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20 Mar 2014 UPDATED – Counterpoint: On Vaccines, State Power and Christian Living

Updated with Reader response below UPDATE from author: I have had an incredible amount of interaction on this post, with many Reformed readers strongly opposed to my position for various reasons (for example, see the discussion on our Facebook page here). I have been very impressed with the overall tone and respect used in the dialogue. Those opposed to my arguments have shown much grace when interacting with what I wrote, which I really appreciate. I have in the past written about much less important issues in secular forums and have been verbally assaulted for my views, so I must say that I much prefer interacting with fellow Christians on very sensitive issues. Furthermore, because of the respectful tone, I am all the more compelled to rethink my position. I'm not sure yet if I'll write more on this topic (I'm hardly qualified to do so from a medical perspective, although the more theoretical questions of public policy remain intriguing to me). Nevertheless, I want to republish a counterpoint to my counterpoint from one concerned parent. He wrote thoughtfully and thoroughly, carefully interacting with my arguments while exemplifying grace in his critique. Thank you! Please see appended below for the text of the counterargument. As always, we appreciate your feedback.  One final note of clarification: many have referred to "ARPA's position" in discussing this issue. Please note - ARPA does not have a position on the vaccine issue. What is written below was the opinion of one staff member responding to the contrary position held by another staff member. Earlier this week, my colleague posted an article about the ongoing measles vaccination controversy in southern BC. After outlining the two competing Reformed views on the issue, he concludes, "Although there are differing perspectives on the issue, we should be able to agree that it is a parent's responsibility to make decisions about what is best for their child and that authority can only be interfered with in exceptional circumstances. It is good for Christians to respectfully challenge each other's moral conclusions, as iron sharpens iron. There are huge consequences - including for our neighbours. But this is fundamentally a discussion for parents, families, friends, and churches - not the legal system." I accept his invitation to challenge his conclusion, as iron sharpens iron. While I am in total agreement with the first three sentences in the concluding paragraph above, I have concerns with the concluding sentence. When we say that measles vaccination is "fundamentally a discussion for parents, families, friends, and churches - not the legal system", I believe we have simplified the issue to our detriment. Indeed, in the discussions that surround this touchy issue, most who are against vaccinations make the error of lumping all vaccines together. But there is an enormous difference between a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease (for example), and a measles vaccine. To conclude that not vaccinating your child against the potentially fatal or crippling measles virus is "fundamentally a discussion for parents" would be like saying that a child caught stealing cookies could be punished by flicking his hand or by having his hand chopped off with a meat cleaver, since child discipline is all a matter of parental authority - "fundamentally a discussion for parents". All our readers would agree that such a stance is indefensible. The reason is not because we think parents shouldn't discipline their child for stealing a cookie. The reason is because we need to examine the nature of the disciplinary action, apart from the broader issue of parental authority in child discipline. So also, with an issue like vaccinations, we need to examine the nature of the vaccines and their corresponding diseases, and not just vaccines in general.
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17 Mar 2014 Vaccine Controversy: Reformed Churches Speak Out

Some parts of the Reformed community are making quite the stir in parts of Canada recently, and it is not positive. “When your neighbours may be hazardous to your health” was the title of yet another article that made the case that a Reformed community in BC’s Fraser Valley is contributing to a measles outbreak because of their refusal to vaccinate. Similar stories have appeared at times in Southern Alberta and Southern Ontario in the past decade - all areas where Reformed congregations are located. The latest rash of public outrage...

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09 Sep 2011 Double negative: Marci McDonald’s mudslinging should be seen as a compliment to those she maligns . . . like ARPA Canada

By Michael Wagner, Published in the July/August 2010 issue of Reformed Perspective magazine (reformedperspective.ca), p. 7: The Christians are coming! Christians now occupy important places of influence in Stephen Harper's federal government and are surreptitiously changing policies without Canadians being aware of what's going on. We’ve even managed to put Canada on the road to becoming a theocracy! Or at least, that's what Marci McDonald would have Canadians believe. In her bestselling book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada (Random House, 2010) she sets out to warn Canadians that they will lose their rights and freedoms unless this sinister Christian plot is exposed and halted.
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10 Aug 2011 Parliament, the courts, and matters of life and death

By Don Hutchinson, National Post, Aug 9 2011: It’s a troubling trend, inspired by Evangelical Christians. A judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court has agreed to fast track the lawsuit of Gloria Taylor, who suffers from ALS and is seeking to have a doctor assist her in ending her life. What’s troubling is that the House of Commons has defeated proposed legislation to legalize physician assisted suicide three times in the last six years, most recently in April 2010. Because the will of Parliament,...

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10 Jun 2011 10 Very Realistic Goals for Canada in the Next Four Years

(www.ARPACanada.ca - June 2011 - M Penninga) Regardless of what one thinks about the Conservative Party and Stephen Harper, the very nature of a stable majority government that identifies itself with conservative principles should mean that Canadians can expect to see changes to our governance. But as with all things in life, much more will be accomplished when goals are set and accountability is in place to keep the goals front and centre. Over the next four years, at least 10 noteworthy steps can be taken by our nation if our leaders have the courage to lead and if citizens give them the encouragement and accountability to do so. The Harper Conservative government could very realistically...
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28 Apr 2011 Globe and Mail Endorses Conservatives

ARPA Note: We are non-partisan and trust our readers to make principled decisions about who to vote for. Please use the remaining days to encourage others to vote. Globe and Mail, April 28 2011: We are nearing the end of an unremarkable and disappointing election campaign, marked by petty scandals, policy convergences and a dearth of serious debate. Canadians deserved better. We were not presented with an opportunity to vote for something bigger and bolder, nor has there been an honest recognition of the most critical...

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26 Apr 2011 Hutchinson vs Piper: Can Christians Vote for a Candidate Who is Not Pro-Life?

In the latest Activate CFPL article, Don Hutchinson (Director of EFC's Centre for Faith and Public Life) argues that it can be OK to vote for a candidate who is not pro-life (specifically in regard to abortion). In contrast, John Piper (Desiring God) has argued that although endorsing a single issue (like pro-life) does not make a person qualified for public office, there are single issues that disqualify someone from public office. Supporting the killing of unborn humans is one of them. What do you think? Keep in mind that...

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26 Apr 2011 Know Who You are Voting For

My Canada has compiled an extensive document that shows how each MP has voted on previous bills including the definition of marriage, raising the age of sexual consent, child trafficking, euthanasia, coerced abortion, and the transgendered bill. Click here to find the colour-coded document. Click here for the www.voteprayserve.ca website that has much more information....

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21 Apr 2011 Brad said the “A” word

April 21, 2011 - By Mark Penninga, Executive Director of ARPA Canada (www.ARPACanada.ca): Update: Watch Dave Quist (Director of the IMFC) express these same sentiments on the new Sun News network here. The reaction to comments by Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost about the funding of Planned Parenthood reminds me of third grade children who squeal with delight after a vulgar word is uttered. The mainstream media is shouting it from the roof tops: “Brad said the A-word, Brad said the A-word!” And school principal Stephen Harper called an urgent press conference to remind us all again that the A-word will never be mentioned as long as he is in charge.
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14 Apr 2011 Hidden in plain sight: The Tory evangelical factor

By Jonathan Malloy, Globe and Mail, April 13 2011: The full significance of the Conservatives’ proposal to establish an office of religious freedom in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has not been recognized. A Globe and Mail editorial supported the proposal as good for refugees and religious minorities abroad, and a news item noted its relevance to, among other groups, Coptic Christians in a key Mississauga swing riding. A prominent Ottawa journalist I consulted said it’s “just a sop to ethnic...

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