Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coming Alongside a Friend who has Miscarried

We hear the statistics that one in every four to five pregnancies ends in miscarriage, but it isn’t until you find yourself in that 1 in 5, and start hearing from others about their own experiences, that you start to grasp what that number really means… it means probably half of all women will experience one at some point.  Yet for all that, there seems to be a somewhat surprising lack of resources for how to come alongside women & families during and after a miscarriage.  So many people have no idea what to say, whether to say anything, how to help, what’s normal… Just a lot of questions all around. After my miscarriage in January of last year, I knew what helped me and what was less helpful, and I asked for feedback from other parents on social media, and promised to compile and condense it all into an article… I’ve had several people ask about it in the meantime… and… I’ve since experienced a second miscarriage (this week)–one that was markedly different from my first-- so can speak even more to the issue.  A lot of these tips will apply to any loss but some will be specific to miscarriage and infant loss.
  • reach out.  if someone has shared with you that they are miscarrying or recently miscarried… do something with that knowledge.  It probably took a lot of courage for them to tell you.  Check in on them—call, text, best of all, an actual card.  Set a reminder in your phone, leave a post it note up, whatever, to remind yourself to remember them & reach out.  We never mean to forget, and everyone knows that… but it is such a blessing to have someone remember and tell you you aren’t alone. 
  • keep reaching out—if you know when they miscarried, put a reminder in your phone or calendar or whatever system you use—send them a card this time next year. If you know their due date, same.  In the meantime, they probably are grieving every week — “one week since I lost __,” etc.  One friend who experienced a stillbirth on a Thursday woke every Thursday for weeks remembering the experience with dread and new grief.  Another friend who lost a daughter at 13 told me it was much like a new baby; at first you count in days, then weeks, then months and finally years from the loss. All that to say, texting weekly or sending cards more than once would be a huge blessing.  The body is amazing and it remembers loss and trauma, and even when we don’t consciously remember dates and anniversaries, our bodies do.  One of the loneliest days for me last year was my daughter’s 10th birthday—because it was also my due date for the daughter I will never hold… and no one else seemed to remember.  Have your kids draw some pictures and mail them one at a time over several days or weeks. (Maybe address them & stamp them all at once and put post-its on them as to when you will mail them.  Seriously, half the battle of ministry is just overcoming our own forgetfulness.)
  • what to say—this is a really hard one so I’ll keep it as broad as I can:  think about what you would want someone to say to you.  Send an encouraging scripture, a quote from a favorite hymn or song, send a note about how much you love them… even just “hey, I know this is a pretty hard time for you, and I want you to know I’m praying for you and I love you.”  I’ve had people say some pretty insensitive and way-off things, but I would rather have that than the complete silence from people who I know know my situation.  We’re already sad—you telling us you’re sympathizing with our sadness won’t make us more sad, I promise!
  • answer their calls and texts (and yes, calling them back is fine if you can’t get to the phone!!)—this should go without saying for friendships in general, but just know that when someone is grieving it takes extra energy to reach out, and when that energy seems wasted it can be quite devastating.
  • help in practical ways.  Please note that they may need help for a lot longer than you’d think. Miscarriage itself can take a while (my last one took 4 weeks from the time I first realized something was wrong) and then there’s the physical recovery, and then there’s the emotional recovery.  It could be a good six months or more before your friend is back on her feet. Here is a list of practical things that can be helpful:

  1. bring snacks over; this can be done even from a state away.  It’s often hard to keep everyone fed when Mom is down for the count.  No-prep individually packaged foods can be extra helpful.
  2. clean their bathrooms, vacuum their stairs, sweep their kitchen, etc. Coming once a week for 1-2 hours for a month could make a huge difference in their family’s quality of life—and if you’re doing a specific task it can make sure your friend doesn’t feel guilty for resting while you work
  3. make and/or bring a meal (not just dinner—often breakfast foods are very helpful)
  4. walk their dog
  5.  run an errand – when you offer, try to offer specific ideas, like “can I pick up some vitamins for you?  Do you need any office supplies? Do you need anything mailed?” etc.
  6. take their kids for an hour or a day
  7. buy them groceries—if you don’t know them well, ask if they have any allergies or preferences



  • send an encouraging package—their favorite show, a new book, a gift card, a cozy blanket—if their kids know about the miscarriage, they may appreciate a small gift too.  A subscription box for a month or two could be a wonderful gift; a few ideas:  Mama Needs, snack boxes, sips by (tea), mighty fix (green gadgets)…
  • send nourishing foods or teas—red raspberry leaf tea, soups, fresh fruits, etc.
  •  send anything that you’ve found that helps you when you are emotionally distraught.  It could be an essential oil blend, it could be a book, it could be a tea…
  • enable them to get to self care appointments like massage, acupuncture and chiropractic—and ordinary doctor appointments.  This could mean driving them there, watching their kids while they go, pooling money with another friend to buy them a gift card to a spa, or donating your services if you are a practitioner.
  • encourage them to go to above appointments.
  • encourage them to rest
  •  encourage them to talk about their loss if they want to
  • when she feels up to it, keep the kids and let the parents go on a date. Miscarriage takes a toll on both parents.
  • guys, reach out to your friend.  They lost a child, too.
  • honor their child & their suffering—flowers are a traditional gift, and they really do brighten a room.  Other gift ideas are a potted plant, a donation to a children’s charity, flower seeds, sun-catchers, a necklace with their child’s name on it (or a birth stone for their child’s birth month), nice pens & a blank journal… Laurel Box provides a great source of ideas—they will send a box to your friend, or you can get ideas from their site and assemble your own.  Many parents choose a symbol for their child,-- a butterfly, a flower, an anchor are a few examples-- ask your friend if they have and incorporate that into the gift.
  • pray for them.  Again, set alarms, post-its, whatever, to remind yourself to pray.  Pray with them if you can!  I had a friend pray with me over the phone at my first doctor appointment, and another pray with me in my room after my last miscarriage.
  • share good news (especially your own pregnancy news) with them privately.  They will definitely want to rejoice with you... but it might take a minute.  Tell them the news in a no-pressure environment, so they can have time to process before having to respond publicly.
  • other women; hug them, touch them… I know this is a fine line, I’m not even all that huggy, so always leave them the option to pull away, but most of the time, miscarriage is such a very physical trial, where we often feel that our own bodies have betrayed us, that physical contact can be a tangible reminder that we aren’t as alone as we feel.

Just a few thoughts on things to avoid-- I tend to dislike long lists of “don’t ever say” because the truth is that so much depends on context… so I will keep these general:
  • Don’t minimize the loss or imply that they should “be over it” in any specific time frame.  Ex “well at least you weren’t far along” or “well at least you have other kids” or “it was such an early loss, shouldn’t you be past this?” etc.
  • Don’t try and top their grief story with one of your own (or your sister’s neighbor’s cousin)—identifying with them is great—just make it clear that you are doing so to validate their feelings
  • Be very very slow to imply or assume that they are handling something incorrectly—there may be a time to gently call someone out on an unbiblical attitude or response, but that time is usually NOT when the grief is fresh.
  • Don’t assume that you know why they are sad. Especially if they have postpartum depression or anxiety, which is a whole ‘nother topic, don’t assume that they are “sad about the baby.”  Anxiety and depression is not always rational. It’s not often that someone can reason their way out of it.  They may be able to function very well, they may not “seem sad’ but could be dealing with a low-level constant nagging anxiety or distress under the surface.
  • Don’t assume their kids know about the miscarriage. Don’t bring it up around their kids unless they do it first.  Be discreet and ask!!  We did not share our first miscarriage with our children for a variety of reasons. We did share our second, and at that time also told them about our first miscarriage.  Every family is different.
  • Don’t assume they can’t handle hearing about your own life struggles.  Now this is a balance, do be sensitive—when a woman has just lost her child it might not be the best time to ask them to pray for your friend’s cousin who just had her 3rd kid and can’t seem to keep her act together… But don’t assume that just because they have their own pain that they aren’t glad to carry yours, too. So often shared pain binds us all together, and we can share each other’s burdens even if they aren’t the same.
  • Be sensitive about bringing your own kids when you come by to help—again this will vary by the  situation and even by the day, but sometimes extra kids will just be overwhelming to a mom who is miscarrying, and sometimes will keep you from being able to meaningfully engage with your friend if they want to talk.  If you can leave your own kids at home that can be worth exploring.  Or make a conscious plan for how you’ll help your kids be calm and quiet—some ideas:  tell them ahead of time that they’ll need to play quietly or outside, bring a movie, bring a car DVD player, bring a board game or new toy set for them to play (with your friend’s kids possibly), or offer to bring all the kids back to your house after you visit.  But your friend may be fine with extra kids— it may be actually helpful for her kids to have playmates, she may want a little one to squeeze, she may just not mind... so ask!
  • Try to avoid offering vague help like “let me know if you need anything!”  They definitely need stuff.  So how are they supposed to let you know?  When you’re in the throes of the physical & mental toll of a miscarriage, logistics are hard.  It’s also hard to gauge what a person really means when they offer (unless you know them really well)—how inconvenienced would they really be willing to be?  Try to think of a way that you could help and ask them if it would be helpful, and then schedule a time to do it right then.  For example “hey can I come walk your dog on Thursday evening?” or “I get groceries on Monday, can I grab some for you? Is there anything you all really love or need?”

I hope this is helpful... when in doubt, ask your friend... they would much rather you ask.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Reasons Why a Christian Might Object to Vaccines on Religious Grounds

Lately there has been an increased scrutiny on families who choose to forego vaccines.  In most states, parents can opt out of mandatory vaccines for religious, philosophical/personal, or medical reasons and their children must be allowed to attend public schools or publicly-funded programs.  As families who use these exemptions come under attack, many have asked why would a Christian even TRY to claim a religious exemption?  Of course there are as many reasons as there are Christians and Christian familiesbut the reasons tend to occur along similar lines.  I have not seen an attempt to answer that question, thence this paper. I hope it engenders more graciousness and open-mindedness among Believers who may disagree. I also hope it encourages more Christian schools and daycares to accept children with religious exemptions to vaccines with open arms instead of barring them and their families-- or, even better, just leaving the question of vaccine-status unasked and left up to the consciences of the parents.   

As a Christian, the reasons for which some object to vaccines can be divided into three groups:  objections to specific ingredients in vaccines (i.e. how the vaccine(s) are produced), objections to the philosophy behind vaccination (i.e. why vaccines are given), and objections stemming from the effect observed from vaccinations (i.e. what vaccines do).  While a person from any faith could have objections which would fit into those categories, I specifically am writing as a Christian, seeking to show how a faithful reading of Scripture (our religious text) could lead to these objections.  Please note that I am not trying to say all Christians must or do interpret Scripture to lead to identical objections, nor am I even spelling out a full defense of my own position—I am simply seeking to explain how Christians might come to object to the current CDC vaccine schedule due to their religious faith.  

·       Objections to the “how” of vaccines:  problems with ingredients in vaccines themselves.  Most parents begin investigating vaccines by looking into how they are made and what they are made of.  Just as it is good practice to turn a prepared food item over and read its ingredient list before we eat it or serve it to others, it is wise to know what we are consenting to have injected into our child beforehand.  (The FDA publishes all vaccine inserts at fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines/vaccines-licensed-use-united-states) A cursory look at vaccine ingredients is rather shocking:  formaldehyde, antifreeze, antibiotics, metals such as aluminum and mercury, and of course disease particles—all of which must be grown on some medium or other, i.e. it must have been allowed to infect something so it would grow (“be cultured”) and then it was weakened or killed.  That “culture medium” could be a chicken egg, tissue from an animal (unborn cow, a live monkey, cow blood), or an unborn human (or tissue from an unborn human). Viruses must be grown in human or animal tissue—thus any vaccine against a virus (such as measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, polio, or chickenpox) will always contain animal or human tissue.  As Christians we believe the body is an integral part of who we are as God’s Image—we reflect Him not just in our minds/thoughts and heart/emotions but also in our physical bodies (Gen 1:27; 2:7-23).  The body is fallen (Gen 3:19) but will be Raised and perfected (1 Cor 15:52-53; Phil 3:21).  Christians believe the body affects the mind and spirit and vice-versa.  We are called to honor God with everything our body does—eating, drinking, sexual activity, etc (Rom 6:12-13; 1 Cor 6:15-20; 9:27; 2 Cor 4:10; 7:1; 1 Thess 4:4).  The body is the home of our own soul, and in a Christian, is part of the very temple of God.  This is why Christians have always respected the body—we have historically buried our dead, cared for the sick, punished those who injured the bodies of others, and even made damaging corpses a legally punishable crime.  Christians are called to be mindful of what they put into their bodies, so it is a very “Christian” thing to ask: “what is in this shot?”  Many Christian parents, after asking that question, find specific ingredients particularly worrisome from a Christian perspective:
  1.     aborted fetal cells—Several vaccines on our schedule contain “human diploid cells.”  Those cells come from cell lines (cells in petri dishes that are allowed to consistently grow and reproduce) that originated with the body parts of unborn babies.  Each cell line came from a different child and each successful cell line is the product of dozens of attempts—that means dozens of abortions were used as “stem cell harvest opportunities.” (See Hayflick's paper on developing WI-38, the cell line used in adenoviruses, rubella, measles, mumps, varicella zoster, poliovirus, hepatitis A and rabies vaccines)  In fact, abortionists and researchers have and continue to collaborate on opportunities to get “perfect tissue specimens”—this may mean pressuring a mother known to have a baby at risk for a specific infection to abort her child rather than carry to term (ex. rubella); this may mean targeting specific women whose babies are the right age to “harvest” a certain tissue; this may mean changing the way the abortion is done so that a “pristine specimen” is harvested—never with any pause to consider that these are human beings whose murders are being planned and discussed (though their very humanity is what makes their tissues so desired)—images of God. The most recently approved cell line comes from a “water bag” abortion done in 2015, in which a 4 month gestation baby girl was delivered in her bag of waters, and she was butchered for her lung tissue while still alive without so much as a shot of anesthesia.[1]   Yes, such an abortion is illegal in the US, but that will not stop US children from receiving shots in which that cell line is used.  Also, cell lines only last about the length of a human life; thus new cell lines are constantly being developed… as long as the market demands human cell lines, abortions will be done and used to provide them, leaving men to profit financially from a child’s planned death.[2]  Is this in line with God’s assertion that the taking of a human life is a crime deserving of death?  Christians who believe every human is created in God’s Image purposefully by Him (Gen 25:21; 30:22; Ps 127:3-5) Is 6:9), known by Him since the moment of conception (Is 44:24; Jer 1:5; Ps 139:13-16), may object to any medication that contains products obtained through any killing of a human, no matter the age… especially when such a medication will be injected directly into our own child’s body.
  2. bovine tissue – in the beginning, mankind’s job was to care for the plants and animals of the Earth—this continues even after the Fall (Gen 2:15-20).  We see Noah gathering and saving plants and animals (Gen 6-7), we read Jewish law prohibiting animal cruelty (Deut 5:14; 14:21; 25:4).  Even as Jesus asserts that compassion for humans is even more important than compassion for animals, He assumes that His hearers’ care for their beasts of burden is normal and good (Luke 14:5)… we even call ethical treatment of animals humane, because it is such an integral part of being human- unlike a beast.  Christians then may object to any product that depends on or causes undue animal suffering.  “Fetal Bovine Serum” is obtained by puncturing an unborn calf’s heart after its mother is slaughtered—again with no anesthetic (that would contaminate the tissue).  The calf’s heart needs to be still beating in order to harvest the maximum amount of blood. [3]
  3.  injections of known poisons (such as formaldehyde, MSG, antifreeze, antibiotics, aluminum)-  As explained above, Christians view the body as something for which they must care and steward well.   Living in this fallen world will certainly mean interacting with potentially harmful materials, and Christians remember that God promises to use all those for our own good and the good of our children (Rom 8:28; James 1:2-4).  However, there is a difference between accepting the reality that sickness, harm and suffering will come to our children (and their bodies) and intentionally injecting known poisons into our children ourselves, in doses known to be harmful in humans.  If we saw a friend giving their child the contents of a vaccine mixed into applesauce, we would be alarmed and call poison control (rightly so)—yet an injection bypasses all normal defense mechanisms (skin, mucus membranes, stomach acid, digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria, expulsive pathways such as coughing or vomiting) and puts the poison directly into the child, unlike anything in the natural world with the exception of a snake’s venom.  Christians may object to the intentional introduction of known poisons directly into their child’s body as an assault on an aspect of God’s Image.

·       Objections to the “why” of vaccines:  problems with the philosophy of vaccination itself.  Christians have a lens through which they see the whole world.  They believe that there is a good, sovereign Creator who created this world with order and beauty, intentionally to bear witness to His own Order and Beauty (Gen 1-2; 1 Cor 14:40; Psalm 148). Everything points back to a marvelous Creator—the stars sing of His majesty (Psalm 8:1), the flowers of His provision (Luke 12:27), the storms of His might (Psalm 148:8)—so that no one has an excuse of not knowing He exists (Psalm 19:1; Rom 1:20).  Mankind was created to reflect God’s glory and to care for and tend God’s creation in the same way He cares for us—we are His ambassadors, we bear His Image.  Christians believe that even though the sin of man introduced evil into the world, meaning nothing works perfectly anymore and now all tends towards chaos (entropy) and disorder, that the fundamental created Order did not change.  Our job did not change (Psalm 8).  And one Day, all will be remade new and perfectly beautiful again.  But until then, humans are still called to “exercise dominion” over the earth and fill it with “the Glory of the Lord as the water fills the sea.”  We are still able to marvel at the Creator who so masterfully created the millions of intricate systems that we observe at every level of creation.  Many Christians find that the very system of childhood preventative vaccinations goes against this created order and so, may object to them.
  1. exercising dominion- In the beginning, humans were tasked with “exercising dominion” over all of Creation (animal, plant, and presumably also even microbes), by properly husbanding” or tending it, NOT by seeking the annihilation of any one species.  As we have learned to our own detriment multiple times, every area has an ecosystem with each living being needed within it.  The extinction of any one type of living thing has far-reaching effects.  And invariably, when one species is killed, others fill their places in food webs (though often not as perfectly as the original species did).  Why would we think that the annihilation of microbes would be beneficial?  Vaccine campaigns seek to “eradicate” a specific disease by rendering all its hosts immune; presumably without a food source (hosts) the microbes will just die out.  However, as with any ecosystem, the elimination of one species will merely create a vacuum, which other types of similar beings –in this case other bacteria or viruses—will fill.  It would seem that vaccine campaigns are not only pointless and untenable in the long run, but even against the spirit of exercising dominion in a Biblical sense, which would mean seeking to find and maintain order within Creation—perhaps by seeking to find ways to strengthen the host so disease is no longer as problematic, or by encouraging beneficial bacteria.  Christians may object to vaccines because they view them as antithetical to the mandate of exercising dominion and tending living beings.
  2. the created order of the childhood immune system belief in a good, wise and orderly Creator leads us to appreciate the intricate systems He designed.  One such system is the immune system.  The human immune system contains at least two reactive branches; the humoral or Th2 (mediated by antibodies made by B lymphocytes) and cell-mediated or Th1 (mediated by T lymphocytes).  Inflammatory responses such as fevers, swelling, soreness and redness are all part of a cell-mediated immune response. In infancy, the cell-mediated immune response is actively suppressed, because inflammation is harmful to a rapidly developing brain—this is why it is very concerning when a young baby gets a fever.  As doctors know, young babies should not get fevers.  The baby human body is designed to by default not react to disease.  Instead, the baby’s immune system purposefully relies mainly on the humoral immune system; that of antibodies—not their own, but their mother’s, passed to them through her milk, or remaining from the placenta during pregnancy.  Vaccines aim to force an inflammatory response.  Trials of vaccines in young babies did not show good responses—babies’ immune systems (as designed) just didn’t react, they didn’t make antibodies… this is why extra-strong ingredients guaranteed to provoke inflammation had to be added: adjuvants, usually heavy metals (aluminum or mercury).  Christians may object to a childhood vaccination program that turns the created order on its head, trying to strong arm an immune system to act in ways it never was Designed to do. (thorough examination of this topic here)
  3. misplaced trustin both the Old and New Testaments, God tells His people they must trust in Him alone.  This is why witchcraft was expressly forbidden—the effort to gain power and control events was exactly against what trust in Him entails (Lev 19:31; 20:6,27; Deut 18:10-14; Gal 5:19-21; Rev 18:23; 21:8).  Does the making of a serum—including diseased animal particles, multiple poisons, and metal, and then injecting in into a child with the faith that it will protect them against disease—not sound at least somewhat like the making of magical amulets?  Especially when this practice is defended with a religious fervor?  (Incidentally, the Greek word used for witchcraft” in the New Testament is pharmakaia, the same word from which we get our word “pharmaceutical.”)  Over and over in Scripture Christians are told not to be afraid, but instead to put their trust in God—and make decisions out of faith, NOT fear.[4]  Christians may object to being required to put their trust in any one medical regimen, as opposed to freely making choices in faith in God (not out of fear).

·       Objections to the “what” of vaccines:  problems regarding the observed effect of vaccines and vaccine schedule today.  Vaccines are no longer just an idea, now they have multiple years and even two generations of data—Christians evaluating them for use in their own families now also have to consider whether the potential and actual effects of vaccines are in line with their beliefs.

  1.     neighbor-love – the entire Law which Christians are called to obey is summed up as:  Love God ultimately and completely, and love your neighbor as your self.  (Matthew 22:35–40, Mark 12:28–34, Luke 10:27)  Christians always have to evaluate whether their actions are honoring to God and loving to their neighbor, the nearest of which is their own child (1 Tim 5:8) Vaccines all have risk; according to the Supreme Court they are “unavoidably unsafe”[5].  There is a fund set up (from taxes paid on vaccines) to pay damages to parents of children injured by vaccines—it is called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  (This is intended to protect the manufacturers of said vaccines from all responsibility and accountability for vaccine injuries, not to protect vaccine recipients.)  Each vaccine insert outlines those for whom the vaccine is contraindicated, as well as listing potential reactions.  If any parent reading those feels that it would not be loving to their child to put them at risk for those reactions  --especially taking into account their own family’s history, genetics, and the child’s own past vaccine reactions, health, and genetics—then the Christian parent may believe that it would not be loving to their child to administer that vaccine.  Christians are never asked to love their far-away neighbors by putting their nearer-neighbors at risk.  They are told to be ready to lay down their own lives, but not anyone else’s.  It is not Biblically valid to appeal to the command to “love your neighbor” to entice them to vaccinate their child for the sake of “herd immunity.”  Christians are never called to love someone else or other group by doing something unloving (endangering) to any one person.  Christian parents may believe that giving their child a particular vaccine would violate God’s command to love their neighbor (their child).[6]
  2. right to parental autonomy- Scripture is very clear that parents are primarily responsible for their children (Prov 10:1, 15:20, 17:25, 22:6, 15), that the family is a crucial foundation of society and that children are required to obey their parents first and foremost (Ex 20:12, 21:15; Deut 5:16, 21:18-21; Prov 15:5, 20:20; Mark 7:10-13; Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20; 1 Tim 5:4).  Parents are responsible for their children, not the State (Prov 19:18; 23:13-14; 29:15-17; Col 3:21; Heb 12:7-9).  (Indeed our first responsibility is to care for all our blood relatives, and secondly to care for the needy within our spiritual family, the Church—1 Tim 5:8)  It is a Christian principle to believe in parental responsibility and autonomy, which go hand in hand. Vaccine programs apply a one-size-fits-all approach to all children without considering the individual child. Christians may object to anything that interferes with their God-given responsibility to protect their own child.
  3.  lack of wisdom -There is evidence that vaccines, especially cumulatively over time, alter the vaccinated person’s DNA. One mechanism by which this can happen is that human DNA fragments present in the stem cells (taken from aborted babies as mentioned above) can integrate into their host’s DNA. [7] It should be noted that vaccines are not tested for mutagenic potential. This is just one of many unforeseen effects which vaccines—especially when more than one are given at once, and given quickly in a short span of time—can have. Most vaccines themselves have never actually been tested against an inert placebo; their safety studies have no control groups.  One group of children will be given one vaccine, the other group another version of the same vaccine, or at least the same vaccine (including all the adjuvants and other toxic ingredients) just without the disease particles, but no group will receive a saline shot—there is no standard by which to judge the vaccinated group’s outcome… for any of our childhood vaccines. Christians are instructed to be wise all throughout Scripture (Prov 4:5; 19:8; Matt 10:16) Christians may object to (a) vaccine(s) because they believe to use them/it would violate the Biblical admonition to be wise.
I have attempted in this paper to summarize the main types of reasons why Christian parents may object to the current CDC-recommended vaccine schedule on religious grounds—as Christians.  I should also note that healthy unvaccinated children do not pose any additional risk to others around them.  They are not contagious for any disease.  Of course if any child becomes sick, or is around someone who was sick and so is possibly incubating an illness, they could pass on that illness—vaccinated or not, vaccine-preventable illness or not.  But a healthy child is just that:  a healthy child.  In fact, for certain attenuated viruses, such as that which causes whooping cough, those who are vaccinated are actually more likely to be contagious without knowing it (they are asymptomatic) and for longer than those who have never been vaccinated. [8] (See “An Open Letter to Legislators Currently Considering Vaccine Legislation,” by Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD in Immunology, for a fuller explanation of this.)   

So the question remains… why would any organization that claims to be built on Christian religious principles object to parents living out those same Christian religious principles, as they best understand them to apply to their own child(ren)?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for such an organization to welcome them and provide them safe haven?  Especially since their children pose NO additional threat to anyone else?  Shouldn't Christian leaders be defending the rights of parents to follow their consciences and encouraging all Christian parents to be evaluating every decision they make from a Biblical worldview, instead of simply following our culture's assumptions and expectations?

No matter what, Christians should be able to discuss such issues with one another knowledgeably and graciously, even if they disagree.  It is not Biblically valid to say that someone is "unloving" and "unChristlike" merely because they disagree with you or a popularly held position.  However, it is Biblically valid to say that someone is "unloving" if they are belittling, demeaning, or name-calling someone with whom they disagree.  I hope and pray that this paper contributes to this conversation in an informed, gracious, rigorous and Christ-exalting way.



Endnotes:


[1] See “Characteristics and viral propagation properties of a new human diploid cell line, Walvax-2, and its suitability as a candidate cell substrate for vaccineproduction” by Bo Ma et al, Hum Vaccin Immunotherapy 2015 April.  Note the reason given for abortion (mother had had a previous c-section) as well as the rigorous research into the parents’ health and employment histories, going back 5 generations.  This was clearly planned and very intentionally done.  Ethical barriers present in the US which are lacking in China are also mentioned.  This abortion was done in China and would have been illegal in the US. Nine abortions were involved in the making of this new cell line (Walvax-2).
[2] This use of fetal tissue obtained in truly disgusting ways – intentional dismemberment, timed poisoning, drowning, live organ harvesting, pressure on pregnant women in order to benefit from their child’s death- is by no means unique to the vaccine industry.  See “Efficient human fetal liver cell isolation protocol based on vascular perfusion for livercell-based therapy and case report on cell transplantation.” Gridelli B, et al. 2012, for just one example. Note how unborn babies are delivered "intact"- read alive- at 5 months gestation, thrown into icy saline, and cut open within the hour to harvest their livers.  No drugs are ever given, no sedatives, no anesthesia.  These children are delivered live and callously either allowed to drown, freeze or die by having their livers sliced open.  This happens at our very own Allegheny Women’s Clinic so that fetal liver stem cells can be obtained for University of Pennsylvania (tax-payer supported!). So much medical and pharmaceutical research rests on the harvesting (let’s be honest- the torture and butchering) of the unborn that it has predicted its own disaster and collapse if such atrocities are stopped.  (See article by NBC "What is fetal tissue research and why is it important to medicine?") Many Christians have serious reservations about supporting such an industry at all, much less trusting them to have their living children’s best interests at heart. 
[3] For a discussion on the ethics behind fetal bovine serum harvesting, see “The use of fetal bovine serum: ethical or scientific problem?” by Carlo E. A. Jochems et al.
[4] Just to be clear, there is nothing inherently unbiblical about choosing to use modern medications or procedures, but whatever resources a Christian uses should be used with prayer and faith in God, not in the medicine/procedure itself.  In fact, the “how, why and what” questions presented here to evaluate vaccines from a Christian perspective would form a good rubric for evaluating all medications or procedures:   investigating how any medication was researched and made, asking whether it is working against the created order, weighing potential risk and side effects carefully, etc.
[5] SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES - BRUESEWITZ ET AL. v. WYETH LLC, FKA WYETH, INC., ET AL. October 2010—Majority opinion: (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-152.pdf) Minority dissent here.  This is regarding a court case against a vaccine manufacturer by parents of a child who was harmed by a vaccine.
[6] A quick note just to address the objection “but it’s more unloving to leave your child at risk of disease”—as will be discussed below, there are no studies comparing unvaccinated children and vaccinated so we have no data by which to evaluate whether vaccinated children really do experience lower rates of disease (both chronic and infectious).  Doctors who treat both types of children say that the unvaccinated do not tend to be sicker (and thus the unvaccinated kids are less likely to be contagious).  There is one study that compared kids unvaccinated and vaccinated for flu, and it found that kids who’d gotten the flu shot actually were ill MORE than those who had a placebo—the conclusion was that the vaccine may increase susceptibility to non-flu respiratory illnesses. (see “Increased Risk of Noninfluenza Respiratory Virus Infections Associated With Receipt of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine” by Benjamin Cowling et al. Clinical Infectious Diseases 2012 June)  Another study found that children were more at risk of getting a serious illness within 2 weeks of getting a flu shot (see Assessment of temporally-related acute respiratory illness following influenza vaccination” by Rikin S al. Vaccine. 2018)  Also, there are many ways of supporting the body’s own immune system to fight all disease, not just the 15 currently vaccinated against in childhood—many of these have been studied (a few:  Vitamin D, hand washing, elderberry syrup (also this study), Vitamin C, Vitamin A, lowering of stress, ownership of pets, adequate sleep, a whole foods diet, adequate plumbing) for efficacy and found to be very protective against disease.  Vaccination is but one among many efforts parents can make to protect their child from being seriously harmed by disease in this fallen world.
[8] See “Acellular pertussis vaccines protect against disease but fail to preventinfection and transmission in a nonhuman primate model” by Jason M. Warfel etal., 2013.  Also, this study found vaccination caused a decrease in the adult body's response to pertussis.  An excellent discussion of this phenomenon (the vaccinated spreading disease more than the unvaccinated), due to “original antigenic sin,” can be found here.