We need to talk some more about evangelicals and Covid, don’t we?
Last week, I posed the question, “would Jesus wear a mask?” It’s an important mind exercise, since evangelical Christians have been some of the most staunch, vocal opponents of masks and Covid vaccines. I suggested – with biblical backing – that perhaps Jesus would wear a mask.
I expected some pushback, and sure enough, they pushed back. As I studied evangelicals’ comments, several themes emerged.
The world needs evangelicals’ cooperation in order to beat Covid, and progressive Christians should make a loving – and persistent – effort to change their minds. Much of the world has written them off, but they are our siblings, and we must not give up on them. We need to engage them as intelligent people, because that’s what they are – even if their perspective seems at times irrational to us.
The good-evil paradigm
I’ve written before about many evangelicals’ lack of nuanced thinking. Based on their view that the world is essentially divided into “good” and “evil,” many evangelicals see the world (including the Covid pandemic) in simple, black-and-white terms:
- Either you trust God with your health, or you live in fear of Covid (fear causes you get the vaccine, wear a mask, etc.).
- Either masks work, or they don’t (some people who wear a mask still get sick, so clearly, masks don’t work).
- Either the vaccine works, or it doesn’t (some vaccinated people get a breakthrough infection, the vaccine clearly doesn’t work).
- We are either free to make our own choices about masks and vaccines, or we are “slaves” (yes, they used that word) to government mandates.
- Everyone is either a true believer in God, or (these are actual quotes from comments on my post) an atheist/a false prophet/the bride of Satan/a moron/a “dreg of society.”
Nuanced thinking is capable of finding a middle ground:
- I can trust God and get a vaccine – the two are not mutually exclusive (similarly, I can trust God and take my blood pressure med).
- Masks and vaccines are not 100% effective, but they greatly reduce the risk of getting Covid (similarly, some people who use seatbelts die in car crashes – but we still use seatbelts).
- It’s possible for someone to believe differently from me and still be a child of God.
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Ignoring elephants in the room
What-about-ism is an avoidance strategy that evangelicals (and others) use to obscure important Covid facts and misdirect attention. For example, when I recently posted that 99% of Covid deaths are unvaccinated people, one reader commented, “what about people who got their vaccine, but it was less than two weeks ago?” Another said, “what about people who are unvaccinated, but previously got Covid?”
These arguments (purposely?) miss the point: a very high percentage of Covid deaths were avoidable.
In the same way, evangelicals (and others) argue about the technical definition of “vaccine,” complain about masks “forcing me to breathe my own CO2,” and warn that masks are a component of some cults, including the KKK.
Again, the big picture: Covid kills, but it’s possible to reduce our risk of getting sick or getting others sick. Squabbling about minutiae accomplishes nothing, slows our progress toward normalcy, and causes unnecessary suffering.
Calling things that are not as though they were
Faith is not the same as fact. This may seem obvious, but for some evangelicals, the line is blurred.
I remember learning the formula, “believe that I receive,” which consisted of talking about a prayer request as though God had already granted it (for example, “thank you God that my grandmother is healed of her cancer – I believe that I receive”).
That’s well and good when it’s between you and God and other people of like faith – but in the secular world, we might call such declarations “alternative facts.” That is, as real as your grandmother’s healing is in your heart, you can’t expect the rest of us to see it that way, nor does it count as fact.
In the same way, a group of evangelicals may “believe they receive” divine immunity from Covid, but that doesn’t count as PPE in the outside world – nor should it. If you want to live in a society that doesn’t believe as you do, you can’t force your practices on us. Either get the jab or stay home. Don’t tell the rest of us to stay home so you can “walk by faith.”
Evangelical propensity for alternative Covid science
Likewise, you are free to believe any science you want in the privacy of your home or like-minded community – but don’t obligate the rest of us to live by your rules.
This is the 21st century – you can go online and find support for any theory if you know where to look. If you believe Dr. Fauci is a phony, the pandemic is fake news, and the hospitals are reporting fraudulent statistics, that is your prerogative. But if you choose to believe a Covid theory that rejects masks and social distancing, stay home. You have no right to subject the rest of us to your ideology.
For all the evangelical bluster about Jesus’ power over illness and his command to “fear not,” Jesus was kind. He treated the marginalized with gentleness and respect. He exhorted his followers to minister to the needs of the “least of these.”
Someone very dear to me recently needed to take a long plane ride. She is vaccinated, but in fragile health. When passengers around her refused throughout the trip to keep their masks on, she was terrified and angry, and quietly wept behind her own mask. Jesus would not support their behavior. No one can convince me that Jesus would refuse to wear a mask.
The majority of Americans believe in the importance of protection; there is no excuse for a small number of nonbelievers to control public spaces in the name of their “freedom.” It is especially egregious when those nonbelievers claim to belong to the body of Christ.
Evangelicals (and others who scoff at Covid vaccines and masks), whether you like it or not, your refusal to respect the mandates is putting everyone around you at risk – especially the vulnerable. Stop expecting the world to compromise its medical integrity so you can pretend to be invincible.
(If you are energized by challenges to the evangelical status quo like this, you’d enjoy my blog. Sign up for my free newsletter here! I’m planning several more posts on evangelicalism and Covid in the coming days.)
(BTW, I’ve stopped allowing comments on here blog – but it’s still possible to comment on Facebook and Twitter @GlassesGrace)
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FEATURED IMAGE: “No Mask No Service sign, Liquor Store, Burbank, California, USA” by gruntzooki is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0