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Taking A Stand

February 4, 2015

There are very few advantages to being old but recently my wife and I have been enjoying one of them.  We’ve been watching the current debate on measles and the way it affects those who did not get vaccinated nor had their children vaccinated.  They are catching tons of heat in the current measles outbreak.  There is a raging debate between the public safety/greater good crowd and the parental choice advocates.

We’ve been watching this in sort of a detached way because we are old enough that, before there even was a vaccine, we both had the measles, as well as a host of other diseases that people today never worry about.  We can sit here secure in the knowledge that, however the debate comes out, it doesn’t affect us.  This has given me a chance to think about the whole matter and see some key lessons in it for me as a Christian.

The “anti-vaxxer” movement is an odd conglomeration of “green” anti-chemical leftists and classic individual-choice libertarians with a smattering of “quiverfull” Christians thrown in.  In spite of efforts from some political types to say that “those other guys” are the problem it is pretty clear that anti-vaxxers spread across the political spectrum.  To the frustration of the CDC, the AMA, the NIH and just about every doctor and scientist out there they have been remarkably resistant to fact-based persuasion.  This is hardly surprising.

The phenomenon of the “backfire effect”, how fact-based arguments almost never change minds and often harden the opinions, is well documented.   Those who watch Fox News or MSNBC are classic examples of this.  The arguments of both reinforce their supporters and have no impact on those on the other side.

If you listen to what they are saying, the core issue on vaccination is parental choice.  Do parents have the right to refuse to vaccinate their children even if the science says they are wrong?  But I am not so sure that is actually what the real issue is.  You are always hearing the anti-vaxxers saying that they have the right to make the choice.  What you almost never hear is them saying that they are willing to accept the consequences of their choice.

Instead you hear of a school that doesn’t want to let in unvaccinated children and the anit-vaxxer parents are outraged.  You hear of doctors who won’t let the unvaccinated into their offices and they are outraged.  They have convinced themselves they will accept the consequences on the health of their children, primarily because they think there are none.  But they sputter in rage that they might face social or personal inconvenience caused by a society that chooses to protect itself from their choices.

This is a classic example of American “nothing bad should ever happen to me” thinking.  We want to make choices with no consequences.  Christians are really, really good at pointing out that the moral choices of others have consequences.  Some of us even like to point out that God’s wrath for things that we don’t approve of is such a consequence.  But here is the problem –

We do the exact same thing all the time.  Run afoul of some local business ordinance and we cry religious freedom.  Receive a wave of negative press for some stand we take on a social issue and we say we are being persecuted.  I was watching a video yesterday where several members of The Gospel Coalition were congratulating themselves on their courage to hold true to their biblical convictions on the role of women in the church and the home.  After a few minutes of strutting out their courage they shifted to whining about how they are being mistreated by our culture for this courageous stance.  Seriously?  There is nothing courageous about taking a stand and then complaining that your stance had consequences.

The lesson of the vaccination fight is simple.  Go ahead and take a stand for something you believe in; but be prepared for the social, legal and political feedback if you do.  The good news is that, while I agree it is good to learn from your own mistakes, it is even better to learn from the mistakes others make.  Whatever “stand” you feel the need to take, go for it.  But learn from the anti-vaxxers.  Make sure that stand includes a willingness to face the consequences.


From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. Some brilliant thinking there, sir. It wasn’t too long ago that I was one of the “anti-vaxxers,” convinced that vaccinations caused autism (we have an autistic daughter). But then I read some science that refuted the so-called “science” of that particular branch of the anti-vaxxers. And I listened to our oldest daughter, who constantly says, “Correlation does not imply causation.” Or something like that. Anyway, I’m one of the rare people who will allow his mind to be change by facts. Grace to you, my friend.

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