Dr. Danny Avula, the director of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, was concerned that he would have a difficult time convincing pastors to publicly advocate for the shots after some members of his church referred to them as “the mark of the beast,” a biblical reference to allegiance to the devil.
The minister was unsure how to respond. Dr. Avula was right to be concerned. Depending on where their congregations are, Avula says that many pastors have shown reluctance to do so since it is such a hot topic, which instantly attracts criticism and furor from the part of your community that is not on board with it.
As COVID-19 Spreads, Many Bible Belt Preachers Remain Deafeningly Silent
Amid rising infection rates from the delta variant of the virus fast-spreading in the nation’s heavily spiritual Bible Belt, a region plagued by soaring infection rates from of the fast-spreading delta variant of its virus, churches as well as the pastors are both assisting and hindering efforts to get people vaccinated against COVID-19.
Some churches are sponsoring vaccination clinics and praying for more vaccinations, while others are delivering ferocious anti-vaccine lectures from their pulpits, according to the Associated Press. Experts say that most people are keeping silent on this subject, which experts believe is a lost opportunity in the region of the nation where the church happens to be the most powerful spiritual and social influence in many communities.
A case in point occurred recently in metro Birmingham when the First Baptist Church in Trussville had one outbreak after the 200th-anniversary celebration that featured a video welcome from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and included a video greeting from the governor of the state of Alabama. Even though the pastor promised greater cleanliness and face mask availability, he did not mention two words that health experts believe may make a difference among those who are devout in their religious beliefs yet lack confidence in their government: Get yourself inoculated.
Only a few vocal religious leaders have attracted large audiences or media attention for their opposition to vaccinations, such as Tony Spell, who violated COVID-19 regulations on holding in-person services at the church where he is a pastor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. According to theologian Curtis Chang, however, they seem to be anomalies, with the vast majority of pastors ignoring the vaccination debate in order not to inflame tensions in the congregations already dealing with the epidemic and political divide.
It was discovered in a study conducted by the National Association in the Evangelicals that 95 % of evangelical leaders intended to get vaccinated; however, that figure has not translated into broad support from the pulpit, according to him.
Due to low vaccination rates across the Bible Belt, where Southern and Midwestern churchgoers represent a powerful group that has proved resistant to vaccination pleas from government leaders and health professionals.
In addition to the high number of Black and Latino individuals who have not been vaccinated, the large number of white evangelical vaccine opponents is a source of concern for health authorities.Among white evangelical Protestants, 40 percent said they would not get vaccinated, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in March. This compares to 25 percent of all Americans, 28 percent of white mainline Protestants, and 27 percent of nonwhite Protestants.
There have been some public statements supporting vaccines from significant figures such as Black megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes, evangelist Franklin Graham, and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, JD Greear, to name a few. However, according to Chang, there hasn’t been a continuous, united effort that might provide local pastors with “cover” to speak up for themselves.