7

There are reports of a measles outbreak in a Christian school in British Columbia, Canada. News reports speak of this as a community with "traditionally low vaccination rates" and say that many parents do not vaccinate their children on religious grounds.

I'm unaware of any Christian group that prohibits vaccinations, or any line of theological reasoning that would lead to an issue with vaccinations. Wikipedia doesn't mention anything. Even Amish and Old Order Mennonites appear to go along with vaccinations.

Who are the groups that take this stand, and what is their theological reasoning?

4
  • 1
    This may answer your question partly: cmda.org/wcm/CMDA/Issues2/Healthcare1/General_Healthcare/… However, it does not really list specific denominations, just theological position.
    – Double U
    Mar 15 '14 at 17:45
  • 1
    I predict that a good answer should include information on the history of the British Columbia area, especially religious history, and maybe some coverage on the politics and general religious sensibilities. That may bring some hints as to what type theological tradition they may come from.
    – Double U
    Mar 15 '14 at 22:46
  • Christian Scientists Apr 9 '14 at 14:12
  • @Anonymous that link gives me a 404
    – Andrew
    Jun 30 '14 at 13:58
4

I believe the answer is to be found in another news article, published around the same time as your question, titled, "Chilliwack [British Columbia] pastor tells congregation vaccines interfere with God’s care":

The pastor for the community at the centre of the Fraser Valley measles outbreak says he sees vaccines as an interference with God’s providential care.

Rev. Adriaan Geuze says his 1,200-strong Reformed Congregation of North America in Chilliwack mostly shares that view, which is why vaccination rates in the community are “very low.”

“We leave it in (God’s) hands. If it is in his will that somehow we get a contagious disease, like in this case the measles, there are other ways, of course, to avoid this. If (we get sick), he can also heal us from it,” he said in an interview Friday.

...

Geuze [explains] that there is no need to make a healthy “God-given” body “a little bit sick” through vaccination.

He does not oppose other means of boosting immunity, such as rest, healthy living and eating well. Nor does the church oppose medical treatment when a person is already sick, he added.

Asked if he actively advises his congregants not to vaccinate their children, Geuze responded: “Of course I openly express my own point of view according to the Bible, absolutely. But it’s not that we force them. It’s through their own conscience that they have to act,” he said. “They expect that from me, that in a clear way I lay it all before them.”

Opinions on whether or not to vaccinate, however, are divided within the Fraser Valley’s Christian community.

Rev. Abel Pol of Chilliwack’s Canadian Reformed Church said that while he has never surveyed the church’s 400-plus membership on the issue, he suspects that most if not all the congregation is in favour of vaccinations.

...

Pol said those who oppose vaccinations on religious grounds commonly quote the same passage of the Bible, Matthew 9:12, part of which reads:

“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So they oppose it based on a reading of Matthew 9:12, a connection I don't understand. The reason they give is that it is "an interference with God's providential care." Given the church's Dutch reformed background, I suspect it's accurate to pinpoint Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 27 as the source of their discomfort, as the other answer conjectures.

Geuze's church is one of four in the Reformed Congregations in North America, and according to Wikipedia makes up 1251 of 1798 (70%) of the denomination's members. The denomination formed by splitting from the Netherlands Reformed Congregations, another small (though larger) conservative reformed denomination, in 1967. And in fact, the school at the center of the story, Mount Cheam Christian School, is affiliated with the Netherlands Reformed Congregations, and the denomination has its own congregation in Chilliwack.

Two other articles indicate that the NRC prohibits vaccinations, just as its offshoot does, and that there have been previous outbreaks tied to this community's refusal to vaccinate. Those outbreaks have occurred not only in the Chilliwack area, but also elsewhere in Canada.

It's clear that, just as the other answer conjectured, this all traces back to certain conservative reformed folk in the Netherlands:

The anti-vaccination beliefs of conservative streams of the Dutch Reformed tradition remain a concern to public health officials in the Netherlands.

A report in the 2001 American Journal of Epidemiology reported 275,000 members of the tradition in that country (roughly one-eighth of the total) were refusing vaccinations.

The unvaccinated Christians were the only victims of a Dutch polio outbreak in the early 1990s. Virtually all were members of conservative or orthodox branches of the Reformed tradition that make their home in the Netherland's so-called Bible Belt, known as "De Bijbelgordel."

2

I'm not sure about the situation in England, however not too long ago a similar situation happened in The Netherlands. There was a big discussion, so most sources are in Dutch, mainly the Dutch Wikipedia with it's references.

There are two groups who do not vaccinate their children: A) People in the The Anthroposophical Society believe that vaccinations affect the immune system. B) Orthodox protestant reformed groups, which is a very traditional church with it's own clothing style, schools, hospitals, politic party etc. They do not watch TV or use a computer because the bible does not say anything about modern technology.

The main reason they do not vaccinate their children is because of Sunday 10, Q&A 27 from the Heidelberg Catechism, which reads:

Question 27. What dost thou mean by the providence of God?

Answer: The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but be his fatherly hand.

They believe that all good comes from God, and sickness is a punishment from God. They believe that God wants their children to be healthy He'll make them better. If God wants them to become disabled due to an illness, it's His will, and they accept that.

There is much discussion about this topic within this denomination. Some of their church leaders say that it is something between the you and God to decide what is right. If you feel that the vaccination places technology between you your dependence on God, you should not use vaccinations. However if you do not feel guilty when using vaccinations you are free to use them.

1
  • 1
    Well, vaccines do affect the immune system - it provides new ways for them to fight sickness. Perhaps you could add a little more information as to why this is a problem (or is perhaps viewed differently)? Apr 11 '14 at 1:24
2

From the 1920s onward, when vaccinations were being promoted but the public were nervous, if not skeptical about this comparatively new form of preventative medicine, there were a great deal of negative comments published by a whole raft of different groups, not all of them Christian ones. But, over time, as vaccinations proved their worth (despite there always being a few bad results with some individuals) the public began to trust them more. The negative comments lessened and nowadays the issue of whether Christians should, or should not get vaccinated has almost ceased to be a religious issue. It is a matter of individual conscience, except in a few groups where leaders let it be known (to their flocks) that they think it is wrong, and they discourage them. Where congregation members let their leaders do their thinking for them, they accept their leaders' arguments and suppose that they are, indeed, promoting a biblical stance against vaccinations. We see a bit of this in America in some small Protestant groups, where they are refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Please note, however, that some reasons have nothing to do with Christian faith, but are based on the right to refuse medical treatments, according to individual conscience. More than a few people object to what is increasingly looking like government blackmail - not allowing people to certain large public events unless they can prove that they have been fully inoculated against Covid-19. It is also involving air travel passengers.

One example that showed religious reasoning in the 1920s and 30s, but which no longer prevails, is in the following quotes. But let me stress at the outset, that this group no longer holds these views. Individuals in the group are free to decide for themselves now. Back in the 1920s and 30s, however, the religious principle invoked was based on their belief that they should not take any blood into their own veins. The view was that vaccination caused animal blood cells to be injected into humans, and that was equated with eating blood. Here are the relevant quotes for that:

"Vaccination never prevented anything and never will, and is the most barbarous practice... We are in the last days; and the devil is slowly losing his hold, making a strenuous effort meanwhile to do all the damage he can, and to his credit can such evils be placed... Use your rights as American citizens to forever abolish the devilish practice of vaccinations."

"The public is not generally aware of how large an industry is the manufacture of serums, anti-toxins and vaccines, or that big business controls the whole industry... the boards of heath endeavor to start an epidemic of smallpox, diphtheria, or typhoid that they may reap a golden harvest by inoculating an unthinking community for the very purpose of disposing of this manufactured filth."

"Thinking people would rather have smallpox than vaccination, because the latter sows seeds of syphilis, cancers, eczema, erysipelas, scrofula, consumption, even leprosy and many other loathsome affections. Hence the practice of vaccinations is a crime, an outrage, and a delusion."

"Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood."

"As vaccination is a direct injection of animal matter in the blood stream, vaccination is a direct violation of the law of Jehovah God."

Quotes from The Golden Age magazine, from 1921 to 1935, particularly Feb. 4, 1931 issue, page 293.

By the late 1980s all of that had long stopped, and more neutral comments were made in The Awake! magazine (which replaced The Golden Age). For example, in the 22 June 1990 issue, page 28 merely reported statistics about the phenomenal success of the global smallpox vaccination campaign. It added that the World Health Organization held a few vials of the virus, but made no comment (nor any reference to the publisher's earlier stance, as quoted above!)

There are many factors involved in public reluctance to accept vaccinations. Ignorance at the outset is usually replaced, in time, with understanding of the many benefits, so that harmful results are viewed by the majority of the public as a lesser risk than not being vaccinated. If Christians state they have religious grounds for refusing, they may quote their religious leaders, or say it is a matter of individual Christian conscience. But some of the religious reasons given in the 1920s and 30s no longer get a mention because they are clearly just plain wrong.

3
  • 1
    People might be apt to replace "animal matter" with "synthetic mRNA" and make the same argument.
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 11 at 13:55
  • 1
    Should we edit the question to ask which religious group opposed vaccinations over the past 100 years but no longer does so?
    – Kris
    Oct 11 at 13:57
  • @Kris The Best Answer dealt with the specifics of the Q, though Double U commented that "a good answer should include information on the history of the British Columbia area, especially religious history, and maybe some coverage on the politics and general religious sensibilities." The 1562 Heidelberg Catechism was used in another answer to give some historical detail but I was looking at the 1900s to see how remnants of thinking then compare with this century. My answer pads-out with info; it's supplementary to already very good answers, so no changes to the Q are needed.
    – Anne
    Oct 12 at 7:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.