- Franklin Graham unfazed after evangelical base blasts him for encouraging vaccines
- Pastor Robert Jeffress urges church members to get vaccinated
- Pew Research: 10 facts about Americans and coronavirus vaccines
White evangelicals are the largest socio-religious group declining to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. A whopping forty-five percent of White evangelicals who were polled say they won’t be getting the vaccination. Why? Some of the resistance stems from a number of pastors and influencers who, over the last twelve months, labeled the pandemic a “hoax” and a “diabolical scheme” to limit religious freedom. Conspiracy theories abounded. The use of PPE and public safety protocols were denounced as slavish acquiescence to the “Satanic deception,” even though hospitals (and morgues) were overwhelmed by the number of virus cases. When vaccines were first introduced in December, many warned that they were the mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13. These past twelve months surely weren’t the church’s “finest hour.” Such thinking is still widespread within conservative evangelical circles as the Pew Research survey indicates. Both Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress incurred the wrath of fellow Christian nationalists recently by encouraging people to get vaccinated.
Vatican City is officially an independent “nation” within the nation of Italy. It’s easily the smallest “country” in the world, comprising only 0.2 square miles (the size of Central Park in New York City) and with only 400 official citizens (3000 people work there). The obvious reality is that the Vatican is not really a “country” in the normal sense, but rather it’s the administrative center of the Roman Catholic church with its 1.3 billion members worldwide. The Vatican’s nation status undergirds its historical claims to sovereignty in temporal, worldly matters as well as spiritual. Because of the Vatican’s purely religious nature, the United States resisted appointing an official ambassador to the “Holy See” until 1984 when Ronald Reagan appointed William A. Wilson to the post as a concession to American Catholic voters. I wrote a letter to Reagan at the time, objecting to the appointment, and received a form letter reply on White House stationary. Historical opposition by American Protestants to a United States ambassador to the “Holy See” is now viewed as a quaint and dusty anachronism.
Pope Francis has walked a tightrope ever since being elected to the papacy in 2013 by craftily introducing progressive reforms while simultaneously managing threats of schism by conservatives. The German prelates’ hasty and unyielding push to adopt progressive reforms (intercommunion, full acceptance of practicing LGBT-ers, women as deacons and eventually priests) threatens to fracture the already very uneasy status quo.
Catholic prelates, priests, and laity strongly believe that Mary shares in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work, but the RCC has resisted officially defining that belief as an unnecessary provocation in its mission to recover the Protestant “separated brethren.”
A few weeks ago, pope Francis officially designated the Marian shrine at Knock, Ireland as an “International Sanctuary of Special Eucharistic and Marian Devotion.” In 1879, fifteen people claimed to have seen an apparition of Mary on a wall of the local parish church in Knock. Thousands upon thousands of Catholics around the world have claimed to have seen an apparition of Mary, but the Vatican fully sanctions only six such claims. See here. I believe most of these apparitions are due to individual or group religious hysteria, but we can’t rule out demonic activity.
For decades, news watchers have been barraged by the “cute” story of elderly Catholic nun, Sister Jean (aka Jean Schmidt), and her prayerful support of the Loyola University (Jesuit) men’s basketball team. Cuteness aside, Sister Jean propagates her church’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. Sorry Sister Jean, but Loyola was eliminated from the “March Madness” NCAA Tournament by Oregon State.
Pragmatic Pope Francis understands the RCC must become less doctrinaire and more pastoral (freewheeling) in order to retain its increasingly disaffected membership. Numbers were already in sharp decline as a result of the priest sex abuse scandals and then the pandemic hit.