"Truth matters and lies kill", argues Christian doctor Adrian Warnock in this message to his social media followers who have been promoting conspiracy theories.
Western Science was built on Christian views of absolute truth. In an age of relativity, post-modernism, skepticism of experts, populism, and social media, it seems that now everything is a personal opinion.
We should expect that as people cast off the restraints of being a believer in a truthful God, the tendency to accept any old lie might rise. What we should not expect is the US evangelical Church to be joining in with spreading false news.
This blog post should be shared with every pandemic-denying, vaccine-hating, malaria-tablet-consuming Bible-basher you know. It is time to embrace the facts, not snake oil salesmen peddling “cures” which have been proved not to work.
It breaks my heart to read Christians peddling conspiracy theories that are so bizarre even a schoolchild would know they're nonsense. Increasingly it seems no effort is made to seek for the truth, and anything that supports the paranoid idea that the faithful few are standing up to powerful anti-God forces is embraced.
I am certain that Jesus weeps as a result. Christians are meant to love the truth not to promote lies. Truth matters. Lies kill. Over 200 Covid-19 vaccines are in development. Without a successful vaccine, it is hard to see how life will return to anything like normal. But for too many evangelicals, vaccines are somehow anathema. Meanwhile, our non-believing friends are looking on and mocking us.
According to thousands of evangelicals, we are expected to believe that every single one of the vaccines that scientists from all over the world are working on, are part of some bizarre plan to inject us all with a microchip (or in another even more bizarre variant of the conspiracy theory, that the vaccine will include some kind of method to cull the population!) No evidence exists to support these ideas whatsoever yet evangelicals breathlessly talk about the mark of the beast, which was a physical visible brand, not an invisible hidden chip!
And to those who assume that only a tiny minority of Americans believe these lies, I wish you were correct. But according to a YouGov/Yahoo poll, half of Fox News viewers believe Bill Gates is using the pandemic to microchip the population.
Let's be clear: Vaccines save lives. Vaccines do God’s work of healing.
The virus is much more readily transmitted indoors than outside, and it turns out singing risks spread more than talking, and crowded, poorly-ventilated church buildings could lead to hundreds being infected on a single morning. And yet we hear prominent Christian leaders such as John MacArthur proclaiming that they refuse to follow the orders of the State to not meet. Would the same church have objected to being told not to meet at night in wartime England because the lights might help Nazi bombers find their way?
I have read one too many of my Facebook friends questioning the whole thing, challenging people to state if they know anyone who has got sick from or died from Covid-19. And then stating “anyway it only affects the old and people with pre-existing conditions”.
The argument goes, "why should healthy young people wear a mask to protect those who are weak and vulnerable?" I feel like writing back in capital letters: "I am one of the people you think do not matter." At 49, I have a severely damaged immune system from blood cancer and its treatment. My family and I would appreciate it if you would wear a mask to help reduce the background risk of me catching a disease that would give me around a 30-40% chance of death.
I left the family home because my wife is in and out of several homes each day as a health worker, and my children volunteer at church or in the foodbank. Since I have a very poor immune system it seemed to make sense to shelter safely with my parents who are both strictly isolating.
Those of us who live in the UK have no doubt about how severe this is. We all know people who have died, been hospitalized, or who have permanent consequences such as altered taste sensation months after their battles with Covid-19. Due to variation in the numbers of tests, and challenges in accurately determining the true number of cases and deaths with Covid-19 the best way to assess how bad the pandemic has been in your local area is to examine how many deaths from all causes have increased above historical averages. This can be viewed for your local area in the UK on this BBC page.
In the USA the picture is rather more complex. But there is a page on the CDC website where you can look at all-cause mortality for the whole of the USA and each state. There is clear evidence of the epidemic that has had a huge wave in New York which is reflected in the national figures. Many states are only now just beginning what looks like huge waves with ITU beds being heavily occupied. This is far from over.
Some Christians think that social distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings, canceling church, getting shopping delivered, wearing masks, working from home, improving ventilation, and other precautions are all evidence of a lack of faith. They say God will protect us. But those same Christians wear a seat belt! And no doubt some of them lock their doors at night to protect themselves from thieves. God calls us to take sensible precautions. And he has never promised that we will be kept safe from all suffering in this world.
I am reminded of the story of Oliver Cromwell who on rallying his troops to go into battle, in his mind on the side of God, told them to: “Trust in God, but keep your gunpowder dry”.
Biologos have issued a very helpful statement on the need for Christians to embrace science at this time. It has been signed by over 3,000 people so far. This organization was founded by leading Christian scientists, Dr. Francis Collins. He directs the US National Institutes of Health, and is, therefore, the boss of Dr. Fauci who has become a familiar figure for many pandemic news watchers. I wholeheartedly embrace and endorse this statement and have added my signature to it. I would urge all Christians to sign it if you are concerned for the cause of truth and the protection of others (while of course understanding the need to balance risk reduction with the enormous economic and social costs of this global disaster).
I urge my Christian readers to get on the side of truth. Please read up on the science from reliable truth-based resources. Stop promoting crazy conspiracy theories, and fake “cures” for Covid-19. And get ready to swallow your fears and embrace a reliable vaccine when the studies are concluded. There's too much at stake to be on the wrong side of this issue.
First published in: Premier Christianity is committed to publishing a variety of opinion pieces from across the UK Church. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the publisher.
The above is an opinion piece by Dr. Adrian Warnock
Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor who worked in the UK’s NHS as a psychiatrist for eight years. He then worked in the pharmaceutical industry for fifteen years helping to run the clinical trials that bring us new medicines and communicate the results. Adrian has a reputation for delivering complex messages simply in engaging articles, presentations, and interviews on podcasts, radio, and TV. He has written a blog since 2003 at Patheos where this post first appeared and is the author of Hope Reborn and Raised with Christ.