Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!
So apparently it’s still not cool to write bad things about religion. Even when what is said is totally accurate.
The feedback to last week’s Grant Rant about the spread of measles in Canada due to members of a Dutch Reformed Christian community that spurns vaccines has generated some passionate, if sometimes confused response.
The first response by some was, believe or not, to suggest there is no such thing as Dutch Reformed Christianity at all and I was engaging in a bit of…well I guess Dutch-baiting might be the polite way to put it. It’s a line of reasoning that is a bit like standing in Rome and saying the Vatican is just a chippy van.
More serious were replies from Dutch Reformed believers themselves. Only one person would straight up admit that there are a) some Dutch Reformed believers who do not vaccinate, although they tend to be in the minority of the community and are largely shunned from the rest and b) vaccines are good.
But even they struck the same tone as the rest of those who have written to me: which is to say that “picking” on the Dutch Reformed community isn’t fair. A few said I was making outrageous claims out the Dutch Reformed community when I point out that some Dutch Reformers from the Netherlands who do not vaccinate came to visit their brothers and sisters of the faith in Canada, who also do not vaccinate, and ended up causing two outbreaks (one in BC and the other in Alberta.)
Now, it is true to say that lots of Dutch Reformed Christians get their vaccines just like most Canadians. But like all sects of Christianity, Dutch Reformed Christianity isn’t some monolithic entity with mindless drones for followers. Like all sects of Christianity, it has schisms and sub groups which generally fall under the umbrella of “Dutch Reformed.” One of these groups – the one in Holland with members that visited Canada – are directly responsible for the outbreaks in this country.
It is not picking on Dutch Reformed believers to point out the facts. Measles is a highly contagious and potentially lethal disease. It can kill and disfigure children. Any community of people who refuses the measles vaccine will become a vector for spreading the disease. That is a fact of life. Like gravity. Public health experts, whose job it is investigate outbreaks for reasons that should be obvious, have traced the outbreaks in Canada to visiting Dutch Reformed believers from Holland. This is not “picking” on Dutch Reformed believers. It is not a “claim”. It is a matter of undeniable fact.
We’ve seen this before. Niagara suffered a whooping cough outbreak thanks to members of a Low-German speaking Mennonite community in Guelph who refuse to vaccinate for the same reasons as the Dutch Reformed believers – they think it is contrary to the will of their chosen sky deity. Those Mennonites visited friends and family in Niagara, who were also vaccinated, and spread the disease locally.
Even those who accept the facts rather than retreating into wish thinking, still think I should not be pointing out that Dutch Reformed believers are the source of these current outbreaks. Their faith is deep and sincere, they say. They believe the Bible to be true and the law of their god to be for the good of the world. They don’t like their religion being referred to as mythology because they believe it the true facts of the universe.
I just don’t care.
It doesn’t matter how honestly or deeply they believe, or how nice they are. Those responsible for spreading a potentially fatal illness in Canada should be held to account. We should not hide the facts because it makes others who share the religion of those responsible feel uncomfortable.
We should protect freedom of religion and speech with our dying breaths. But freedom comes with responsibility to our fellow citizens, even those with whom disagree. And part of that responsibility is not doing things that will result in the harm of others.
It seems to me that those who are upset that Dutch Reformed Christians are being called to account for spreading measles are more worried about their faith than the well being of others. They are unconcerned with the suffering some of their brothers and sisters in faith are causing.
It seems to me that those members of the Dutch Reformed community who do vaccinate and accept science and evidence, should spend less time complaining that their faith is getting bad press, and more time talking to their fellow believers who are spreading measles.