Evangelicals: You Asked for It

Every day there seems to be at least one new news story about another loudmouthed Trumpist anti-vaxxer being hospitalized with COVID-19. The latest is Fred Lowry, a council member from Volusia County, Florida. Not at all surprising is Lowry’s other occupation; he’s the pastor of a white evangelical church.

According to several credible news sources, Lowry, who labeled the virulent virus a hoax, has been sick for two weeks and was recently hospitalized with double pneumonia. Also, according to those news sources, in a sermon which has since been deleted from the church’s website, Lowry told the congregation, “We do not have a pandemic, folks. We were lied to.”

The Real Liars

Lowry was right in part of that statement. They were lied to. But it was the crazy far-right conspiracy promoters who lied to them, not reputable public health officials and mainstream media. You’d think that by now, as the infection rates are again spiraling and as more and more—mostly like-minded anti-vaxxers—die in droves, the goofballs would heed the foreboding forecast pointing to a perfect storm brewed up by mixing intransigent ignorance and ludicrous hubris with a mindless, violent virus. You’d think.

To avoid such nonsense, one must think rather than merely parrot the outlandish conspiracies circulating among one’s peer group.

And therein lies the problem. To avoid such nonsense, one must think rather than merely parrot the outlandish conspiracies circulating among one’s peer group. But I’ve seen such behavior far too often to hope humanity will ever, en masse, grow out of it.

A Misguided Old Friend

An example comes from an old friend, a dyed-in-the-wool fundamentalist white evangelical. I referred to him in a previous post. The man—as I said at the time—is one of the most gracious and caring individuals I’ve ever met. He truly would give anyone who needed it the shirt off his back. But, like so many white evangelicals, while he’s charitable, he’s not a deep thinker. He’s much more likely to succumb to groupthink than to diligently reason a matter through for himself.

This man recently emailed copies of his latest newsletter. He gave his lead article the headline “COVID-19: Judgement of God or Manmade Plan-Demic?” In it, my friend suggests that the government created the COVID virus as a means of usurping citizens’ freedoms and controlling us as pawns. In case you didn’t read my previous post referring to this friend, last year, he and his wife contracted the virus. He was ill for a couple weeks but recovered fully. His wife, on the other hand, was hit hard. She spent weeks in the ICU, on a ventilator, approaching death. Only recently have they been able to return to their home in Colorado’s high country where the oxygen levels are markedly lower than at sea level.

Evangelicals’ Persecution Complex

So, why didn’t this old, white evangelical friend of mine learn his lesson from his wife’s near death? Why does he continue to spout conspiratorial nonsense after seeing up close and personal the danger of this disease? I can say without any doubt that it isn’t because he doesn’t love his wife. I’m certain he would give his life in exchange for his wife’s, without a moment’s hesitation.

The answer is simple. And it’s as true for most of his peers as it is for him: white evangelicals have a persecution complex. They truly but mistakenly believe that most governments—who to them represent “the world system,” which in turn is code for Satan-inspired—are out to get them. Such paranoia might seem crazy to non-evangelicals, but to the true believers it is as real and significant as a decree from the new messiah himself, Donald Trump, the one person they can unconditionally trust to deliver them from the satanic cabal.

More than a year ago I wrote a post titled “Beware, White Evangelicals, of Self-Fulling Prophecy.” There I wrote,

What America’s white evangelicals typically fail to understand is the difference between persecution and indifference. Evangelicals tend to have an inflated view of our significance. The 75 percent of Americans who are not evangelical are not focused on oppressing the 25 percent who are evangelicals. The simpler and more uninspiring truth is that non-evangelicals rarely even think about evangelicals.

You Asked for It

Sadly, since then, white evangelicals have forced the public at large to think more than ever about them—and, by and large, those thoughts are not complimentary. And that’s to be expected when white evangelicals’ stubborn resistance to science and common sense continues to drive up the COVID infection rate. It’s to be expected when anti-vaxxers, most of them evangelicals, block access to hospitals as they protest mask mandates. It’s to be expected when anti-science radicals make kooky claims such as COVID vaccines magnetizing recipients, and when they foolishly choose to ingest horse de-wormer while rejecting proven vaccines, even as they see many of their anti-science peers dying from a preventable virus.

Yes, white evangelicals tend to have a persecution complex. And, as I wrote in that aforementioned post, “If and when persecution of evangelicals does begin in America, evangelicals will have ourselves to blame.”