To my surprise, the fall out from Chris Christie’s recent exuberantly bootlicking comments about vaccinations has stuck in my craw. Never a science guy, issues of public health do not normally get my blood flowing nor am I even riled by the staggering incongruity between the current measles (note: not ebola) epidemic and Christie’s claptrap.
No, what’s vexed me, even before I came across the FB pic above, is the repeated insinuation by
some many that abstention from vaccination is justifiable on the grounds that vaccinations cause autism. Never mind that this is a bogeyman belief has about as much science behind as creationism, such ‘justification’ in no small way implies that the spread of deadly, agonizing, possibly pandemic diseases is to be preferred to children with cognitive disabilities.
For a number of years my girlfriend now wife worked with children with autism so perhaps I’m especially sensitive, but I don’t think so.
I don’t think so though. I am, after all, a Christian.
You’d never know it from the Red/Blue, Left/Right soundbites we trade over issues like abortion, but the Christian ethic is distinct. Christians do not simply take positions, weigh means and ends, or obey moral prohibitions.
Christians are called to make visible an alternative reality we term in our tribal jargon ‘The Kingdom.’
Christians are to embody something that is otherwise invisible to the Chris Christies and __________________ (insert bloviating liberal’s name) of the world.
What too often gets mirco-focused as Christianity’s opposition to abortion is only the negative side to a more positive, comprehensive and theological ethic: the community’s openness to new life and welcome of all life as gift .
Christianity’s welcome of children is a way that the Christian community makes visible our belief in God’s faithfulness.
No matter how the Republican platform reads, it’s not simply that Christian are required to obey moral prohibitions- scripture contains no explicit prohibition on abortion. Rather, the Christian community is one that is always open and ready to the possibility of new life, not simply because abortion is wrong but because our openness and willingness to accept all life as gift makes visible the invisible, ongoing power of the Resurrection.
Christians have no illusions about how difficult much of life can be. Such illusions are an impossibility if Christians are truly engaged on behalf of the marginalized and forgotten. Nonetheless, Christians persists in welcoming- all- children because such openness becomes our sign of hope that the God of Easter is a God who refuses to abandon creation to its present darkness.
Indeed our openness to all forms of life owes to our recognition that:
The God who took flesh in Jesus is a God who most often reveals himself to us through the stranger.
And to us ‘normal’ people, there is often no stranger person than the person with autism.
Contrary to the hysteria, then, Christians do not see persons with autism as people to be pitied. As much as the Samaritan or Christ himself, they are strangers bearing the grace of God.
Christians believe they bear the gifts of God because it’s most precisely with those we cannot control, anticipate or manipulate that we best learn how to love. People with autism and other disabilities bear gifts exactly because they force us to learn how to love on terms other than our own. In this way, our love, even more so than our welcoming posture, becomes a sign of God’s fidelity.
“Children, the weak, the ill, the dispossessed provide a particularly intense occasion for such love, as they are beings we cannot control. We must love them for what they are rather than what we want or wish them to be, and as a result we discover that we are capable of love…the different between the non-Christian and the Christian is only that what is a possibility for the non-Christian is a duty for the Christian.”