Evangelist Franklin Graham sparked a social debate on Wednesday when he told his 9.6 million Facebook followers he believes Jesus would be an advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Graham, the president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said in a Facebook post that he and his wife have received the COVID-19 vaccine. He urged Christians to study and pray about the issue.
Based on comments below the post, many of his Facebook followers disagreed with him. About half (54 percent) of white evangelicals say they will “definitely or probably” get the vaccine, according to Pew Research Center. That’s a percentage lower than Catholics (77 percent), black Protestants (64 percent) and atheists (90 percent).
The post sparked 17,000 comments.
“The internet is full of articles, theories, data, and opinions concerning the COVID-19 vaccines – both positive and negative. There’s a lot out there for you to read. I have been asked my opinion about the vaccine by the media and others,” Graham wrote. “I have even been asked if Jesus were physically walking on earth now, would He be an advocate for vaccines. My answer was that based on the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, I would have to say – yes, I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives.”
Graham continued, “In this Scripture passage, Jesus told about a man beaten and wounded, lying on the roadside as religious leaders passed by and didn’t help. But a Samaritan, considered a social outcast of the day, becomes the hero of the story when he stops and cares for the injured man – pouring oil and wine, which were the top medicines of the day, on the man’s wounds. We also know that Jesus went from town to town healing ‘every disease and sickness.’ He came to save life – to offer us eternal life. Did Jesus need a vaccine Himself? Of course not. He is God.”
A vaccine, Graham asserted, “can help save lives and prevent suffering.”
“Samaritan’s Purse has operated COVID-19 emergency field hospitals, and we have seen the suffering firsthand,” Graham wrote. “I also have staff and their family members who contracted the virus and spent weeks on a ventilator and months hospitalized as a result – I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. Vaccines have worked for polio, smallpox, measles, the flu and so many other deadly illnesses – why not for this virus? Since there are different vaccines available, my recommendation is that people do their research, talk to their doctor, and pray about it to determine which vaccine, if any, is right for them. My wife and I have both had the vaccine; and at 68 years old, I want to get as many more miles out of these old bones as possible!”
Some Facebook followers appreciated Graham’s words. “Thank you for you and your wife speaking out and getting the vaccine," one person wrote.
Others, though, disagreed with Graham. “I am disappointed in your post,” another person wrote.
About 20 percent of Americans have received the Covid-19 vaccine, according to Bloomberg's vaccine tracker. Israel leads all countries, with 54 percent of its population – or 72.5 percent of the eligible population – having received the vaccine. Israel has experienced an 86 percent drop in daily cases and an 85 percent plummet in daily COVID-19 deaths since mid-January. “The State of Israel is defeating coronavirus,” Israel Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said this week.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Justin Sullivan/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.