Why the Vaccination Debate is So Nasty (And Why It Ought Not Be)

vaccine-diplomacyOf all the Mommy-War debates, I can think of few that are as emotionally charged as the war over vaccines.  Does that make me want to avoid the topic?  Only like a nuclear missile!  Unfortunately, (like a nuclear missile) that also makes this topic so important.  My goal is not to re-hash the hundreds of arguments for or against vaccines.  Rather, my goal is to answer a simple question: As Christian mothers, how should we approach this sensitive and volatile topic personally, among friends and strangers, and in our social media testimony?

When I set out to answer this question, I started by asking myself why the vaccination debate is so heated.  I think there are three predominant factors.  First, it involves personal heartache.  Many (if not the majority of) mothers who choose not to vaccinate have what they would call a “vaccine-injured child.”  They truly believe vaccinations have had adverse effects on their child.  In some cases, the conditions their children face are extreme, lifelong, and even deadly.  Whether or not vaccines are to blame for these conditions, the point is these moms (who are not stupid, nor short on research) truly believe they are.  My children are vaccinated, and I have not experienced adverse side effects.  However, I can imagine how outraged, confused, and afraid I would feel if I thought my kids were suffering because a doctor told me to do something that I believed hurt them.

But unfortunately, this issue is also emotionally charged because it has communal implications.  Whether or not you believe in “herd immunity,” our society still functions in support of it.  In other words, our government and medical professionals believe immunizations are in the best interest of society at large.  That’s why you’re still asked to present an immunization record at kindergarten Open House.  It’s why doctors talk about mutations of previously eradicated diseases emerging as the anti-vaccination movement grows.  Whether or not you agree, you can understand why vaccinating parents find this scary.  Ironically, it’s the exact same fear non-vaccinating parents feel–the fear that something poses a threat to our children.

The final reason I think the debate is so heated is because it’s a high stakes issue.  I’ve seen articles and videos that claim infants have died from adverse reactions to vaccinations.  On the flip side, I’ve talked to doctors who claim they’ve seen infants and children die from vaccine-preventable diseases.  Any way you look at it, fear, suffering, and the desire to protect our children are the primary emotions driving the war over vaccines.  Our fleshly instinct is to respond to these emotions with all manner of ungodliness.  Both sides are guilty.  For brevity sake, let me summarize some of the sentiments I’ve heard and/or read:

Anti-Vaccines Pro-Vaccines
Pride / Condescension “I love my babies too much to put such-and-such chemicals into them.” “I love my babies too much to put them at risk for preventable diseases.”
Hatred “I hope your kids end up injured by a vaccine so you change your tune!” “I hope your kids catch a disease and die!”
Judgment “Parents who vaccinate are un-researched, blind followers.” “Parents who don’t vaccinate ought to be jailed for child abuse.”
Selfishness “This isn’t about your children.  I’m not thinking about your children at all!  This is about my children.” “I don’t care what your story is, if your kid isn’t vaccinated, keep him away from my kid!”

The problem isn’t that we have an opinion on this issue.  It’s not even that our opinion is bound to differ with someone else’s.  The problem lies in how much we value our opinion.  Biblically, I believe Christian moms are free to stand on either side of the debate.  I don’t believe there is anything inherently sinful about vaccinating or not vaccinating your children, so long as you are submitted to God and motivated by love for Him and your kids.  But, it is sinful to elevate this issue above Christ.

Before you assume you’re not guilty of this, here are some hard questions I’ve had to ask myself:  Does thinking (or reading) about this issue ever evoke feelings of hatred or judgment within me?  Has it ever made me wish suffering on someone else?  Do my words and lifestyle reflect that I’m more passionate about this topic than I am about the gospel?  Does it consume my thoughts and/or control my emotions?  When others think of me, is this issue one of the first things they think of?  

Yes, this is a high stakes issue.  But when it comes to how we interact with it, there is something even greater at stake: our testimony to a watching world.  Vaccinations impact this life, but our testimony for Christ impacts eternity.  How foolish we would be to sacrifice something of eternal value for the sake of an earthly cause!  Am I saying it’s wrong to share your opinion on vaccinations?  Of course not.  But if you value your opinion to the point that it causes you to sin against others (in thought, word, or action), then for you this issue has become an idol.  In essence, you are more devoted to it than you are to the mandates of Christ.

Let me be the first to admit, I’m on the guilty side of this reality.  This issue has stirred arrogance, judgment, and anxiety in my heart and mind.  The only way I’m “de-throning” it in my life, is by fighting fear with the true, biblical antidote.  The fact is, the solution for fear and suffering has never been found in “winning” the external war.  You can’t get rid of the turmoil in your heart by converting the world, one tweet at a time, toward or against vaccinations.  The only true antidote is faith.  If we truly believe that all the days ordained for our children are written in God’s book (Psalm 139:16), that He alone is the author of their lives, wiser than any parent and stronger than any threat, I believe it would change the way we approach this debate.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the mom who hopes other kids suffer because their mother doesn’t agree with me.  I don’t want to be the mom who turns unbelievers off to the gospel because of my testimony over a spiritually gray issue.  Like the Psalmist, I want to be the kind of mom who says, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom (or what) shall I be afraid?”  The kind of mom whose heart, passion, and legacy cries out: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:1, 4).  Only then, will I be able to take a stance on this issue with love, humility, freedom, and peace.

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21 thoughts on “Why the Vaccination Debate is So Nasty (And Why It Ought Not Be)

  1. Ashley

    Fantastic post; setting our eyes on God is what it should always come back to. Thanks for your perspective; God used it to open my eyes.

    Reply
  2. Michelle

    Such wonderful wise words, friend! Once we have prayed about our decision and submitted our spirits to the Lord we can’t go wrong–no matter which side of the debate you end up on. I think to maintain full impartiality you have to be careful to not label something “anti” or “pro.” If I’m anti-vaccines, I would rather not be seen as something destructive, and if I’m “pro-vaccine” if hate for my peers to believe I’m haughty and proud because I’m on the “right” side of the debate. Thanks, though, for your boldness and your willingness to bring up this difficult topic! Blessings!!

    Reply
  3. MJ

    Why I can’t say that I completely agree with what you posted (if you think abortion is murder, this should matter to you):

    Even though there are only baby parts from a few babies in our vaccines, many more babies were aborted and dissected in the process of obtaining the perfect strain. In fact, aborted babies are being used everyday to create new cell lines for more vaccines. But just in case you didn’t hear this on the news, in church, or at your doctor’s office, here’s where these ground up baby parts came from:

    PER C6 came from a healthy 18 week-old baby who was aborted for social reasons. This tumorigenic strain is being used to develop adenovirus, Ebola, influenza, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV vaccines. Developers call it a “human designer cell” but what they really mean is “aborted baby cells.”
    The HEK293 cell line is derived from the kidneys of a healthy aborted fetus and is being used to develop new influenza vaccines.
    WI-38 (RA 27/3) was a 16-week-old female baby (20 cm long) who was aborted in Sweden because the parents felt they had too many children. The baby was packed on ice and sent to the United States (speculation suggests without consent – which was common) where it was dissected. The use of WI-38 cells is a lucrative moneymaking business.
    WI-1 through WI-25 cell strains were derived from the lung, skin, muscle, kidney, heart, thyroid, thymus, and liver of 21 separate elective (and some speculate illegal) abortions.
    WI-27 was the fetus from which researchers extracted the live virus used in the rubella vaccine.
    WI-44 was derived from the lung of a three-month old surgically aborted fetus.
    MCR-5 cell line was derived from the lung tissue of a 14-week-old male (Britain).
    Eighty elective abortions (recorded) were involved in the research and final production of the current rubella vaccine: 21 from the original WI-1 through WI-26 fetal cell lines that failed, plus WI-38 itself, plus 67 from the attempts to isolate the rubella virus.

    Sacrifice of children is not okay. Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:13, 12:30-32, 18:10, Leviticus 18:21 & 20:2-5, 2 Kings 16:3, and Psalm 106:38

    (Taken from http://www.livingwhole.org/god-does-not-support-vaccines/ because I don’t have the time to write it all myself.)

    Reply
    1. Laura

      I agree with you on this one! I also agree with what she wrote about the way we handle the issue. There is so much name calling that goes on over this issue and from said believers. So how does that further the kingdom of Christ? It doesn’t! The information about the fetus cells doesn’t EVER come up unless you actually look at the ingredients list. And you have to dig quite a bit more to get the full story about it. I made the choice to not continue to vaccinate after I read what was in them. And just feeling that sin is the reason diseases are coming back, not because of non-vaxers. We can only play “God” for so long before it turns around and bites us in the butt. Two murders in the beginning doesn’t make the “millions saved” right. In our stance on the issue though Christ still needs to be seen in our lives.

      Reply
      1. MJ

        Yes, I definitely agree with how we speak (and think about others!!!) during the conversations. THAT is the part of the blog I completely agree with. I thought the first person to suggest that an aborted fetus was used in vaccines was mistaken and I regret not looking into it further. Now I have a son who was damaged from them….at the very least it made his condition worse and at the worse it caused it. We accidentally stopped due to insurance trouble about four years ago and we never went back. My son was unable to speak and is now starting to learn to read. I am very grateful for that break I had to research what I should have looked at more closely many years ago…

      1. MJ

        As stated in the blog, vaccines are made using the aborted babies. The fact that they can continue to reproduce those cells does not change where the cells came from. You may be interested to note that aborted tissue is used in the manufacture of more than 23 vaccines including Adenovirus, Polio, Dtap/Polio/HiB Combo, Hep A, Hep A/Hep B Combo, MMR, MMRV Pro Quad, Rabies, Varicella, and the Shingles vaccines. That’s more than “a few”. I’m not ignorant. I know that I’m not injected the actual tissue into my children. However, there could be lingering DNA from the baby in the vaccine…there’s not real way to be sure ALL of it is gone (See: This product also contains residual components of MRC-5 cells including DNA and protein (pages 6-7 Varivax insert). If the fact that aborted children are used to make vaccines doesn’t bother you, then you have the right to continue to use them. I have the right not to do so. My children are considerably healthier since we stopped vaccines and are boosting our immune systems naturally. It’s also just ONE of the many reasons we will not continue vaccines in our house. It’s also one of the most important to me and that’s why I shared it here. Most people do not know where their vaccines come from…it’s an important step in researching what’s best for YOUR family.

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for bringing the debate back to the thing that matters most to God, our own HEARTS. How easy it is for us to become white-washed tombs, focused on looking good on the outside but allowing all kinds of rottenness in our hearts. How much the Epistles have to say about disagreeing with one another in love and respect!

    Reply
  5. Anne Wenger

    Another brave and well thought out blog, Jeanne. This was not an issue I faced when raising my children. But I am aware of it and will pray for you young mothers as you seek to follow God’s lead in this important matter.

    Reply
  6. Tiffany

    Thank you for this post. When I freak out about my decisions and actions with my daughter I have to remind myself that while I am the steward of her care, God is sovereign. Thank heaven for that reassurance and peace!

    Reply
  7. autismnewsbeat

    As one of those haughty pro-vaccine zealots, I am dismayed by the disinformation that drives the anti-vaccine movement. The list of debunked AV talking points is long, and the supposed intelligence of the persons who uncritically repeat them has zero bearing on the veracity of the claims.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    I am really thankful how the blog focused on bringing our mind back into alignment with God. Who is love, and if we are not acting in love or with a loving attitude towards each other, how then can we call ourselves sons and daughters of God?….. As a couple who have done the research and very clearly chosen a side, we also choose to keep it for the most part between us and God. If we are approached and asked what our thoughts are then we are ready and wiling to share with those who wish to process it. But we don’t push our view on others. I believe that is what the writer of the post meant when they said ‘gray area’ and ‘being loving’. I agree, are we pointing to God in our loving acts, or are we pointing in judgment at each other
    .

    Reply
  9. AmyM

    Thank you for this post! I feel like I’m caught in the middle on this issue, because I started my parenting journey borderline anti-vax, and then ended up going for vaccines after further research. But I still sympathize with the arguments from people against vaccines and have quite a few friends who have taken that route. I really appreciate your giving voice to a more balanced viewpoint that doesn’t get heard nearly often enough. Christians should be the most gracious and understanding of others’ viewpoints.

    Reply
  10. amanda

    Thankyou for your article. I really appreciate your gentle and nonjudgmental tone. I think the reminder that the gospel is the focus and that we are so easily distracted from living solely for Him is well needed. Also I appreciate the observation that we all love our kids and are trying to protect them from something.

    Reply
  11. Bryan Ens

    Whether the topic of vaccinations, or any other “hot button” social issue, it’s far too easy to take a position and condemn those who disagree with us, while forgetting what Jesus would have us do/think/say. Thanks for a well written and thought provoking article.

    Reply
  12. Goldi

    You are also Christian and I’m assuming pro life… I hope you know these vax you’ve given your kids contain aborted fetal cells… Look up MRC-5 and WI-35 are… And btw it’s in these vax Adenovirus
    DTaP-IPV/Hib (Pentacel)
    Hep A (Havrix)
    Hep B (Engerix-B)
    Hep A/Hep B (Twinrix)
    MMR (MMR-II)
    MMRV (ProQuad)
    Rabies (Imovax)
    Varicella (Varivax)
    Zoster (Shingles – Zostavax)
    So your kids have been pumped up with aborted fetal tissues… Enjoy!

    Reply
  13. danapulakphotography

    I like your positive approach to this. I agree that strife should not come from this. However, I can find nothing about vaccines that align with God. Have you researched the ingredients? Are you aware that aborted babies have been used in the making os several vaccines? Are you aware of the destruction of God’s design that comes with vaccines? I encourage you to research some basic Toxicology and look to understand that some very evil people led by greed are banking on the basic principles in the science of poisoning: Delayed toxicity, Systemic toxicity, and latency period. The makers of vaccines will be judged by God. They are a tool of the devil. We are not to fear what man can do to our flesh, yes, but we must also not be ignorant of the very real spiritual battle within everything. You say gray, so I encourage you to say a prayer and be led by God to find the wrong in vaccines. Vaccines are seriously altering God’s design. The lack of people seeking Him is leading to such destructive decisions as these. Do I think it is sinful to vaccinate? For some, maybe. It is not my place to judge. The Word of God says just because something is lawful does not make it beneficial. For example, Polysorbate-80 causes the body to increase its absorption of phthalates, which is contributing to gender confusion and reproductive organ health, including but not limited to infertility. God calls us to be pure, be a temple for Him. Why take part in acts that can potentially damage the brain and lead to poor decision-making skills that leave a person more vulnerable to sinful actions? …Much encouragement and love. God bless you for trying to keep the peace. James 5:14 says to call for the elders of the church announting them with oil and the prayer of faith will heal the sick. God supplied our every need. To vaccinate is to say I’m fearful of disease. Vaccines do not and cannot prevent disease. The decision to vaccinate does and can only lead to more disease, it just might not happen immediately upon vaccination because of the latency period of poisoning from such small doses, only the most sensitive respond immediately. God gave us food, pure water, and “leaves for medicine.” The wise men brought Frankincense and Myrrh to Jesus. I encourage you to research essential oils. Walk away from man-made alterations of His design and look to Him for your every need. For example, measles is severe due to vitamin A deficiency. We have to learn how to feed our bodies properly because man has walked so far from Him.

    Reply

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