Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nothing to Complain About

Lately I've been wishing we could move to a different apartment: something newer, better insulated, closer to Nathan's work and seminary. There are a lot of pluses to our home at Millennium Townhomes, Garland, Texas: three bedrooms (a must-have with Nathan's library!), over 1200 square feet, and attentive maintenance and management personnel. But, the fixtures are outdated; the air conditioner and windows are less than energy efficient; and, despite my thorough housekeeping, we endured a two-month-long battle with bugs (thankfully, the new manager "squashed" that problem immediately upon assuming her job). I've been focusing too much on the negatives.

Last weekend, as part of my seminary-wives education program, I read Blessed Hope: The Autobiography of John F. Walvoord. Far more than the life story of the author, professor, and second Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) president, the book chronicles the attacks on biblical fundamentalism in the first half of the twentieth century and recounts the history of DTS. Part of that history helped change my thinking about my living conditions.

Because of veterans who were returning from World War II during the late 1940s, enrollment at the seminary climbed. . . . Although sometimes the students were okay financially when they entered seminary, the veterans and their families coming to seminary had it pretty tough. Most of them struggled economically but believed that they were truly called of the Lord. The seminary put up temporary housing for them, but their living quarters were small, and the wives had to haul their laundry to a washroom. With the little apartments jammed together, privacy was a problem. Men came to class with holes in their shoes and ragged coats. Material needs were almost never completely met. . . . It was an unparalleled spiritual opportunity for the seminary. I can still see the eager faces of those men in the classroom. Even more touching, I can hear them singing in the chapel with thanksgiving to the Lord. Because that was so long ago, many of those men finished their seminary training, served the Lord with faithful hearts in their appointed rounds, and have already been called home by their Maker.
Though it would be nice to have a newer apartment, when compared with the difficulties the post-war generation faced at DTS, I have nothing to complain about. Sometimes it just takes a little perspective to get our thoughts and attitudes in line.

Monday, July 5, 2010

When a "Religious Compromise" Creates a Religious Compromise

I have never questioned whether to vaccinate Ashley according to recommended guidelines: I believe the science is on the side of vaccinations, don't believe the medical community has "an agenda" for pushing vaccinations (I've seen The Doctors's Travis Stork, M.D., near tears when defending the medical science behind vaccines because he knows they save lives), and am grateful for the eradication of diseases that ravaged the bodies and took the lives of countless children in previous generations. Many moms and dads disagree with me, and they are entitled to their opinions. Just as I prefer to make choices for my child free from the criticism of others, I'm not going to force my decision upon them. However, there is an issue regarding vaccinations that I feel needs to be addressed in the Christian community.

When I enrolled Ashley in daycare last year, part of the registration process was providing her vaccination record. The official Texas form included an affidavit for religious exemption, provided vaccinating one's child compromised his religious beliefs. According to, "The [Texas] laws require that immunization must conflict with the tenets and practices of a recognized or organized religion of which you are an adherent member." I knew that such a religious exemption existed but after seeing it in print wondered, How many evangelical Christians are signing this statement (or others nearly identical in their own states) upon enrolling their children in child care or school? My guess is it's a lot, and in doing so, parents are, quite frankly, lying and misrepresenting Christianity.

The simple fact is, the Bible does not condemn vaccinations or other medical intervention, either in direct statement or implication. To claim a compromise of religious doctrine is just not true and is, in fact, a religious compromise in and of itself--a compromise of the Christian belief against lying.*

"But the Bible tells me to put my faith in God, not men," some may claim. "Doesn't that exempt me?" This statement may be a parent's attempt to soothe his conscience for falsely signing the affidavit, but it shouldn't work. Of course one's faith should be in God--vaccines don't always work, it is God who decides the course of one's life, and it is God who enabled scientists to discover cures and vaccines--but, again, the Bible never condemns the use of medical intervention. When the woman with the twelve-year issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus' garment, He did not turn to her and say, "It's about time you stopped going to doctors and put your faith in Me." Luke's mention of her seeking doctors serves to show us that the woman did the logical thing, the thing anyone would have done to receive help. The fact that those who should have been able to heal her were helpless makes Jesus' healing that much more miraculous. God is not unhappy when we turn to the accumulated knowledge from the minds of brilliant scientists--minds that He created. One can take advantage of medicine while still acknowledging that his well-being is in God's hands, not a doctor's.

When a Christian signs a religious exemption for vaccination, he is being pragmatic. (The same holds true regarding the religious exemption that will be allowed from government-mandated health insurance and the exemption from paying into social security that ordained ministers may take if paying into such a program violates their religious beliefs. Though my husband will probably receive ordination in the next few years, we certainly won't be claiming such a religious compromise. I shudder to think how many pastors have opted out of social security only to preach sermons to their unexempt congregations on "rendering to Caesar.") Instead, a Christian who decides not to vaccinate his children must be willing to stand accountable for his choice and not use Christianity to evade the consequences.

* further states that "disclosing your religion could cause your religious exemption to be challenged." It would seem that the government is aware of which groups, such as Christian Scientists and the Amish, truly have objections to modern medicine.