Maybe it’s time we love our neighbors’ children as well as we love our own
Look, I get that nostalgia is big right now.
We’ve got more 19th century beards, vinyl records, backyard gardens, and banjo music in the United States than at any other time in probably the past 50 years.
It’s a throwback to those halcyon days of previous generations.
But do you know what I’m not nostalgic for?
Like not in the least.
I’d be just fine without a new revival of one of the world’s most infectious diseases.
Or any other disease, for that matter, preventable by a readily available vaccine.
Of course, nostalgia, like the decision not to vaccinate one’s children, tends to be primarily an indulgence of the white and wealthy. Parents who refuse vaccines tend to be in both of those demographics. Any time a trend like this, with such clear and dire public health consequences, skews white and wealthy, then we must acknowledge that it’s also a race and class issue.
Some, though, want to frame this as an issue about personal choice. It’s about what individual parents are compelled to do with their own children by the government, some argue.
For Christians, however, this selfish individualistic mentality — the what’s good for me and mine and who cares about anyone else — goes against the core teachings of Jesus. One clear ethic resounding throughout the life of Jesus and his teachings is that we don’t have the luxury of ignoring each other. Instead, we have a responsibility to care for each other.
Vaccines aren’t about individual choices or even individuals. It’s not about you and your children. It’s about us. All of us.
It isn’t about how best to love and protect my children.
It’s about how best to love and protect all of our children.
It’s about us as species finally making headway against killer diseases after millions of years of evolution and high child mortality.
It’s about us as a human family, joining hands to protect each other and particularly the vulnerable whose compromised or weakened immune systems can’t handle vaccines.
So maybe it’s time we love our neighbors’ children as well as we love our own.
So, if you are a Christian, and you are wondering whether you should vaccinated your children, look at the teachings of Jesus. That’s right, I think Jesus would have been pro-vaccine. He was a healer, after all. Vaccines have prevented scores of disabling and deadly diseases in children. And had they had vaccines in first-century Galilee, it might have cut down on Jesus’ miracle workload, which he seemed to dislike anyway.
In fact, the vaccines that have prevented polio or the measles might well seem like miracles to people who remember when those diseases ravaged lives, when they could not be stopped by science and vaccines but only prayed against in desperate hope.
So, when you take your children to the doctor, check your privilege as a white, wealthy, or healthy person.
Don’t let your privilege and personal choice harm others or put the vulnerable at risk.
Indulging in nostalgia is fine, really, just so long as you aren’t endangering your neighbor.
So spin your vinyl.
Pluck your banjo.
Grow your beard.
Plant your vegetables.
But love your neighbor.
And vaccinate your children.
David R. Henson is a priest in the Episcopal church.
Read more from Patheos:
- Vaccines Have Become a Political Wedge Issue, and There May Be Only One Solution
- Measles, Mainline Protestants, and Fueling “Outrage Culture”
- Is the Anti-Vaccination Movement Taking You for a Ride?
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email email@example.com.