The president of America’s largest evangelical religion, the Southern Baptist Convention, posted a photo on Facebook last week in which he received the COVID-19 vaccine. It attracted more than 1100 comments. Many of them admired the respected JD Greear, many others attacked him.
Some critics wondered if fans would now need “vaccine passports” to enter the Durham Summit Church in North Carolina, where Greer is pastor. Others portrayed the vaccines as satanic or safe, or assumed that Greer was complicit in government propaganda.
The split reaction enabled a phenomenon that has become more apparent in recent polls. Vaccine pessimism is more prevalent among white Evangelicals than almost any other major American bloc.
A March poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 40 percent of white Evangelical Protestants were unlikely to be vaccinated, compared with 25 percent of all Americans and 28 percent of non-white Protestants. %: Protestants.
The findings have caused concern even in evangelical circles. The National Evangelical Association, which represents more than 45,000 local churches, is part of a new coalition that will organize events, work with the media, and distribute various public messages to build trust among cautious evangelicals.
“The path to an end to the epidemic is through the Evangelical Church,” said Curtis Chang, a former pastor-missionary who founded ChristianAndTheVaccine.com, the cornerstone of the new Evangelical initiative, which makes up about 20 percent of the US population. Vaccination of half of them seriously hinders efforts to achieve herd immunity.
Many evangelical leaders have spoken out in favor of vaccinations, from the pastor of the Dallas mega-church, Robert Ff, to St. Russell Moore, head of public policy for Southern Baptists.
Ff Eferes thinks that most of his congregation in Dallas First Baptist welcomes vaccines, while some have doubts about their safety or are concerned about abortion. Ephraim is one of many religious leaders who say that advanced vaccines are acceptable because of their long-term, indirect links to cell lines developed from aborted fruits.
Moore expressed hope that SBC pastors would give “wise counsel” to their congregations if members raised questions about vaccinations.
“These vaccines are an opportunity for evangelicals to celebrate and thank God,” he said in an e-mail. “I’m sure pastors and lay people want the churches to be full again. Vaccines will help us all get there sooner rather than later.”
The other evangelical pastors were hesitant to take a public stand.
Aaron Harris, pastor of Galvarian Baptist Church in Unicint City, Kansas, did not discuss the vaccine from the pulpit or decide whether he would be vaccinated.
“We do not believe that this is a biblical question. “It’s a personal matter,” said Harris, who estimates that 50 percent of congregation elders have been vaccinated, while smaller members plan to do so.
“We should not be afraid of the virus, because we believe in eternity. However, just because we are not afraid of it, where is the line that we need to take? ” He asked. “I am not going to lie in front of a group of alligators to show my faith that way.”
Some Christians say they prefer to leave their destiny in God’s hands rather than be vaccinated.
“We’re going through all sorts of trials and tribulations, but we still know where we’re going in the end,” said Ron Holloway, 75, of Forsyth, Missouri. “And the heavens are much better than they are here on earth. Why did we fight to leave? ”
Brazon Elkins, caretaker pastor of the Sovereign Grace Society in the state of Brasoria, said Elks Elkins, about 50 miles south of Houston, said only one person had been vaccinated.
“We are in a very liberal area. “Everything that seems to come from the federal government fluctuates a lot,” said Elkins, who is also refusing the vaccine, at least for now, along with his wife.
Elkins, whose father was a professor of gynecology at Sons Hopkins Medical School, said his teammates’ suspicions were unfounded.
“It is a skepticism about efficiency,” he said. “People are worried that it came out too soon.”
Philip Bethankour, another South Baptist pastor in Texas, has encouraged his college Central College congregation to get the vaccine and believes there will be more will. The church held a collection of vaccines for staff և other volunteers. 217 people received the first dose on March 22.
“Even people who are medically skeptical can understand it in terms of efficiency,” he said. “If it helps more people to be able to serve in their church again so that more children can learn about Jesus, that’s a good thing.”
Bethankour, former vice-chair of the SBC Committee on Ethics and Freedom of Religion, spoke to congregations that deny the vaccine, saying they fear death if it is God’s will.
He said that “the mood does not bother me, but there is a discrepancy.” “We do not accept this mentality in other aspects of our lives, such as not wearing a seat belt.”
Chang said that as a former pastor, he understands why there are some people whose congregations are unsure of the government և vaccines, rather than taking risks themselves if they are urged to get vaccinated.
“It will take some courage,” he said.
His initiative includes a pastoral toolkit that offers suggestions on how to address the various concerns of pessimistic evangelicals in Christian circles. They range from the degree of abortion of vaccines to whether they represent the “trace of the beast,” the ominous ominous prophecy prophesied in the book of Revelation.
The partner of the initiative is the Advertising Board, which is known for public service advertising campaigns such as Smokey Bear և “Friends do not let drunk people drive”.
“We know faith plays a vital role in the lives of millions of people across the country,” said Lisa Sherman, chair of the Ad Board, who expressed hope that the campaign could boost their confidence in vaccines.
When the vaccines first became available, there was widespread concern that many black Americans were reluctant to take them due to historical, racist distrust of health care initiatives. But recent research shows that Protestants are more open to vaccinations than white Evangelicals.
“This plague has struck our community like a plague, and it has made our work easier,” said Timothy Clark, Bishop of the First Church of God at Evangelical Church in Columbus, Ohio. “We have done a tremendous job of education.”
Associated Press writer Heather Holingsworth contributed to this report in Kansas City, Missouri.
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