Evangelicals across the U.S. are growing more divided over the use of COVID-19 vaccines.
Most recently, J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, posted a photo on Facebook of himself receiving the immunization. His photo drew thousands of comments, with some showing support for the vaccine and others accusing Greear of taking part in government “propaganda.”
In a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 40 percent of White Evangelical Protestants said they will likely not get the vaccine. Among all Americans, that number is 25 percent.
Also, in comparison, 27 percent of nonwhite Protestants said the same, making white evangelical Protestants one of the largest groups divided over the shot.
In response, The National Association of Evangelicals, representing about 45,000 churches, said it would be working with media outlets to host events and offer scientific information about the vaccine.
“The pathway to ending the pandemic runs through the evangelical church,” said Curtis Chang, a former pastor and missionary who founded ChristiansAndTheVaccine.com, a site associated with the association’s new initiative.
Chang said he worries that with white evangelicals making up 20 percent of the U.S. population, strong resistance to the vaccine could hurt efforts to achieve herd immunity in the country.
“There’s going to be some courage required,” he said of church leaders encouraging congregations to get vaccinated.
Along with Greear, other evangelical leaders have voiced support for the vaccine, including Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress and Rev. Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptists’ public policy arm.
“These vaccines are cause for evangelicals to celebrate and give thanks to God,” Moore told the Associated Press. “I am confident that pastors and lay members alike want churches full again, and vaccines will help all of us get there sooner rather than later.”
Still, other evangelical pastors have chosen to let the issue of vaccines stay a “personal issue.”
“We don’t believe that this is a scriptural issue; it is a personal issue,” said Aaron Harris, pastor of Junction City, Kansas church Calvary Baptist.
“We shouldn’t live in fear of the virus because we do have a faith in eternity. However, just because we aren’t in fear of it, where is the line of what we ought to do?” he asked. “I’m not going to lay down in front of a bunch of alligators to show my faith in that way.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Sittithat Tangwitthayaphum
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.