A Baptist preacher and his wife decided to get a new dog. Ever mindful of the congregation, they knew the dog must also be a Baptist. They visited kennel after kennel and explained their needs. Finally, they found a kennel whose owner assured them he had just the dog they wanted. The owner brought the dog to meet the pastor and his wife. “Fetch the Bible,” he commanded. The dog bounded to the bookshelf, scrutinized the books, located the Bible, and brought it to the owner. “Now find Psalm 23,” he commanded. The dog dropped the Bible to the floor, and showing marvelous dexterity with his paws, leafed through and finding the correct passage, pointed to it with his paw. The pastor and his wife were very impressed and purchased the dog. That evening, a group of church members came to visit. The pastor and his wife began to show off the dog, having him locate several Bible verses. The visitors were very impressed. One man asked, “Can he do regular dog tricks, too?” “I haven’t tried yet,” the pastor replied. He pointed his finger at the dog. “Heel!” the pastor commanded. The dog immediately jumped on a chair, placed one paw on the pastor’s forehead and began to howl. The pastor looked at his wife in shock and said, “Good Lord! He’s Pentecostal!”
This past week, a Pentecostal church of the “health and wealth” gospel variety has been in the national news due to a measles outbreak within its flock. (Note, not all Pentecostal churches are of this kind). The Eagle Mountain International Center outside Dallas, Texas, is a 1,500 member mega-church. It is also the home to the “health and wealth” gospel ministry of Kenneth Copeland. This is a worldwide work with millions of followers via radio, television, print, and conferences. Their message is quite simple – if you are not healthy and wealthy, it is because you lack faith in God. How then do you increase your wealth? Trust the Lord with your money rather than a banker. How then do you increase your health? Trust the Lord with your body rather than a doctor. And according to Ken Copeland and daughter Terri (she pastors the church), a good way to demonstrate the latter is when you first usually come into contact with the medical community, i.e. childhood vaccinations. They both have gone on record as advocating that you can show real trust in God by not letting your children get their recommended needles. And all was fine until that day when one of their un-vaccinated folk returned home from a trip abroad with the measles virus – and suddenly red spots began popping up everywhere on their un-vaccinated flock. Reeling from adverse publicity and undoubtedly fearing lawsuits, the Copelands quickly changed their tune and immediately set up free vaccination clinics in the church. They then shut down the entire property so a medical-cleaning company could come in and sanitize everything. And the hypocrisy of now urging everyone to get their shots? Simple – the Copelands say their previous comments were obviously misunderstood and they really were in favour of vaccinations all along.
The bottom line? On one hand, I am aware of the rise of parental concern about vaccinations and side effects. On the other hand, I am also aware that the diploma in my office is a degree in theology, not medicine. So when it comes to the measles vaccine, the last thing I or any minister should be doing is giving our measly advice.