My early life’s context was much different from today’s. Example, religion was not that big of a deal in the 80s and 90s. Believe or not, go to church or not, it was simply one of many unforced choices that people made.
The horrible reality of Current Year makes a twisted kind of sense. Now that the Church has completed the Great Commission and end-of-lifed, the logical next step is the Great Divide between believers and Marxists. The latter, in between their ranting threats against us and their cheap-ass bribes (“give us control of your body and you’ll be entered into a raffle for a toaster!”), sometimes have an introspective moment about what makes Us so dramatically different from Them.
Let’s listen in.
Op-Ed: Why vaccination hesitancy runs deep among the religious — and what we can do to reach them
By J.M. Opal, An American-Born History Teacher in Canada. 11 August 2021
“Don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchi!” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) yelled at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference. “You leave us the hell alone!” Boebert has described her election to Congress as “a sign and a wonder, just like God promised.”
We open with a Rorschach test. The Christian sees a professional liar mugging for the camera. The atheist sees an Establishment Conservative ‘influencer’ recruiting support from ‘faith communities’. Truth means nothing to the atheist and popularity means nothing to the Christian, thus we often talk past each other.
She’s a moderate in some circles. One Florida pastor hears parishioners call the vaccination the “sign of the beast,” a biblical reference to the apocalypse. A Tennessee pastor who threatens to expel anyone who wears a mask to his church also discourages people from getting the vaccination, which he falsely claims contains aborted fetal tissue.
No wonder that white evangelicals are among the least vaccinated Americans.
Say what? Two no-name pastors and a B-list politician hate the jab, and “it’s no wonder”? It’s like Chuckles is playing a video game in which zapping the Borg Queen will force all the drones to fall in line. I wonder if, when he asks us why we don’t submit, when he hears us give the same reasons as Pastor Greg Locke (the abovementioned-but-not-named Tennessee Man Of God), if he thinks we’re giving the same reason because we’re obeying him.
As I said above, atheists don’t do truth so the idea that we believe what we say doesn’t occur to him. What DOES occur to him is that Pastor Locke must have a secret fan base in the millions because he and we agree. Never mind that Christians don’t do popularity… he does, so he calls it like he sees it.
Similarly, he doesn’t realize how much he discredited himself with that little lie of “it’s not made of aborted baby”.
And no wonder that many in the vaccinated majority, increasingly angry with their unprotected fellow citizens, conclude that anti-vaccination evangelicals are just tools in the right-wing war on common sense and basic decency.
QED. The rabbits see us giving the same reasons as a guy with the title “leader” and conclude that we’re a competing rabbit warren.
Yet the roots of vaccination hesitancy are much older and more interesting than that. Indeed, American skepticism of expert knowledge reaches back nearly three centuries, to a rebellion against religious authority.
Wouldn’t that be five hundred years ago? Martin Luther, hello?
That you did, mi’Lord. Credit where it’s due!
During the first century of English settlement in North America, most colonists listened to college-educated pastors. Whether Congregationalist in Massachusetts or Anglican in Virginia, those pastors based their authority on their knowledge of Latin and Greek as well as of theology. Many dabbled in medicine. They were the experts.
Wow, it’s like nothing ever changes.
But in the mid-1730s, charismatic preachers without college degrees suddenly drew huge crowds with harrowing tales of a furious God and wayward flocks. Embracing these revivals, the Rev. Jonathan Edwards of Massachusetts delivered one of the most famous sermons in American history, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” (The title pretty much sums it up.)
The revivalists also denounced educated ministers as “unconverted” impostors whose book learning led people away from real piety. One likened the regular clergy’s sermons to “rat poison.” Distressed by such attacks, Edwards pulled back from the fires he had stoked, calling for “humility and modesty” in the face of conflicting views.
Seriously, it’s like nothing ever changes. So, Mister Historian, why is our refusal to trust college experts dabbling in medicine any kind of surprise to you, if this is what we’ve been doing for 300 years… by your own admission? Why have you not simply given up yet?
But the wounds of this religious revolution never healed. Unlike in crowded European countries, where congregants had to coexist, Americans kept spreading apart, moving west after 1800 and forming new churches that reproduced rather than resolved the bitter divisions that had begun back East.
As moderate Protestants began to stress the human capacity for progress with or without God’s help, wave after wave of revivals cast fresh doubt on anyone who claimed expert knowledge without divine inspiration.
Atheist: “You’re a bad Christian because you rely too much on Christ.”
Me: “Since when does an enemy of God get to judge God’s servant?”
New forms of fundamentalism emerged in the 1920s in response to Darwinian science and again in the 1970s in reaction to the women’s liberation and civil rights movements.
Both doctrines… God being the Creator of Life and women being created to serve men… predate written history, to say nothing of the last 300 years.
There I go again, confronting lies like a Christian. Our purpose here is to get inside Professor Opal’s brain bucket and he thinks in terms of popularity, not truth. American churches kept the old, traditional ideas popular… ideas threating to Opal… thus, he hates those pastors who reject the lies, thinking that converting or exterminating them is the key to ending all holdouts.
It feels strange to be thinking in terms of leadership. I have not known a trustworthy leader since childhood. Modern “leaders” wouldn’t want me even if I offered to follow because I ask questions and insist on being paid for my work.
In fact, this “influencer” concept of leadership doesn’t pass the smell test. Leadership is way more than dictating what other people believe. I didn’t even hear that term until just a couple years ago, when the New World Order ascended.
While many Americans and Europeans drifted away from religion, except as a guide to moral conduct or a source of community, religious conservatives sustained the belief in God as an imminent presence in daily life — a power vastly superior to any kind of research or learning.
Here, Opal is correct. The ultimate reason why we refuse the jab is because we remain loyal to the Creator… not because He’s useful or even because we understand His ways, but simply because we belong to Him.
As Boebert says, “The wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.”
That was badly phrased.
Segue: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who [m]are perishing, but to us who [n]are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for [p]signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Professor Opal rejects God by the strength of… popularity. He has a planet-sized rabbit warren to hide in and clever arguments going back centuries to when Aristotle first gave up on reasoning with his kind. What does it matter if you can be proven wrong, when everybody wants you to be right?
And on that note, his doxology:
Some faith communities have embraced vaccinations and other medical breakthroughs, citing God’s benevolence and the golden rule. Yet modern evangelicals often see God as more stern than kind, encouraging a sense of epic conflict between the pious and the profane. And over the past few decades, evangelicals’ deep-seated distrust of society’s experts has merged with the increasingly nihilistic themes of the far right, creating a toxic disdain for science in general and public health in particular.
Which brings us back to our troubled present. COVID-19 surges again due to vaccination hesitancy and growing hostility to basic safety precautions, while the experts — and the Americans who listen to them — throw up their hands. How can understanding the long history of anti-expertise help us overcome this deadly impasse?
To start, those of us who are vaccinated must accept that the non-vaccinated aren’t just political pawns for the Lauren Boeberts and Tucker Carlsons of the world. Rather, they are bearers of a long and complicated history, one that has often enlivened American culture.
After all, the mid-18th century revivals that tore apart so many communities also helped prepare the colonists to defy the Church of England, and thus the British Empire during the American Revolution. The revivalism of the 19th century often inspired anti-slavery activism.
In non-pandemic times, a healthy skepticism of expertise has made the U.S. a nation of free-thinkers and rule-breakers.
In Totalist theology, that is called a thought-ending cliche: “that was then and this is now”.
On that note, public health officials should more directly address faith communities, making clear that each church has a right to worship God according to its traditions and to question science when people’s lives are not in immediate danger.
Unable to resort to arguments of truth and understanding, and having just convinced himself of the futility of tricking Protestants into blindly trusting Latin-speaking worldly authorities, Opal advocates informing us that our inalienable right to believe in fairy tales ends wherever the government says it ends.
Awesome sauce. We’ve already won. The Enemy has no argument left with which to justify their evil except “there is no God”. We would have been happy to let you believe that for a long, full life, Mister Opal, but you were not willing.
By taking that vital step across the great cultural divide, the experts can more effectively dispel the wild conspiracy theories swirling around the vaccines. They might even make the case that getting vaccinated is the moral choice, the kind, caring and Christian thing to do.
Many won’t listen. But some will, and fewer people will die.
In the end, we can all learn something from the Rev. Edwards, who had the wisdom to step back from his deepest longings for spiritual revival and speak instead to the simpler, humbler virtues of coming together in dark times.
The guy who wrote “Sinners In the Hands Of An Angry God?” Did Opal ever even read it?
Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men’s own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? “How dieth the wise man? even as the fool.”
Stick that in your vaccination record.