This is Not How We Behave

Just keep spamming, just keep spamming (2)

Gentle Reader,

I’ve been hanging out amongst the residents of the interwebs for a long time now. This blog has existed, in one form or another, for seven years. Before that I enjoyed myself thoroughly on the Amazon Christianity discussion forum. Before that was MySpace. (Remember Tom?)

Online life can be fun, engaging and surprisingly deep.

It can also be disheartening. Even nasty.

On Sunday night I briefly wrote about the howling over Focus on the Family’s small article (actually a Q&A piece) regarding vaccination in their magazine, Thriving Family. The response of a certain intensely opinionated blogger* caught my attention. This blogger is out-and-out offended that nobody from Focus on the Family has picked up on or crafted a statement about the response. While avoiding telling anyone to engage in bad web etiquette, this blogger made sure to say that it was important for any followers who were equally offended to publicly explain on the Focus on the Family Facebook page why support is being withdrawn. The people have taken up the torch.

The flames leap high.

It’s shameless fit-throwing. While I do not think that anyone has to be a fan of Focus on the Family in order to be a Christian, what is happening on the organization’s page is sad. Negative, one-star reviews are popping up and right and left because this blogger has purposefully stirred the pot on an issue that should not be this heated or divisive. This is not a litmus test of salvation. Yet every time a new post comes up in the feed, no matter what it’s about, followers of this blogger comment with a link to the response. All because Focus on the Family maintains a position of supporting vaccination (and medicine in general; some comments are mixed) and because nobody in the organization has opened up a forum for debate.

Except Focus on the Family isn’t obligated to publish an in-depth, thesis-length piece on vaccinations. Or medicine. Or why the sky isn’t purple. They aren’t obligated to respond to every single person with access to a computer and a blog. Such a thing would be nigh unto impossible.

So the ranting? It’s distracting. It’s immature.

Again, you don’t have to be a fan of the organization to be a Christian. But you also don’t need to flame a group that has worked for decades to help families. If their stance on vaccination bothers you, fine. Great. Don’t listen to their programs, purchase their materials or send them money. Move on.

Spamming and trolling never win an argument. Never. Like I said, I’ve been around the internet for a long time. I’ve made connections with many bloggers and site operators. And we just lurv spam. We just adore trolls. Send me a link once and I’ll gladly look. Engage in honest, respectful dialogue with me and I’ll talk. I’ll listen. The second you start screaming is the second I think you’re a nutcase, an attention-seeker or just plain arrogant and want nothing to do with you. Shouting only makes me close my ears. Everyone else I know who operates online feels the same.

Christians, this is NOT how we behave. We do not throw fits. We do not engage in histrionics. We do not get so everlastingly full of ourselves that we work, however cunningly, to undercut a legitimate ministry. These are the attitudes and antics of toddlers, not Spirit-filled adults.

Worse, it’s what one non-believer called “Christian cannibalism” as she watched the fracas unfold.

It’s the Enemy cackling with glee.

My journey to faith. (15)

* I am choosing to not share the name of this person because I don’t want to drive traffic to the site or the blog’s Facebook page. Based on the information provided in this post, you can figure it out for yourself. Please do. Go and make your own decision. Feel absolutely free to disagree with everything I’ve written. Feel free to tell me what you think.

I realize that I walk a fine line here. I don’t want to tear this blogger or this blogger’s followers to pieces. I don’t question their salvation or the sincerity of their beliefs regarding vaccinations and medicine. I don’t deny them the right to voice their opinions in an appropriate manner. Nevertheless, what they are doing is wrong.

How do I know? I chose to interact with them. It was a highly discouraging experience.

And why is this so clearly under my skin and dear to my heart? Why have I written several posts in the last few months about illness and medicine? Because my body is torn apart every day. The bodies of many I love are torn apart every day. We struggle. We suffer. We simply don’t need the additional stress of the ever-growing health-and-wealth, just-eat-organic-and-you’ll-be-fine-no-matter-what, Jesus-doesn’t-want-you-to-go-to-the-doctor-ever-ever, vaccines-are-black-magic juggernaut. I can’t stand by and let it roll on unchecked.

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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)