I don’t want to malign anyone’s religious faith. I really don’t. But it’s a tad disturbing that 45 percent of the nation’s 41 million white evangelical Christians are vowing not to get vaccinated.
As one Texas nutritionist told the press the other day, “It would be God’s will if I am here or if I am not here.” Has this woman not learned that the virus is contagious? And that we’ll never reach “herd immunity” (thwarting the virus due to a dearth of fresh hosts) unless roughly 85 percent of the population is vaccinated? How nice of her to entrust the health of those around her to God’s will, without their having a say in the matter.
Granted, a lot of nationally prominent evangelical leaders are trying to talk sense to their parishioners. Rick Warren is telling his people to get vaccinated: “God revealed a lot of his will when he gave you that brain. And he expects you to use it.” Robert Jeffress says: “We talk about life inside the womb being a gift from God. Well, life outside the womb is a gift from God, too.” But as Joel Rainey, a West Virginia church leader, reportedly laments, “(Pastors) get their people for one hour, and Sean Hannity gets them for the next 20.”
Suffice it to say that unless these evangelical refuseniks live up to what they purport to believe – that God put them on earth to love everyone, that they have a moral duty to care for others as well as themselves – the pandemic will last far longer than it otherwise would. And they will have blood on their hands.
One’s religious faith is deeply personal, and my attitude is: Hey, whatever gives you comfort, whatever gets you through the night, whatever helps you make sense of this often-perplexing existence. But if or when one’s faith adversely affects others who don’t share the faith…then we’ve got a problem. Especially when the issue is life or death.
As Kevin Schulman, a Stanford University professor of medicine, said the other day, “This (vaccine) is the most important product launch of our lifetime – and we need to get 85 percent market share.”
By all accounts, the refuseniks don’t trust science and won’t be swayed on that basis. Nor do they trust government, even though their idol, Donald Trump, agreed to be vaccinated and recommends it. The best advice, apparently, is to try to persuade these folks by speaking their own language. Connie Schultz, an Ohio-based columnist who grew up in a devout Christian family, suggests this parable from her childhood church:
A town’s river has overflowed. Floodwaters are headed for the home of a woman whose faith in God is unflappable. A police officer knocks on Laurie’s door. “Ma’am,” she says, “Your house will soon be underwater. Come with us, please.”
“Oh, no, thank you,” Laurie says. “God will save me.”
An hour later, water is starting to seep into Laurie’s second-floor hallway. Emergency workers paddle a boat up to her bedroom window and yell, “Ma’am, you’re going to drown. Get in the boat, please.”
“God will save me,” she tells them, waving goodbye.
An hour later, Laurie is sitting on her roof. A helicopter hovers overhead, dangling a rope ladder within her reach. “Ma’am!” a man yells. “This is your last chance! Climb. Up. The rope!”
Laurie cups her hands around her mouth and yells, “God. Will. Save. Me!”
Minutes later, Laurie drowns. She arrives at heaven’s gate. “Why?” she yells at God. “Why did you let me drown?”
God starts counting on his fingers. “I sent you a police car. I sent you a boat. I sent you a hel-i-cop-ter.”
I like that story. But since we’re all in this fight together, I like a proverb that first appeared in print 153 years ago, one that is easily tailored to our present circumstance: “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.”
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at email@example.com.