In Virginia two evangelical pastors who dismissed the COVID-19 pandemic contracted the virus and subsequently died of it. Both downplayed and dismissed it as hysteria and did not follow the warnings. The current pandemic is revealing what happens when evangelicals reject science. In this particular situation its leading to lost lives.
“Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver … in the end, the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.”
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV
As we enter into May 2020 the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic keeps going up. While it appears to be slowing, many people are still losing their lives in this medical crisis. As of May 1, we are at 64,000 deaths of COVID-19 in the United States. What I find to be exceptionally frightening is that scientists and experts in public health are predicting that the second wave of COVID-19 will be far more fatal than the first. Meanwhile in this pandemic you have American evangelicals who have a number of their own issues. One of the major flaws of evangelicalism is how many reject science. Not only are some evangelicals fighting the wars over science that the Catholic church fought in the 1600’s. But one of the long term legacies of the Scopes Monkey Trial in my view is the further rejection of science. Stop and think about it for a minute. The Vatican has an observatory while many evangelicals flock to Ken Ham’s Ark in Kentucky that teaches that has dinosaurs. While Catholic schools like the University of Notre Dame, Marquette, Georgetown, and others have a robust science and chemistry programs. Schools such as Jerry Falwell Jr’s Liberty University have programs aimed at defending creation science. Now here we are in the middle of a pandemic and what does that mean for evangelicals? Their rejection of science is leading to lives being lost. Lives that could otherwise be saved if science is taken seriously.
Gerald O. Glenn and Landon Spradlin
This is an example of this problem of evangelicalism. Gerald O Glenn was a former police officer who became a pastor. In 1995 he planted and led New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Richmond, Virginia. In time Glenn became a chaplain for the Chesterfield, Virginia Police. Chesterfield is just south of Richmond. New Deliverance Evangelistic Church is a part of the Church of God in Christ and is Pentacostal. As the COVID-19 pandemic grew and reached Virginia Glenn became proud. As restriction of large group meetings were being worked on for people’s wellbeing Glenn preached about how his faith was bigger than the virus and how God was supreme. Glenn from my research ignored warnings about public gatherings and held a church service on March 22, 2020. As a result he contracted the coronavirus and then went into the hospital a second time and went on a respirator. On the even of Easter he died of the coronavirus. In the process his family also be came infected and they were dealing with the virus. If you want to read more you can do so in the following Washington Post article, “Prominent Virginia pastor who said ‘God is larger than this dreaded virus’ dies of covid-19” and this New York Post article called, “Virginia pastor who defiantly held church service dies of coronavirus.” The Friendly Atheist also wrote about the situation which you can read here.
In Virginia there was another evangelical pastor who met a similar fate. Landon Spradlin came from Chatham and as an evangelical musician became controversial. As a Pentacostal he believed God could heal anything, and to doubt such miracles was a sin. He claimed to have known people cured of AIDS. From my research he embraced Christian nationalism and was a Trumpvangelical. The controversial evangelist who played music travel 900 miles from Virginia to New Orleans to engage in evangelism during Mardi Gras. He became ill as he was ill he talked about the liberal media and the hysteria they were creating with the coronavirus. On Facebook he shared posts stating that the coronavirus was no different than swine flu. When driving back to Virginia he collapsed in North Carolina. He then died of the coronavirus. If you want to read more about this you can do so in the following BBC article, “Coronavirus: Pastor who decried ‘hysteria’ dies after attending Mardi Gras” and the following Washington Post article, “A Virginia preacher believed ‘God can heal anything.’ Then he caught coronavirus.“
Recent Article in the London Independent and Some Closing Thoughts
The London Independent had an article that hinted at what happens when evangelicals reject science. In the Bible Belt the article looked at how some evangelicals were responding. Some spoke of the liberal hysteria over COVID-19 and how the virus is no different than the flu. Others clung to the claim of “religious freedom” and demanded the right to meet and claimed they were being persecuted. Within the Church of God in Christ denomination which is black the number of pastors who are dying of the COVID-19 is spiking. You can read more in the Independent article in, “‘A phantom plague’: America’s Bible Belt played down the pandemic and even cashed in. Now dozens of pastors are dead.” I was planning to write this article but it also follows up well to what I published yesterday about how some in my former church in Wisconsin spreading junk science in regards to COVID-19. You can read that article in, “Wooded Hills Church in the Milwaukee Area, Junk Science and the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The tragedy in all this is that a number of these lives being lost could be saved if evangelicals just accepted science. What would happen if evangelicals faced the facts about COVID-19? Why are evangelicals fighting the religious wars of the 1600’s in 2020? For many people its a deal breaker that evangelicals reject science. Its one of the many reasons why the movement is flawed. The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing a lot about our culture and society. With evangelicals its revealing how cheap and intellectually shallow many are. Couple that with an inability to show humility and admit error and then you can see why evangelicalism is shipwrecked. As this pandemic drags on expect to see more deaths of evangelicals. What this blog would like to do is study the numbers of evangelicals who died and compare them with other numbers of fatalities. That could be very revealing in the end. Until then I will have to wait for the final numbers or toll to study the scope of the devastation. In the meantime follow social distancing etiquette and stay home and be safe.