As the United States proceeds to vaccinate its population against COVID-19 the one group resisting vaccination are white evangelicals. In addition some white evangelicals are using social media to say that the vaccine and face masks are the mark of the beast in Revelation. In this same Pew Research Study white evangelicals are more likely to neglect their neighbors and not care about people who are at higher risk. In contrast over 90% of atheists are supportive of taking the COVID-19 vaccine and are doing so or planning to do so. But as white evangelicals traffic in disinformation on social media this blog wants to pose a question. Are they more prone to disinformation from Russian troll farms online?
“Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. Science is the highest personification of the nation because that nation will remain the first which carries the furthest the works of thought and intelligence.“
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
Deuteronomy 7:9 NIV
Oregon Public Broadcasting on Herd Immunity.
There has been some interesting news with white evangelicals and the COVID-19 pandemic. And it also reinforces how many white evangelicals are still stuck in Dayton, Tennessee unable to move past the Scopes Monkey Trial. The United States is in a campaign, really a race to vaccinate the country. As this has developed there are some variants of COVID-19 that pose a risk. But the variants are indicators of a pandemic that was poorly managed that ran loose. Now with the Moderna, Pzifer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines there is hope that progress can be made against the coronavirus. The writer of this blog is a firm supporter of science and also vaccines. When I get fully vaccinated I intend to do a post about that development. This blog would also encourage every person who reads this post to register for and take the COVID-19 vaccine.
White Evangelicals Are Less Likely to Take the COVID-19 for Many Reasons But Some Also Believe That the Vaccine is the Mark of the Beast
A new Pew Research Study came out that looked at Christians and the COVID-19 vaccine. It found that blacks are planning to or will take the COVID-19 vaccine. In American history there is the dark stories of experimentation that took pace at Tuskegee. Studies that led to syphilis infection and other health hazards. And while blacks are hesitant, according to Pew over 64% of them “definitely or plan to get vaccinated” with the COVID-19 vaccine. But attention has turned to another group which is rejecting science. Only 54% of white evangelicals have said that they plan to get vaccinated. In that some study when asked white evangelicals also said that they care less about their neighbors or their community when it comes to becoming vaccinated. Only 48% of white evangelicals would consider the community health effects “a lot.” That number is in stark contrast to 70% of Black Protestants, 65% of Catholics and 68% of unaffiliated people.
But there is another problem related to white evangelicals and the COVID vaccine. According to the Washington Post white evangelicals are using social media to discourage others from taking the COVID-190 vaccine or use a facemasks because it is the mark of the beast in Revelation. Read the following Post paragraphs.
Some churches and Christian ministries with large online followings — as well as Christian influencers on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube — are making false claims that vaccines contain fetal tissue or microchips, or are construing associations between vaccine ingredients and the devil. Others talk about how coronavirus vaccines and masks contain or herald the “mark of the beast,” a reference to an apocalyptic passage from the Book of Revelation that suggests that the Antichrist will test Christians by asking them to put a mark on their bodies.
The rapid spread of this material has triggered debate and concern among U.S. Christian leaders and experts who believe the religious movement against vaccines is growing, even as many leaders such as Pope Francis and Southern Baptist Convention policy leader Russell Moore are urging people to get shots. Both approved vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, passed rigorous federal safety reviews and were shown to be more than 94 percent effective at preventing disease.
“In the summertime, I thought, these are just fringe beliefs. But the further we got into the pandemic, I realized, these are very widely held, and I was surprised by how many Christians and churches subscribe to this,” said Emily Smith, an epidemiologist at Baylor University, a private Christian university in Waco, Tex. She runs a large Facebook page dedicated to discussing covid-19.
Smith, who is Christian and married to a Baptist pastor, said her posts trying to disavow anti-vaccine sentiment have been met with hostile responses and threats.
“It’s one of the scariest and most disheartening parts of this, that so many people think that when you put on a mask, it is the mark of the beast or signals that you don’t have faith or God isn’t in control,” she added.
If you would like to read more about all this you can do so in the articles below.
- Relevant, “White Evangelicals Are Least Likely To Get Vaccinated Of Any Religious Group.”
- Religion News Service, “Black Protestants aren’t least likely to get a vaccine; white evangelicals are.“
- Michael Gerson in the Washington Post, “White evangelicals are wary of the vaccine. It shouldn’t come as a surprise..“
- Washington Post, “On social media, vaccine misinformation mixes with extreme faith.“
While Half of White Evangelicals Are Rejecting the Vaccine Over 90% of Atheists Are Embracing the COVID-19 Vaccine
Usually this blog avoids Murdoch media but recently saw something in the New York Post that was interesting. According to the Post over 90% of all atheists plan to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Here is what the New York Post said.
Atheists have a reputation for putting their faith in science, not divination.
Now, it’s a fact. A new Pew Research Center survey shows that the godless are more likely to get vaccinated for COVID-19 compared to religious groups — as 90% of atheist respondents said that they will “definitely” or “probably” seek the shot, or have already received their first vaccine dose.
The atheists are enthusiastic and supportive of the vaccine and this response is good for the nation.
Are White Evangelicals More Prone to Online Russian Disinformation Campaigns?
This blog would like to ask a question that has been on my mind for a while. In the news these past few months there have been multiple stories about how Russia has mounted a disinformation campaign aimed at Americans with the intent of sowing doubt. Are white evangelicals more prone to disinformation campaigns? Before the COVID-19 pandemic even began it was learned that Russian troll farms were active in pushing disinformation saying that vaccines were dangerous and could not be trusted. This was to include regular vaccines that protect the public against such diseases as measles, mumps and rubella and other highly infectious diseases. The BBC reported that in 2019 the Russian Internet Agency used social media form 2014 until 2017 to turn people against vaccines and reject them. Vaccines were being turned into a wedge issue. Mark Dredze from John Hopkins University told the BBC, “By playing both sides, they erode public trust in vaccination, exposing us all to the risk of infectious diseases.” The other day the Wall Street Journal reported that Russian intelligence had undertaken an information operations campaign that was aimed to get people to reject the Pzifer vaccine by saying its dangerous, risky and won’t protect people from COVID-19. The Wall Street Journal has a paywall but The Hill reported on this issue also. Here is what they say.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the official, from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), identified four small online publications that are spreading false and misleading claims by playing up the vaccines’ side effects, questioning their efficacy and claiming that the U.S. had rushed the development of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine.
The official said he believes the websites are fronts for Russian intelligence, and their false narratives are being amplified by Russian and international media, the Journal reports.
“We can say these outlets are directly linked to Russian intelligence services,” the GEC official told the newspaper. “They’re all foreign-owned, based outside of the United States. They vary a lot in their reach, their tone, their audience, but they’re all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem.”
According to the official, New Eastern Outlook and Oriental Review are directly controlled by the Russian foreign intelligence agency SVR. Another online publication, News Front, is allegedly guided by Russia’s FSB and has ties to Kremlin funding. Rebel Inside, an online publication that covers riots, is controlled by the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, according to the GEC official.
“Russian intelligence services bear direct responsibility for using these four platforms to spread propaganda and lies,” a State department spokesperson told the Journal. “From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, we have seen Russia’s disinformation ecosystem develop and spread false narratives around the crisis.”
I’m going to do some analysis on this in the next section.
If you would like to read more about all this you can do so in the articles below.
- The Hill, “Russia trying to undermine confidence in COVID-19 vaccines: report.“
- CNN, “With vaccine rollout comes onslaught of disinformation.“
- BBC, “Russia trolls ‘spreading vaccination misinformation’ to create discord.“
Analysis and Closing Thoughts
What are the odds? Jesus once taught you are to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Then you are to love your neighbor as yourself. This blog would contend that many evangelicals fail miserable to love the Lord. But this blog would also contend that many evangelicals do not love their neighbor. Can you love your neighbor when you push conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine and warped beliefs about Q Anon? Is it possible that evangelicals can drag out the COVID-19 pandemic and result in even more death and loss of life? But Gorsuch, pro-life only matters when it comes to abortion. Nothing else is of concern. Now let’s flip this and look at it from another perspective. What does it say when atheists show more commitment and love to the communities they call home than the white evangelical Christian. If the evangelicals drag out the pandemic what does it say if the atheists in the country take the vaccine at such higher rates that it can help the country reach herd immunity. Remember the country is growing deeply secular with many identifying with the nones. Will that be ironic? That it could be the atheists who help the social health improve that will allow the Christians to go back to church. The irony of that is dripping.
This blog writes about atheism but what does it show when so many Christians are stuck and hostile to science. It means that many can’t move beyond the Scopes Monkey Trial. Many are stuck and can’t face the facts. What are alternative facts? Perhaps a literal young earth creation? But think of it like this when the movement you are involved in has Ken Ham as your spokesman and a giant ark in Kentucky, or discourages evolution should you be surprised that one rejects vaccines? The reality is that many evangelicals like to portray themselves one way, but the cold hard reality shows them to be another perspective. They think they are loving but are you loving when you reject your neighbor and community? Not only is that selfish but is also goes against what Jesus says or teaches.
But there is another aspect that I would like to ask. Up above I write about how Russian intelligence is pushing disinformation about COVID-19 and and other vaccines in a wedge like issue. Here is my question has the constant culture wars of the evangelicals opened them up to be manipulated by Russian intelligence? Have Russian intelligence organizations such as the FSB and others done psychological studies on evangelicals and learned of their hostility to science, obsession with conspiracy theories and their culture and figured out a way to play them. Its one thing to neglect and not love your neighbor. Its quite another to take aid and comfort from the adversary even if you can’t acknowledge it or reject the “facts” because you do not like what they say. When some say “Fake News” what they mean is that they “I don’t want to admit that I am wrong or face reality.” Its profoundly sad as these questions needs to be asked. From my time in evangelicalism there was an uptick in the culture wars from 1999 until 2017. I was caught flat footed. I hope I am wrong in all this but time will tell.
Meanwhile again I want to emphasize this fact. If you read this post please register and get an appointment to take the COVID-19. For those of you nervous please consult with your primary care doctor and seek their advice and discuss any doubts or concerns you have. Each person can either play an affirming role or they can contribute to the problem. I understand there may be a couple of issues for a tiny fraction of the population. That’s why people like me are taking the vaccine. But talk with your doctor and then contact your local health department. Some of you will have longer waits. But hang in there. And in closing if this post makes some evangelicals uncomfortable then it will have done its job.