Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is the Vaccine Resistance Related to the Sexual Revolution?

In recent months, there has been a lot of talk about vaccination. It began with an outbreak of the measles in California during last year’s holiday season, and has extended into this year. If you look at this fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you will see that 2014 was actually the worst year for measles in more than a decade, and by a considerable margin. However, if 2015 maintains its pace, it will be even worse.

The Vaccine Resistance

This situation has resulted in a great deal of debate, with people reasonably concerned over how a disease that was nearly eradicated in this country has roared back to such an extent. Much of the blame has been directed toward the anti-vaccination movement. They have a number of motivations, such as a fear of the potential side effects of vaccination, concern with the idea of government coercion, or purely a belief that vaccination is ineffectual and unnecessary. Whatever the cause, a number of parents have decided not to vaccinate their children. Some believe these parents are the cause of the spread of diseases that were uncommon not long ago.

I cannot say whether this criticism for the “Vaccine Resistance” is deserved or not. I would lean more toward it being one of many causes in a perfect storm, rather than the sole source of all our troubles. However, it has certainly become the focal point, and arguments are being made to use government power to force all parents to vaccinate their children. Many people would probably assume I would be against this, but it is actually not that cut and dried. I am certainly not a fan of government power, and I fear overreach. On the other hand, though, the government does have a responsibility to protect its citizens. If my position on policy were to be sought, it would be to allow the states to make their own decisions and not make it a national debate, or a concern for the national government. And I think peer pressure would be more effective than anything else. Let the culture make these parents feel outcast, rather than be outlaw.

Fortunately, though, no one is seeking my position on policy, and that is not really why I wrote this. I am more interested in those calling for vaccination requirements. For the most part, they have been political liberals who have made the (what I consider to be reasonable) public safety argument. It is perhaps no surprise that they would look to expand the scope and authority of government. However, I was struck by an irony in the grounds for their position. To my eyes, they seem to be contradicting the philosophical foundation of the “Sexual Revolution” to which many of these same people are devoted.

Herd Immunity

One of the key arguments of those calling for vaccination requirements leans on the concept of “herd immunity.” Basically, it is the idea that no vaccine is 100% effective, but the more people you vaccinate, the more you can control the disease by relying on the people whom the vaccine does help. Their immunity supposedly restricts the rate of infection. The vaccinated population has been shrinking as a result of people opting out (or at least so the argument goes), so there is a fear that everyone, vaccinated or not, is at greater risk. People who do not vaccinate their children are not making a decision for themselves alone, but for everyone. That would mean it is a question not just of their rights of privacy, but of the nation’s right to health. The Resistance, for its part, says herd immunity is unsubstantiated and their right to choose for their own children supersedes the government’s right to tell them what to do.

This should sound familiar. So much of the Sexual Revolution has had its basis in a reactionary ethic. The individual desire for sexual “fulfillment” had been frustrated by a puritanical society’s desire to control people. And Christianity was seen as the primary offender of the rights of man.

Christian Sexual Ethic

I will not deny that the Biblical faith takes a very hard line for sexual purity. In some ways, it is more restrictive than all the rest of the world’s major religions. From what little I know, Buddhism and Hinduism can be rather libertine. And even Islam, for all its harsh laws on sexuality, promotes polygamy where Christianity and Judaism do not (and they do not promote it. There is a difference between the Bible recording something and approving of it). Scripture is replete with warnings against fornication and with requirements to follow the “one man, one woman” pattern. From Genesis 2:24, to Exodus 20:14, on to Matthew 19:1-9, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, Revelation 22:15, and absolutely everywhere in between, God tells us to guard our sexuality and stick to the confines of marriage as He ordained it.

There are a few misconceptions about this, however. God is speaking to God’s people, which is the point made in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Christians over time have come to expect the type of purity from the secular culture that is truly only expected of the church. Taking such a position has made it more difficult for us to describe why purity should be sought. We have spoken as though we did not need to explain. Instead, we have to say exactly what the Scripture says. It is not up to us to stop all the sexual sins in the world. God Himself will hold unbelievers accountable. Our job is to show them that they can be forgiven of His judgment by turning to Christ and away from their sins.

That problem has developed in the church, and we need to deal with it. But the other misconception is by those outside. They have been so focused on Christians trying to stop them from “having fun” that they have not paid attention to why we see a problem. This is similar to an argument made about those who do not vaccinate. Disease has been defeated to such an extent that they do not know the horrors of it. This, in turn, leads them to think there is no longer any need for the medicine that helped curb the diseases and make them so rare in the first place. Certainly, that applies to sexual ethics, as well. The cure has been so effective that society is losing sight of the ravages of the disease. That blindness does not make sense when we consider the evidence, though. Sexual sin comes with natural consequences. We see them constantly now: teen pregnancy, single-parent homes, STD’s, abortion, the objectification of women, absentee fathers, broken and meaningless relationships, and the list goes on and on. Why would society want these things? If Christians offer a formula for avoiding them, why should it be resisted just because it comes from Christians? Can Christians force them to stop, anyway? No, and as I have said, we shouldn’t try. But we are supposed to tell them why they should try for themselves.

Seeing the Similarities

The vaccination debate brings this into sharp focus again. Christian ideas on sexual purity are about our relationship to God, but as they apply to the secular world outside the church, they amount to herd immunity. When a high percentage is “inoculated,” the ill effects will not spread as far. We know full well we can never stop all the negative consequences of aberrant sexuality. There will always be people who do what they shouldn’t, just as there have always been. But the more people we can encourage to follow a purity ethic, the more people we can protect from those negative consequences. The goal is to promote physical, emotional, and societal health, not to control people. The rules are for our own good, and for everyone else’s. Is that really any different than calling for vaccination requirements? No. In fact, it is less extreme and more obviously helpful. Why can the people who call for vaccination requirements not see the similarity in their arguments to Christian calls for sexual protections? For that, I have no answer.

No comments:

Post a Comment