Two new polls underscore the ways in which white, conservative evangelicals continue to reject facts and reality when it comes to both COVID-19 and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The first survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found that among religious and secular belief systems, resistance to coronavirus vaccines remains highest among evangelicals.
“The vaccination rate among White evangelical Protestants continues to lag behind those of other major religious groups: 57% of White evangelicals say they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 73% of White Protestants who are not evangelicals, 75% of religiously unaffiliated adults and 82% of Catholics,” reported Pew.
A chart in the report’s appendix is even more striking: It finds that atheists lead the pack in getting vaccinated at 90%, the highest rate among the religious/philosophical groups surveyed. Hispanic Catholics come in second at 86%, with agnostics close behind at 84%.
Other findings include: Among people who say they are “nothing in particular,” 69% are vaccinated. The figure for Protestants is 66%. For white Catholics, it is 79%. (White evangelicals’ vaccinate rate of 57% is the lowest of all the groups surveyed.)
As we’ve noted on this blog previously, the rejection of life-saving vaccines by white evangelicals appears to be rooted in a combination of factors, among them a distrust of science, embrace of conspiracy theories and poor leadership. Their stubbornness threatens to prolong the pandemic for everyone.
The second poll concerns the insurrection of Jan. 6. Remarkably, 57% of white evangelical Protestants continue to blame liberal activists, such as antifa or Black Lives Matter, for the attack on the U.S. Capitol – despite clear, overwhelming and irrefutable evidence that supporters of former President Donald Trump were responsible.
Public Religion Research Institute reported, “White evangelical Protestants’ attitudes closely resemble those of Republicans in that few place a lot of blame for the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 on Donald Trump (26%), Republican leaders (16%), and white Christian conservative groups (8%).”
The claim that groups such as antifa or Blacks Lives Matter was really behind the attack circulated briefly in far-right circles in the days after Jan. 6. But it was so absurd that it quickly collapsed. Hundreds of Trump-supporting conservatives have been arrested in conjunction with the insurrection, and some have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. No left-wing activists were arrested, and for good reason – they weren’t part of the attack.
Even major Christian nationalist groups such as the American Family Association have stopped peddling the “antifa-is-to-blame” line. Instead, they are attempting to rewrite the history of what happened Jan. 6, portraying the violent mob as patriots who were trying to save the country. (It’s possible that some Christian nationalists hold antifa and BLM “responsible” for the Jan. 6 insurrection in the sense that they believe that earlier protests by these liberal groups led a right-wing mob to retaliate by storming the Capitol. But a fantastic conspiracy theory that left-wing activists disguised themselves as Trump supporters and stormed the Capitol remains alive and well.)
Since the rise of the modern Religious Right in the late 1970s, Christian nationalists have tarred their opponents as ethically flexible people who have no real system of morals because they lack a proper “biblical worldview.” Ironically, the Religious Right has effectively abandoned objective truth and has embraced the idea, as an old saying goes, that you’re not only entitled to your own opinion but your own facts.
This “choose-your-own-adventure” approach to reality and objective facts might make Christian nationalists feel good, but it comes at great detriment to our democracy.
Photo by Blink O’faneye/Creative Commons