be considering at all.

  • Vulpi

    I think it is very ignorant to claim all anti-vaxxers are only concerned with personal freedom and nostalgia. Most anti-vaxxers believe the way they do because they have researched and come to the conclusion that vaccinations are more dangerous than the diseases they want to prevent. Therefore, telling them to think of the good of society is ridiculous because they already are.

    Furthermore, the attempt to make vaccines a race issue is nothing more than manipulation and poor logic. Shame on you for trying to instigate racial tensions to benefit yourself.

    Trying to say how Jesus felt about the issue is presumptious and borderline heretical as the Bible is silent on the subject of vaccines, doctors, medicine, healthcare, etc. Don’t manipulate the emotions of people by telling them God agrees with you when you have no evidence of that. Don’t make your personal stance a doctrinal issue – partially because you’ll lose that argument to the anti-vax crowd.

    If you’re going to present your opinion at least inform yourself and attempt to use good, well-crafted arguments instead of a bunch of propoganda-like wording that says absolutely nothing.

    This is a poorly thought out article that does more harm than good to the pro-vaccine camp.

    • gimpi1

      I assure you, vaccines are not more dangerous than polio or smallpox. My mother lost the use of her legs to polio at the age of 3. My grandmother told me about the terror every spring if your children got sick – you never knew if it was polio or just a cold… they start out the same.

      Oh, and unless you have a lab and a doctorate, you haven’t done “research.’ You’ve looked at other people’s work, perhaps not fully able to understand it. You may have been mislead by false information. The consensus among scientists and medical professionals is that vaccines are necessary and, while not perfectly safe (nothing is perfectly safe) they are far safer than risking the diseases they prevent. If you have come to a different conclusion, you are almost certainly wrong.

    • Andrew Dowling

      They have researched? aka read amateur jargon on the Internet from people with no relevant credentials? That’s sloppy and lazy. People don’t just get a pass for being stupid. The anti-vaxxers have NO LEGITIMATE SCIENTIFIC STUDY to back up their claims . . .none. Their arguments have as much legitimacy as those who claim there were aliens at Roswell or that Bigfoot roams the California mountains . .

  • Spiffy Marie

    I can love my neighbor and not vaccinate my children. I’m not responsible for my neighbors health. I’m responsible for my families health. If my neighbor needs a helping hand I’m there for them. If my neighbor walks out of her house knowing that the measles are going around or that the flu is going around, it’s not my fault if she becomes sick. She needs to take responsibility for her actions. Parents need to stop relying on “herd” immunity for their children’s health. Parents need to take responsibility for their children’s health instead of blaming others. As a Christian you should know that diseases will never go away. Vaccinated and Unvaccinated alike will always become sick and no one is to blame, that’s just how it is. On top of that God gave us free will, who are we to take away something that is God given?? God gave us the choice, as Christians we should want to always keep that choice open. It is not our place to take it away.

    • Guest

      “I can love my neighbor and not vaccinate my children.” Tell me that when your child gets rubella and comes around my pregnant granddaughter, causing her to lose her baby. Tell me about the good old days of the early 1900’s when 30% of children died because of lack of vaccines. Tell me about the good old days when my best friend got polio and has never been able to walk a day in her life. Tell me about the REALLY good old days, back in the Middle Ages, when people had total faith in God, no one was vaccinated, and infant mortality was 50%. As a Christian, I know that God intended us to use our brains to help each other, including healing – even Luke was a physician.

      • Lore

        Unless you can positively rule out the introduction of indoor plumbing and sanitation as the major preventer of disease in densely populated areas in the “good old days of the early 1900’s”, I doubt you can prove that 30% was only from the lack of vaccinations. I am pro vaccine, but looking at countries where vaccinations are prevalent but the sanitation we take for granted is non existant, the child mortality rates are still unacceptable.

        I think we should all step back, stop firing off angry replies, and do more thinking and reading for ourselves before we cast stones at each other.

      • Eve Fisher

        Okay.

      • Andrew Dowling

        There’s no debate to be had. The anti-vaccination crowd literally has nothing to stand on besides ignorance and conspiracy theories.

      • Spiffy Marie

        If my child has rubella we won’t be coming around your pregnant granddaughter. We will stay home until she is healthy again. When my kids show the first signs of sickness, I keep them inside. When I know that there is a sickness going around town I keep them in. I use the intelligent brain that God gave me and free will that God gave me to say no to putting chemicals in my body and my children’s body. As a Christian you should know that God didn’t make our bodies flawed! HE made our immune system! He wouldn’t have left our immune system weak. God makes no mistakes! God gave us plants of the earth to help heal our bodies. He didn’t give us vaccines.

      • Andrew Dowling

        You are a certified nut.

      • Stuart Blessman

        So there is no original sin? There is no fallen world? Our bodies aren’t corrupt? There are no diseases?

        I’d invite you to open your Bibles and turn to page one, we have a lot to correct.

      • Spiffy Marie

        I didn’t say any of that. I’m pretty much saying God has given us plants that can help heal our bodies from any disease. When we do have weakened immune systems God gave us plants to help heal our bodies. We don’t always need modern medicine.

      • Beth Rogers

        He also gave us brains to develop vaccines. I *am* my brother’s keeper.

    • Andrew Dowling

      So loving your neighbor doesn’t mean ensuring you play your role in not exposing their children to potentially crippling and fatal sickness? What kind of f^&*( up notion of morality do you live by? Your attitude is even more despicable than your ignorance.

      • Spiffy Marie

        It’s my responsibility to not expose my kids to others who are sick. When my kids are sick, it’s my responsibility to keep them away from others. I expect other parents to do the same. We need to be responsible and stop leaning on others for our children’s health.

      • Andrew Dowling

        That’s not how public health works. You do understand that children are often contagious before they show symptoms (or they may not show any symptoms at all)? I find it horrifying that such a large contingent of the population is so ignorant of basic medical science . . .

      • Spiffy Marie

        I do understand that part. Here’s the thing, if I hear rubella is going around I keep my kids inside. Since they are inside there is no chance of them spreading germs that they may have. Right now, the flu is going around so bad that schools have closed. I’m keeping my kids at home. I’m also taking precautions to help boost their immune system as well as sanitizing the house. If makes me a certified nut then so be it! God loves me no matter what. 🙂

      • BrinKennedy

        If you hear rubella is going around? You might not hear about until several DAYS after your child has been exposed! Some of these diseases do not have physical symptoms until days later, while the child has been highly contagious the entire time.

      • Spiffy Marie

        And that’s why I give my children elderberry syrup to help keep their immune system up.

      • BrinKennedy

        *face palm*

        I will pray for your kids that they are never exposed to something that would laugh at your elderberry syrup if it were sentient.

      • Spiffy Marie

        It has kept my kids healthy. If they were to come down with measles I would use different natural things to help heal their bodies. Thank you for the prayers.

      • Stuart Blessman

        Ah, and by their love you shall know them.

        You aren’t known.

      • Spiffy Marie

        Because I don’t vaccinate, I don’t love? I show my love for my neighbor by giving them a place to stay when they are homeless, by giving them food when I am able, by giving them clothes when they need it. If they come to me when they are sick, by helping them get better. I don’t need to vaccinate to show that I love people. I show that I love people by helping them. My healthy unvaccinated kids are not harmful to your vaccinated healthy kids. They aren’t even harmful to those with a weakened immune system. Now when they are sick, that’s when they are harmful and I show my love for others by keeping my children inside and away from others. Even the vaccinated need to stay away from those with weakened immune systems after they receive a vaccine as vaccines do shed. It hurts me when other Christians call me names and tell me that I am not loving. Where is the love in that? We are all God’s children, God loves us all. From my understand He doesn’t like it when we tear each other apart. I cover my head when I pray, I don’t cut my hair, I wear dressed, I homeschool, I have home births, I eat as naturally as I possibly can afford, when I can afford it I help others in need, I’m respectful of others and do my best not to treat others badly. IF all of this means I’m a terrible person, then I pray to God to show me a better way. God bless.

  • Paul E. Morfik

    We need more discussions on making the inoculation process safer. Administer single dose vaccines instead of clusters, spread them out over several months / years, and remove the toxic preservatives.

    • Andrew Dowling

      There’s no need to do that because have multiple shots at once does not lead to any increased risk of anything.

      In terms of toxicity, babies receive more of it from everyday items like furniture and bottles than they do from vaccine shots.

      • Paul E. Morfik

        Your information is completely incorrect. Viral overload from cluster vaccines has been linked to disabilities. There is research supporting this.

      • LisaMarli

        Actually, any link to “Viral Overload” has been causal. They got a disability, lets go make a cause. That is not research or even science.
        As it is, it is beginning to look like “Viral Overload” may prevent Allergies. We are so busy making sure our babies live in a clean environment, their little immune systems, designed to find and destroy bad things, not finding bad things, are destroying good things instead. We call that Allergies. The way to prevent this is to give their bodies bad things to fight, they will happily make allergic responses to those instead. We call those little exposures Vaccines, and the allergic responses – Immunological defense.
        Yes, their little bodies know exactly what to do with all these viruses, Kill, Kill, Kill. Better they should go fight that than the favorite flower pollen from your garden, or the beloved pet’s dander.

      • Andrew Dowling

        No, there is not any legitimate research supporting the theory that “vaccine clustering” is linked to any disability. This is total myth.

      • Tracy

        Its in the jolly medical journals for goodness sakes!

      • Sally Stewart

        Post the research please. What I’m finding is that it’s not the amount of inoculations given it’s the antigens in them that counts & they are much reduced compared to vaccines in the past & our systems are quite capable of handling them.

  • Eve Fisher

    I’m totally pro-vaccination, simply because I’m old enough that my parents and my friends were at risk for almost everything that there are vaccines for now. My mother, who nearly died of diphtheria, and feared polio every spring, raced to get me every vaccine available, and thanked God they were around. I have a friend who had polio when she was two and has been bedridden/wheel-chair bound ever since. I know that vaccines have lengthened life-spans and made life better for countless people. I’m in my 60s, and got a shingles vaccine as soon as possible. I also make sure I get a regular tetanus booster every ten years, because tetanus is a horrible way to die. I think inoculation is a gift from God.

    • Spiffy Marie

      Did you stay inside for several weeks after you had your shingles shot? My Brother in law recently had his and the doctor told him that he had to stay inside for at least 2 weeks. Why? Because the shot weakened his immune system.

      • Eve Fisher

        No, my doctor did not tell me that. She told me that the only people who had to worry about it were those whose immune system was already weakened by chemo, cancer, etc. I had none of those, so I was fine. My arm hurt from the shot, but no more than from a tetanus shot.

      • Sally Stewart

        Was his doctor Randal Neustaedter OMD? Cannot find information that immune systems are compromised because of the shingles vaccine.

  • O Crisstopher Poet

    For one thing, I hear what Mr. Henson is saying, its not about me or you its about us But what he fails to mention is what is in the vaccine. Do your study people

    • Andrew Dowling

      And research shows what’s in the vaccine is safe and effective.

    • BrinKennedy

      I’ve done the research. I literally looked up what my state requires and then looked up the ingredients in each one. Each time an anti-vaxxer said something along the lines of “But ingredient-x is in it!” I looked up that ingredient to see how the human body handled it.

      There are chemicals in the vaccines (obviously), but people don’t care about the chemicals in their food and beverages, and that boggles my mind.

      • Spiffy Marie

        Most of the people I know, myself included, do care about what is in our food. We do our best to eat real food.

      • BrinKennedy

        Do you grow all of your own food? Raise your own livestock?

      • Spiffy Marie

        That’s what we are working towards. At the moment we buy from the farmers market.

  • Cameron Webb

    I’d add one more thing…those who are pro-vaccination, check one more thing before you go off like an atomic bomb on someone who does not vaccinate a child. There are some children with auto-immune issues who literally cannot be vaccinated, and are told NOT to vaccinate by their Drs and medical team. They are the exception, but they are out there.
    Sadly, I’ve already encountered one parent who literally never managed to explain on a social media site her child’s situation, that she medically was not allowed to vaccinate. The second she said the words I haven’t vaccinated my child, she was overwhelmed, because she was buried in vilification and snarling rhetoric about being an “Anti-vaxer”, which she was not. Anything she tried to explain went ignored and unheard as her page blew up.
    So check one more thing before you open your mouths – check why a child hasn’t been vaccinated. The answer might surprise you.

    • Sharideth

      This is actually the perfect argument for vaccinations. Those who do not vaccinate and have no medically prohibitive conditions (like auto-immune deficiency) are willfully putting children who can not be vaccinated at higher risk for disease.

  • Just like after we vote we show our civic duty with an “I Voted!” sticker, show your civic duty and pride with an “I Vaccinated My Child” t-shirt. ALL proceeds go to the Measles and Rubella Initiative of the American Red Cross. This was an idea of Rabbi Sari Laufer of Congregation Rodeph Shalom of Manhattan and Rabbi Ben Greenberg of the Patheos blog, Second City Torah on the Jewish Channel: http://www.booster.com/i-vaccinated-my-child

  • David Slowinski

    The idea that to vaccinate is the “the Christian response” is not exactly following the Christian principle of free will that God has given to each and every one of his creatures.” Let every man be convinced in his own mind” applies to more than the Gospel.Pretty soon you will tell someone that they have to believe in the penal substitution theory of atonement only, or they won’t be considered a Christian. Slippery slope that I don’t want to go down, and neither should you.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Using a “free will” excuse is ignoring the greatest commandment here. Not vaccinating increases the risk of a child facing serious injury or death . . that is not loving thy neighbor.

  • Vaccinating Mother

    It’s ridiculous to speculate on what Jesus’ call on this issue would have been, but I believe he would have approached it with more compassion than this author. I’m so tired of this debate being such an angry, accusing one. As a Christian you should exercise some grace, rather than pointing the finger. This is not a clear-cut moral issue. The benefits of vaccines are very well supported, but so is the evidence for vaccine injury. Why judge another for what is an incredibly complicated but ultimately personal choice. Have a heart.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “but so is the evidence for vaccine injury. ”

      If you mean “vaccine injury” as vaccines leading to autism . . no there is zero evidence for that claim.

      • Spiffy Marie

        I doubt she is talking about autism. Did you know that the government has shelled out $3 million to vaccine injured families? Have you heard of VAERS? https://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index

      • BrinKennedy

        VAERS tracks the deaths/injuries that occur after getting the vaccine, but that means any death/injury – not just those caused by the vaccine.

        VAERS data contains coincidental events and those truly caused by vaccines.

        More than 10 million vaccines per year are given to children less than 1 year old, usually between 2 and 6 months of age. At this age, infants are at greatest risk for certain medical adverse events, including high fevers, seizures, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some infants will experience these medical events shortly after a vaccination by coincidence.

        These coincidences make it difficult to know whether a particular adverse event resulted from a medical condition or from a vaccination. Therefore, vaccine providers are encouraged to report all adverse events following vaccination, whether or not they believe the vaccination was the cause.”

  • Rocky

    I don’t contest the overall message of this blog. Letting the golden rule and concern from the well-being of everyone around you is absolutely a good motive. However, couching it in terms of Jesus being pro-vaxx misses critical point: Jesus NEVER recommended medicine, hygiene, or any other physical remedy in his healing. He just healed, through Spirit alone. And, what’s more, he taught 70 other people how to do it too, which shows that it wasn’t just because he had some unique power that was unavailable to anyone else. He healed people who had tried every medical remedy available at the time, and he never suggested that someone go see a doctor before he healed them.
    So by all means vaccinate because you want to be kind to your neighbor, but not because Jesus would have advised it.

  • Melinda Cadwallader

    I highly suggest you forego using your privilege and platform to support your own personal views on health, or really what *you* believe health even is. You do not speak for Christianity and your tone and ignorance surely do not speak for Christ. Some of us actually honor our Creator by taking the time to understand the masterpiece God created – this body that needs nothing man-made to survive and thrive. Judgement from ignorance is so typical christianese. Stop embarrassing Jesus.

    • JoeSchmo

      and as you so aptly put it “You do not speak for Christianity and your tone and ignorance surely do not speak for Christ”.
      Nor do I.
      Embarassing Jesus? Puleeeze

  • Mike Ward

    I think you are misunderstanding why some people don’t vaccine their kids. It isn’t a sense of privilege or a lack of love for their neighbors. It’s a beleif that the vaccine is harmful. We have our children vaccinated, but that’s because we think the vaccines are safe. I don’t think anyone who disgrees with me is motivated by a lack of love though.

  • Tracy

    How dare you. How dare you try and make this issue to do with my faith! God has given us all a conscience and a brain! Some of us who have chosen not to vaccinate have spent hours pouring over data, looking at the facts, and praying to do the right thing by our children. Each child is different. Some would react badly to vaccinations, while some seemingly cope ok. I totally believe God gave us doctors to help us when sick, but sometimes humans can lose their way and just believe what is best is what is happening. If I was to go along with the majorities thinking- I would not be a Christian! The majority are not always right!

  • Tracy
  • April

    Ew. I wouldn’t want to touch your hateful view of Christianity. And PS. There is so much more than what the media is feeding us. Over the past 100 years, measles has reared it’s ugly head about every 30 years for a span of about 3 years. The measles at Disney is believed to have started to spread from a child who had received the vaccination and was in the 28 day shedding period. Meaning, children with the vaccination are also contagious. Over 100 children with the vaccination have died in the last 10 years. 0 who were not vaccinated. Shocking. There is a complication that can happen with the vaccination that causes the sickness to be worse. On a side note, there is also an interesting case of the measles causing a child’s Cancer to go into remission. Look it up! Facts are more important than opinions. Please keep that in mind.

    • Molly Griffith

      Thanks, April. Could you please tell me where you got those stats? And do you know anything about embryonic stem cells in the vaccines?

  • Molly Griffith

    I think I get your point; but it could also be said that we should love and care for all children by warning parents of potential harm if we are aware of it in a vaccine. Both of my kids were vaccinated but today I’m not so sure I’d trust the big, corrupt pharmaceutical companies.

  • There are a lot of strong feelings about this topic, which unfortunately seems to have turned into an excuse to insult each other. I am closing the comments as a result.