NIH Director Begs Evangelicals To Get Vaccinated
LOS ANGELES – The director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is begging evangelical Christians across the country to “examine the evidence” when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Francis Collins spoke directly to evangelicals in America and other faith communities in an interview with the CNN presenter Jim Acosta Saturday.
Collins, a well-known christian, said the misinformation surrounding COVID-19 vaccines creates a “truly heartbreaking” scenario where many deaths associated with the pandemic are those of the unvaccinated, especially groups of people who are asking for a religious exemption from being vaccinated.
“Let me make the case here that if you are a Christian, or if you are someone who has not yet been vaccinated, hit the reset button on any information you have that makes you doubt, hesitate or fear.” and look at the evidence, ”Collins said. “The evidence is overwhelming, vaccines are safe, they are effective, they can save your life.”
Across the country’s deeply religious biblical belt, the southern region hit by skyrocketing infection rates from the rapidly spreading delta variant of the virus, churches and pastors are helping and harming the countryside to get vaccinated people against COVID-19.
Some are holding vaccination clinics and praying for more vaccinations, while others have delivered fiery anti-vaccine sermons from their pulpit. While others remain silent on the matter, something experts see as a missed opportunity in a part of the country where the church is the greatest spiritual and social influence for many communities.
A survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in March showed that 40% of white Evangelical Protestants said they likely would not get vaccinated, compared with 25% of all Americans, 28% of white Protestants and 27% of all Americans. % of non-white Protestants.
A few outspoken religious leaders have drawn crowds or media attention for their opposition to vaccines, such as Tony Spell, who has repeatedly defied COVID-19 restrictions to organize in-person services at Baton Church Rouge, Louisiana, where he is a pastor. He preached that vaccinations are “demonic” and vowed that the government will “not force us to obey your evil orders.”
But they appear to be outliers, according to theologian Curtis Chang, with the majority of ministers avoiding the issue of vaccines so as not to stir up tensions in congregations already grappling with the pandemic and political divide.
However, as a significant number of Americans seek religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine warrants, many religious leaders say: Not with our approval.
Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said last month that while some people may have medical reasons for not receiving the vaccine, “there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for its followers from any vaccination for religious reasons.”
The Holy Eparchial Synod of the National Archdiocese, representing the bulk of Eastern Orthodox in the United States, urged members to “pay attention to the relevant medical authorities and avoid false accounts that are totally unfounded in science.”
“No member of the clergy should issue such letters of religious exemption,” said Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros, and such a letter “is not valid.”
Likewise, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recently issued a statement encouraging the use of vaccines and stating that “there is no obvious basis for a religious exemption” in its own Lutheran tradition or in the Lutheran tradition. wider.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York laid out its own position over the summer, saying any priest issuing a letter of exemption would “act in contradiction” with Pope Francis’ claims that receiving the vaccine is morally acceptable and responsible.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.