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Truth or Consequences

December 30, 2013

I saw a report on the news this morning that intrigued me.  It seems there was a nurse in PA who was fired from her hospital job for refusing to get a flu shot.  The hospital, quite logically, didn’t want flu-ridden staff spreading disease to already ill patients and required all employees to get the flu shot.

At the same time the nurse, who was three months pregnant and had a history of miscarriages, had been doing some online research to determine whether it was the flu shot that was causing her miscarriage problem.  What she found was that there had been no studies done to investigate if there was a link between flu shots and miscarriage and, feeling she would rather not have the shot than take a chance, refused to take the shot.  Predictably, she was fired for this refusal.

The story might have stopped there had she not gone to the news services for publicity to plead her case, contending that she was being discriminated against because of her decision to “protect her baby.” The article was slanted to make the hospital look callous and the woman look like an innocent victim; they fired her for simply exercising her right not to have a flu shot.

The story fits our individualistic culture perfectly.  We all claim that we are free to make choices and get outraged when we make them and face consequences.  Our obsession with freedom of choice blinds us to the reality that, when we make choices, there are always consequences.  Facing the consequences of the choices we make is not discrimination or persecution, particularly when, as in the case of this nurse, she knew she was violating a hospital policy.  She had a right to refuse to the shot but had every reason to expect that her refusal to obey a hospital policy would result in her firing.

Our society loves freedom of choice and, at the same time, consequence-free exercise of those choices.  Yet there is no such thing as consequence-free choice; drive without a seatbelt and you face the consequence of injury or a ticket; violate a company policy because you disagree with it and you can get fired.  My wife works for a Christian ministry, if she was to go to work tomorrow and announce that she was now a Hindu she would lose her job.  It would not be religious persecution; it would be a consequence of her decision.  Happily, she is not planning to convert so her job is secure.

Christians, particularly evangelicals, are as deeply steeped in our individualist culture as everyone else is, even as we rail against that very culture.  We call that Duck Dynasty fiasco religious persecution when it was nothing more than a need to face the consequences of what was said.  The same people who might scream about facing unpleasant consequences if they express their “religious freedom” in their workplace would be enthusiastically approving of a Christian ministry firing a newly converted Hindu.

Our culture is steeped in the fiction that our free choices should never have consequences we don’t like.  We are outraged and call anyone who says otherwise; anyone who makes us face the consequences, a villain.  If we are not careful we will find ourselves in the idiotic position of crying foul when our choices cause unpleasant consequences and, at the same time, calling for immediate harsh consequences for the choices of others.  Come to think of it, we evangelicals are very good at that.

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