COVID-19 vaccine evangelicals
Author Jamie Aten. (hoto courtesy of Jamie Aten)

Topics: Spirituality | Health

He pushes evangelicals to get vaccinated. Some respond with death threats

Jamie Aten is one of many evangelical leaders facing pushback over COVID-19 vaccines


(RNS) —  Jamie Aten has spent years trying to help his fellow evangelicals deal with disasters.

In the past, when he wrote about hurricanes, floods and tornadoes — or even his personal battle with cancer — Aten’s work has been well received.

When Aten, executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, began to urge his fellow evangelicals to get vaccinated, however, things got ugly.

“How’s your Monday going?” he tweeted on April 27. “Mine started with having to file a police report in response to the increasing number of threats I’m getting for encouraging white evangelicals to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Aten, who teaches at an evangelical college and identifies as an evangelical, told Religion News Service he’d filed a report with the sheriff’s office in DuPage County, Illinois, where he lives, after getting an email claiming his work on vaccines was “punishable by death.” The email was part of a pattern of emails and calls from people angry about Aten’s work helping Christian groups and churches respond to the COVID-19 vaccine. The threats intensified after he spoke to The New York Times about the need for evangelicals to be vaccinated.

One threat warned that encouraging white evangelicals to get vaccines would “eventually lead to the murdering of all mankind.”

“If I knew my stuff,” the email went on, “I would know not to encourage people to get vaccinated because that’s what’s going to take down humanity more,” Aten said.

More on Broadview:

White evangelicals are the religious group most hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccines, with just over half (54 percent) saying they are likely to get vaccinated, according to Pew Research. Faith leaders can play a key role in helping the United States reach “herd immunity,” a recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found. That’s especially true for white evangelicals, the survey found. And given the size of the evangelical population, getting them on board with vaccination is crucial.

“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,” Aten told The New York Times.

Evangelical leaders who have been outspoken advocates of the vaccines haven’t always found a welcome audience. When well-known evangelical Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, posted on Facebook that Jesus would approve of the vaccine, a number of followers turned on him.

“I just lost all respect for you spreading such garbage as saying Jesus would have taken that vaccine, that is a devilish lie!” one wrote, as RNS reported.

COVID-19 vaccine evangelicals
Author and disaster response expert Jamie Aten, right, listens to a survivor of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, in Sept. 2017. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Aten)

Aten fears that, like masks before them, vaccines have become another symbol of the culture wars. Which he finds ironic, given that the vaccines were developed during U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

“A year ago, masking was the new way to mark your tribalism — who you were, what you were for or against,” he said. “Now, the vaccine is becoming that for some people.”


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  • says:

    Christians, eh?

  • says:

    Yes Sheldon a black eye for Christians.

    If we were perfect we wouldn't need critics or Christ.

    Having said that, isn't it ironic that these are the same people who have had a polio and MMR shots (amongst others).

    Fear mongers like Kanye West have spread false teachings that the "mark of the beast" is in the serum.

    This is what happens when false teachers earn the respect of those who like their ears tickled.


    • says:

      Even if people choose not to read scripture (and many don't) the teaching of Jesus is basic in any Sunday School or, in my case, elementary school. Justice, loving, forgiving, accepting, compassion and mercy. Simply reading the Beatitudes and taking that passage to heart can't help but make a person more Christ-like. How can people such as we have here possibly call themselves Christian? Black eye? I agree totally.


      • says:

        We, I, can call them christian because I am Christian. It's tough to accept those who disagree with us especially if they are hateful towards us. I'll never forget a brilliant woman who, after hearing Bishop Spong, said to me viciously, " they have to believe as we do" She, as I, is a liberal in theology. Love flows two ways no matter what the state of the other.

  • says:

    Wow good on Franklin Graham to promote vaccination

  • says:

    The article does not give the reason(s) why the white evangelicals resist getting vaccinated. No Biblical references about supporting / rejecting the governing authorities as a reason is given.
    The white evangelicals, if their view is to be respected and considered, it needs to be logically presented, otherwise their resistance might well indeed be responsible for a longer recovery of Covid in many communities.


    • says:

      First, we have a lot of conspiracy theories floating out there with social media.
      As Sheldon and I have discussed, people don't read their Bibles and believe anything they are told. 2 Peter 2:1 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4
      There is no logic to those who do not think through their faith, but want to be "spoon fed" and trust false prophets for their Bible interpretations. Leaders who like to "cherry pick", or distort truths. Let's pray that those who are in denial or being misled, see the truth in this virus. (Sadly for some, they realize the truth when it becomes too late.)
      BTW we have some of these "white evangelicals" in Canada as well.
      I have copied a link to further your read.