Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition hit a home run out of the park with an article he did on Christians and vaccines. Joe explains why Christians should embrace vaccines and dismantles many of the conspiracy theories pushed by the anti-vaccination crowd. The Wondering Eagle would like to give a shout out to Joe and commend him for this article. While I often disagree with The Gospel Coalition I very much agree with what Joe is saying about the importance of vaccines.
“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”
Jonas Salk who invented the Polio vaccine
“I don’t think there is any philosophy that suggests having polio is a good thing.”
“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:18 NIV
There have been a number of developments with the anti-vaccination movement which I find to be quite frightening. As the son of a physician I have always been a strong proponent of science and vaccines. Actually one of my doctors wants to give me a pneumonia vaccine and I have that scheduled to take place in early July here in the Washington, D.C. area. But for a second let’s look at some of the news regarding the anti-vaccination movement.
Over in the United Kingdom the anti-vaccination movement has spread to pets, with anti-vaxxers refusing to have pets vaccinated. Some believe that this will lead to an a measles, mumps and rubella moment. Here in the United States one of the leading proponents of the conspiracy theories around vaccines – Robert F Kennedy has been publicly rebuked by his family. Meanwhile the Washington Post reported on one of the top financial backers of the anti-vaccination movement who is a successful hedge fund manager and philanthropist. Politico recently reported about the anti-vaccination movement becoming a part of the Republican Party. Several states have ended religious exemption rules for vaccination with the most recent being New York. Other states working to tighten vaccination law include California, Washington and Florida just to name a couple. In Colorado the legislator working to tighten the vaccine law received a death threat against her personal family, which is quite distressing. This blog reads and monitors a lot of atheist and secular humanist websites. Atheists who strongly embrace science have been on the forefront of pushing for vaccination. Each week I get emails from organizations like the Center for Inquiry which is warning people about the threats that exist to public health by the anti-vaccination crowd. This is one of the many reasons why I have a lot of respect for the atheist community. On this issue they are on the right side of this public health debate. Two years back, this blog wrote about how atheists publicly pushed back against the dangerous anti-vaccination movement in, “The Anti-Vaccination Movement, Much Like Polio, Needs to be Eradicated; Plus the Center for Inquiry Confronts this Dangerous Faction.”
How Russian Troll Farms are Engaging in Information Warfare Against the United States in Spreading Dis-Information About Vaccines
Meanwhile more news has come about lately involving Russian troll farms – the same ones who did an information warfare campaign in the 2016 election, have stepped up and fueling misinformation about vaccines on the internet. Not only would this be a national security issue in my view but also a public health one as well. Newsweek recently reported on how Russian trolls may have contributed to a measles outbreak in Europe and Central Asia. The BBC reported on this development with Russia targeting the United States and Canada in 2018. The National Institutes of Health published on Russian Twitter bots spreading mis-information regarding vaccines. And Foreign Policy published an article about Russian goals in spreading disinformation with the intent to undermine the United States public health system. Its important to warn those opposed to vaccination that they are buying into Russian disinformation. They need to be warned about this fact.
Joe Carter Writes a Solid Article at The Gospel Coalition About Christians and Vaccines
Into this debate over vaccines steps in Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition. Now in the past I have been critical of Joe and The Gospel Coalition. But when I see something good this blog wants to commend The Gospel Coalition and make sure they get recognized. Joe Carter wrote an article that cleared up many misconceptions about vaccines and explained why Christians should be vaccinated. The article which was published on June 18, 2019 is called, “The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About Vaccines.”
In the article Joe explains the differences between vaccines, vaccination and immunization. He also calls vaccines humankinds best invention and explains the health benefits of being vaccinated. Use of vaccines have saved over 3 million lives annually around the globe. In the article he also explains why many schools and universities require vaccination. He stresses that vaccines are not only about protecting the individual but the protection of the community that people live within. Joe then moves onto the issues of safety and points out that vaccines are safe. Those that do react are in a very small minority – about 14 to 1,000 people. The editor for The Gospel Coalition also writes about how vaccines do not cause autism. In the post he writes about how Andrew Wakefield who promoted the false link between autism and vaccines was discredited and lost his medical license. He even looks at the issue of vaccines from aborted fetal tissue and illustrates how that is no different than accepting an organ in an organ transplant. But where Joe Carter hit a home run (in this blogger’s opinion) was when he explained the theological reasons why Christians should embrace vaccines. I am going to re-print that section below.
Should there be exemptions for vaccinations based on religious liberty or parental rights?
The question of whether exemptions for vaccinations should be allowed is complex. As theologian Al Mohler recently said,
I am very pro-vaccine. But I’m also pro-parental rights, and I want to be an ardent defender of religious liberty. In this kind of situation, it is so complicated that Christians of goodwill, and we need to note this, can come to different conclusions about vaccines, specific vaccines, and in specific cases even regarding specific children.
In thinking through the issue, there are four factors Christians should consider.
First, as elder and pediatric physician Scott James says, “as we who have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) consider the questions surrounding vaccination, we should strive to honor him with how we use that mind.” As Christians, our position on vaccinations should be based on the best available empirical evidence and not on anti-science propaganda, anecdotes, celebrity non-endorsements, or unwarranted skepticism of government institutions such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Second, we should strive to seek the common good (Jer. 29:7). The harm done to children from not getting vaccinated is exponentially greater than the harm—both physical and moral—of using the vaccines. Because of herd immunity, the choice to vaccinate our children protects those who cannot receive certain vaccinations due to allergies, ages, or a weakened immune system. We must always consider whether we are using our religious liberty or concern for parental rights as cover for a choice that may cause significant harm to the neighbors we are commanded to love (Matt. 22:36-40).
Third, we should remember that rather than using our liberty to avoid vaccinations, evangelicals have historically been at the forefront of promoting vaccinations. The American evangelical theologian Jonathan Edwards died in 1758 from complications that set in after the misadministration of the smallpox vaccination. Despite this setback, as Mohler notes, “Right after the death of Jonathan Edwards, evangelical Christians in the U.S. became some of the most ardent proponents of vaccines, understanding them as God’s gift through the rationality of modern medicine that reflected the orderly universe that God had given us and was a demonstration of common grace.”
Fourth, while we may have a right as parents or religious believers to forgo vaccinations, we also must accept the consequences of our actions. If we choose not to vaccinate our children then we must accept that there will be some public institutions in which they cannot participate. Also, a parent who refuses to have their child vaccinated is morally responsible for the outcome of that choice. If their child were to get sick and/or die because of the rejection of the vaccine or cause other children to become sick, they would be morally culpable.
Thoughts About Joe Carter’s Article and Get Your Children Vaccinated
Joe Carter’s article is a refreshing and welcome contribution by The Gospel Coalition. In this article Joe cuts through the conspiracy theories and uses reason, faith and logic to stress why vaccines are so important. I will give The Gospel Coalition and Joe Carter recognition when they deserve it, and today is one of those days. Joe put his faith, and The Gospel Coalition on the right side of this issue. That is important especially with the misinformation that exists. Earlier this year I wrote about how harmful conspiracy theories can be in, “Can Evangelical Christians Stay Committed to Facts? Why Conspiracy Theories are Dangerous, Reckless and Uncalled For.” But this blog is deeply grateful for Joe Carter’s contribution when it comes to this topic.
Many people are pointing to the small minority of risk for vaccines. And in the process they miss the greater good and the positives that exist for society. Vaccines have spared our culture and society of plagues, diseases and outbreaks. We as a society do not want to go back to days of outbreaks of measles, flu or other diseases. There was a time in the history of civilization in which diseases took out parts of civilization and the health threats were a serious issue. Measles in 1916 killed 12,000 people under the age of five. 500 to 600 people were killed by the disease each year into the 1950’s. Why would anyone want to go back to those days? Where is the logic in that?
The fact of the matter is that there is risk to everything in society. There is a risk to flying on an airplane or driving a car. There is a risk to swimming. Mishaps and accidents can happen in hunting or playing sports. There is no such thing as being entirely risk free in many areas of life. You accept the best you can and work with what you have. You rest upon science and accept the statistics. There is a reason why vaccines are the greatest invention in human history. Its for the fact that they saved countless lives and protect our society. So I say all this to stress the following. Make sure you are current on your vaccinates and make sure you child is fully vaccinated. If you love your child you will do what is best for them, and that includes vaccination. If you need to be reminded of what measles was like you can read this article from a British website. Don’t gamble on this issue, take the right course of action for your family, community and more.