By now, you’ve all heard the sad tale of evangelical college Liberty University, whose president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., invited students back to school after spring break—amid the covid-19 pandemic—to own the libs. Now, to absolutely nobody’s surprise, there’s an outbreak on campus. But Falwell’s not the only alleged man of God putting his followers’ health—and, by extension, all our health—at risk.
The Guardian reports that Christian religious leaders all over the country are ignoring social distance and quarantine mandates, conducting full services at their churches and telling followers and congregants the pandemic is a hoax. One Floridian Pentecostal preacher, Rodney Howard-Browne, conducted two full services last week, even as Floridians began falling ill by the thousands. A preacher in Texas told followers covid-19 was a “weak” flu, and that fearing it was what would make people sick.
The conspiracy theories are, of course, political in nature, considering evangelicals back Donald Trump by an overwhelming majority:
From Montana, Chuck Baldwin – a pastor, former politician and purveyor of conspiracy theories about “Zionist influence” in the media – left the question of whether the virus was a hoax open in an online sermon.
But he added: “If it’s not a hoax, the virus is being used as a completely exaggerated, super-hyped, super-inflated psychological ops campaign against the American people – a coordinated full-court press of intimidation and fear-mongering by government, the mass media and the CDC.”
That message was dutifully amplified by the Idaho state representative Heather Scott on her Facebook page.
There are apparently a number of reasons why evangelicals refuse to acknowledge the strength of the pandemic, even though Biblical texts are full of stories of plagues and mass death. There’s the aforementioned political reason, of course, but also, according to the Guardian, a belief Christians should believe all mass death and horror is part of “God’s plan.”
More importantly, though, without an audience, there’s less money in these people’s coffers. What a shame that would be.