Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday encouraged evangelical Christians who are reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to consider that the shots might be a “part of God’s plan.”
“State of the Union” host Jake Tapper asked Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, about the large portion of white evangelicals who say they won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine. About 40% of white evangelical Protestants said they likely would not get vaccinated, according to a poll conducted last month, compared to about 25% of all Americans, 28% of white mainline Protestants and 27% of Protestants who are not white.
“I’ve heard people I care about saying, you know, ‘If I’m faithful, God’s going to take care of me,’” Buttigieg said. “And I guess what I would hope that they might consider is that maybe a vaccine is part of God’s plan for how you’re going to take care of yourself.”
Buttigieg acknowledged during the exchange on CNN that his opinion on the matter may not sway many white evangelicals, and he urged faith leaders to speak out in support of vaccines.
“In the end, I have to admit that it’s unlikely that an official like me is going to be persuasive to somebody who maybe doesn’t feel like Washington has been speaking to them for a long time,” Buttigieg said.
“The idea of pastoral care is about supporting those who look to you for guidance,” he added. “So I hope anybody who is looking after a community of people, including a faith community, will consider ways to help guide them toward steps that can protect them and protect those around them.”
There are about 41 million white evangelical adults nationwide. Public health experts have warned that the group’s widespread reluctance to get vaccinated could prolong the pandemic.
“If we can’t get a significant number of white evangelicals to come around on this, the pandemic is going to last much longer than it needs to,” Jamie Aten, founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution in Illinois, told The New York Times.
Some white evangelicals have cited their religious beliefs in their refusal to get a vaccine, noting a remote connection between abortion and vaccine development. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain fetal tissue, but some were developed using cells derived from fetal tissue from elective abortions that took place decades ago, according to the Times.
Other white evangelicals have pointed to their lack of trust in the government.
“I just don’t really want to see the government or anybody force people to do something that those people feel like is not in their best interests,” a 49-year-old white evangelical man in Tennessee told PBS.
Public health experts largely consider COVID-19 vaccines to be the best hope for ending the pandemic and returning to some sense of normalcy.
Some high-profile conservative pastors, including Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress, have publicly advocated for vaccination. But others have warned their followers against it. Gene Bailey, a talk show host on the Christian TV network Victory Channel, warned in March that “globalist entities” will “use bayonets and prisons to force a needle into your arm,” the Times reported.
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