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 VaccineInfo.net, "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.
*VaccineInfo.net 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.