These are questions that secular public health institutions are not equipped to answer, he said. “The deeper problem is that the white evangelicals are not even on their screen.”
Mr. Chang said he recently spoke to a colleague in Uganda whose hospital had received 5,000 doses of vaccine but was only able to give about 400 due to the reluctance of the strongly evangelical population.
“The way American evangelicals think, write, and feel about issues is quickly repeating around the world,” he said.
At this critical moment, even pastors have difficulty knowing how to reach their flocks. Joel Rainey, director of Covenant Church in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, said several colleagues were evicted from their churches after promoting health and vaccination guidelines.
Politics have increasingly shaped the faith among white evangelicals and not the other way around, he said. The pastors’ influence on their churches is diminishing. “They get their people for an hour and Sean Hannity gets them for the next 20,” he said.
Mr. Rainey helped his own Southern Baptist ward spread false information by publicly interviewing medical experts – a retired colonel who specializes in infectious diseases, a Church member, a logistics management analyst for Walter Reed, and an elder the Church, the nurse for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On the worship stage in front of the worship band’s drums, he asked them “all the questions a follower of Jesus might have,” he said later.
“It is necessary that pastors instruct their people that we don’t always have to be opponents of the culture around us,” he said. “We believe that Jesus died for these people. Then why in the world should we see them as opponents?”