Two Entirely Unreleated Things

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Gentle Reader,

This is the last post from the sick chair.

I’m heading back to work tomorrow.

Part of me looks forward to getting back into a routine, part of me wonders if I’ll make it through a whole day and another part just wants to sleep. The biggest part of me just wants to sleep. And I want someone to invent a shirt that doesn’t feel awful when it touches my incision.

Get on that, science.

I’ve already dipped back into real life. Yesterday I went to church for the first time in a month, squishy pillow in tow. I ran an errand with my husband. I got a pedicure with my mom. It was exhausting. My abdominal muscles protested at being upright for so long. But it was nice to be out and about.

As my mom and I chatted over tubs of hot water and rainbow polish colors, I told her that one of the things I’ll miss about being home each day is catching the articles that people post on social media. I really don’t have time when I’m at work to scroll through Facebook or Twitter (and I’m not supposed to, anyway). After being on the computer for eight hours at a stretch, I often don’t possess a great desire to open my laptop in the evening. So a lot of interesting things fly right past me.

Being able to jump online at will for four weeks, I’ve been exposed to a wide assortment of thoughts on just about every subject. Some left me pondering. Others I shrugged off. Two got under my skin.

First: God Does Not Support Vaccines,” written by Megan Heimer at Living Whole. I usually stay away from the battle over vaccines because it’s vicious and I can’t believe the insults I see people fling at each other. For what it’s worth, however: While I believe that some people do have adverse reactions to vaccines, and I realize that it is possible to catch the very illness one has been vaccinated against, I don’t believe that there is some vast medical community/government conspiracy to make people ill. It is entirely presumptuous to think that any and all people who develop vaccines do so out of greed and that they lie about the effectiveness. I don’t believe that vaccines can be blamed for every instance of sickness, and I certainly don’t point a finger at my immunization record as the cause of my struggles.

In short, vaccines are a good thing. They are safe. They are effective.

My stance on vaccination has more to do with history and less with science. It’s not that I don’t understand the science; I just understand the history better. It is not honest to cast a glance back a century or two and claim that disease was eradicated or controlled simply through better sanitation and better hygiene. Certainly such improvements were important (and continue to be today) but the rise of germ theory under the efforts of scientists like Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur, a huge contributing factor to sanitation and hygiene initiatives, also led to the development of vaccines. Essentially, the same era that saw a push toward cleanliness saw a push toward vaccination. Cleanliness and vaccination rose from the same foundation, twins in fighting disease. For example, Jonas Salk’s search for a polio vaccine in the late 1940s-early 1950s came about precisely because the disease was not being eradicated or controlled through environment (or diet, for that matter).

I could go on, but Heimer’s anti-vaccination stance isn’t actually what bothered me about the piece, although I heartily disagree with it. No, what truly bothered me about this piece is how the author turned vaccination into a moral, even a salvation issue. Let me be quite clear: Vaccination is neither a moral nor a salvation issue. Jesus did not come here, die, rise again and then command that, in order to be saved, we must trust in Him and never get a shot.

Heimer hones in on cells/tissue from aborted children being used in vaccines to drive her point home. Here’s the thing: That’s a gray area. Is abortion wrong? Yes. Is using the bodies of those children for research wrong? Stone me if you will, but I don’t know. I honestly don’t. Is it wrong to take the organs from an adult who has been murdered? What about taking them from a school-aged child? Is it wrong to take tissue from a death row inmate who has been executed? What about people who die in war? Someone who commits suicide? What is the answer?

To draw a link between vaccination and following Christ is wrong. Such a thing cherry-picks and twists Scripture. It also drips both ignorance and arrogance; anything that we can point to that is not explicitly commanded by God as evidence for being saved is legalism, pure and simple.

Second (and entirely unrelated): Dear Church, Here’s Why People are REALLY Leaving You by John Pavlovitz, posted at Church Leaders. I am the last person on earth who will say that the church is perfect. I’ve been hurt by the church. I’ve experienced spiritual abuse. There are definitely times when it is essential to leave a congregation; it can be as awful as toxicity and as wonderful as God calling someone to another place. So I don’t in any way believe that once you set foot in a specific church that’s automatically where you’ll be for the rest of your life.

But I’m so tired of articles like this. Yes, let’s hammer away at the church. Let’s point out every single flaw in the Body and then do nothing to help. Let’s just up and leave and never get over anything. Let’s get high-and-mighty in our criticism. Let’s confuse “she’s being judgmental” with being confronted by truth.

Seriously. If you have to leave a congregation because it’s abusive, do it. If God is calling you to be somewhere else, go. Find a place that is healthy and get plugged in. Go where God leads. But there is no place in Scripture, not a single one, that says we can do this faith thing on our own. It’s not “just me and Jesus.” We need each other. Our weaknesses and struggles are met by the strengths and understanding of another. God wants His people to be together and work together. He designed us to flourish in community.

Frankly, I’m disgusted with my generation when it comes to church. We wanted “relevance” in our teens and early 20s. We beckoned leaders to pursue us. Well, they did. They bent over backwards to get us through the doors. Now, in our early 30s, we’re whining about the very things we wanted. They shouldn’t have pursued us. They shouldn’t have gone “seeker-friendly” or worked to put on a great rock worship concert. We are entirely too fickle and self-centered a generation for the focus to be on us in any way. Leaders in the church? Stop chasing us. Chase Christ instead. That’s the kick in the seat of the pants that we need.

Now I’m left with 1200 words and no sure way to wrap this thing up.

Perhaps I should have picked “controversy” for my word this year.

My journey to faith. (15)

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4 thoughts on “Two Entirely Unreleated Things

  1. Regarding your second issue (as far as the first goes, there’s no way to derive from scripture what Jesus would think about vaccinations or any other modern medical innovation), there’s a lively debate going on in one of my blog posts related to religious authority, in this case, involving Judaism and the (supposedly) divinely appointed authority of the Rabbis to issue binding interpretations of the Bible and rulings regarding how to obey God for their various communities. This isn’t something that most Christians would think about or be concerned with, but part of the discussion has to do with willful abuse of authority by the Clergy. It seems there are a few people commenting who are still hurt over what I think you called “spiritual abuse”.

    Actually, I’m not sure what “spiritual abuse” is supposed to mean. My most recent “church experience” was at a small local Baptist church which I attended for two years until I left last Fall. I wasn’t “abused” in any sense and in fact, most people were pretty good to me. The head Pastor and I, who I still regard in high esteem, had a difference of opinion (actually, more than one) over theological and doctrinal issues and I made the mistake of criticizing one of his sermons on my blog. I felt my criticism was valid but taking it public wasn’t. It was something of a deal breaker as far as my church attendance goes so I decided to leave rather than either have to severely censor myself verbally and online, or continue to make a pest of myself by being the rather annoying square peg in a church of round holes (so to speak).

    Any “negative” experiences I’ve had in religious community have been less spiritual and more human in nature. That is, it was people just being people that tended to put me off rather than any “spiritual leader” somehow exerting authority over me.

    Of course, my reasons for leaving church again are rather unique and not likely to end up on someone’s list of “Here’s why people are really leaving church”. In my case, it’s the discovery and continual reaffirmation that what the Church (in general) teaches us about the Bible isn’t always what the Bible actually says. I guess this is the natural consequence of encouraging me to study scripture.

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    1. I’m not sure how other people would define “spiritual abuse,” but I like how Jeff VanVonderen puts it:

      “Spiritual leaders exploited people for their own gain. Authority was misused in order to get things done in the name of God that weren’t really about God at all.”

      I think spiritual abuse goes beyond disagreement or a personality clash and crosses over into mental and/or emotional manipulation cloaked in terms like “God’s will.” A couple of years after Chris and I got married we started to have issues at the church we were attending; we disagreed with the direction and some of the leadership’s stances. We both raised questions with people we thought we could trust, people in leadership, and it got really ugly really fast.

      One of the worst things that was ever said (to Chris) was: “Your wife is leading you out of God’s will.” I was discouraged from going to school; what would a woman do with a theology degree? It’s things like that. There’s no room for disagreement because only one person/side can possibly be right. Edited to add: Spiritual abuse occurs when anyone in a position of authority uses that authority for their own agenda.

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      1. “Leading you out of God’s will?” Wow! That’s pretty bad. How about a man and a woman becoming “one flesh”?

        Actually, there’s a short video circling social media today of a Pastor stating proudly in a sermon that he hit a teenage boy as hard as he could when the kid was giving him a hard time (verbally) and “not taking God serious”. Supposedly, slugging the kid then allowed the Pastor to lead this boy to Christ.

        I Googled the Pastor’s name and found his church’s website. Right on the home page was an apology from the Pastor saying that he was wrong for hitting the kid (18 years ago as it turns out) and wrong for holding it up as a “good example” in a recent sermon. Apparently, he’d received a flood of outraged comments via email.

        One person on my blog asked the question of whether power-hungry people are attracted to the ministry as a means of controlling others or if they start out as well-meaning but then are corrupted by the power they wield and their own human nature. Not sure of the answer to that one, but people in authority have been abusing their power ever since the first leader/follower relationship. Look at King Saul and then at King David (and even David had some pretty big problems).

        Fortunately, our King was tempted but never sinned, so we can always trust in him.

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  2. Pingback: Finding My Voice |

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