(New York) Jerushah Duford, granddaughter of famous televangelist Billy Graham, is not always in tune with family members. Last year, for example, she diverged from her uncle Franklin Graham, another influential preacher, by announcing her support for Joe Biden.
Posted on April 8, 2021 at 6:22 a.m.
But this 43-year-old author and speaker is delighted today to participate with this same uncle in a common fight: to convince white evangelicals to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Franklin Graham announced on his Facebook page last month that he had received the vaccine from Moderna. In an interview with ABC, he later claimed that his own father would have done the same, as did Jesus for that matter.
“I am very surprised that he did this,” told Press Jerushah Duford from his home in Greenville, South Carolina. “He must have reconsidered his words a bit after being criticized by his base, but I’m happy. I am very grateful because I think some people will listen to it. ”
It remains to be seen how many.
At the moment, the 41 million white evangelicals form the demographic group most resistant to vaccination against COVID-19 in the United States.
Only 53% of them intended to be vaccinated – or had already done so – compared to 77% of Americans outside this group, according to a poll released on 1is last April by the organization Ad Council.
This reluctance could have the consequence of prolonging the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States longer than necessary. Hence the urgency to fight it, according to Jerushah Duford.
“More influential evangelical leaders need to speak out for immunization and remind Christians that we need to put others before ourselves,” she said.
The “mark of the beast”
But fear and mistrust of immunization pervades many white evangelicals. Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene expressed those sentiments recently by posting a video on her Facebook page in which she links COVID-19 vaccines to the “mark of the beast” about which Revelation, latest. bible book.
In his eyes, the mark of the beast could take the form of a vaccine passport that governments or businesses would demand to give citizens or consumers the right to participate in certain activities.
Even though her words are confusing and extreme, the elected official often associated with the QAnon conspiracy movement expresses a widespread fear among white evangelicals.
The speech I see emerging says that immunization registration will lead to a restriction on civil liberties, a restriction on the ability of people to travel freely and participate fully in the life of their communities.
Samuel Perry, professor of rhetoric at Baylor University, Texas, interviewed at Press
Author of a book on the religious right published in 2019, Professor Perry believes he recognizes in the attitude of white evangelicals towards vaccination a tendency “to present any political or health issue as a question of religious freedom”.
“And once the issue is reframed as a religious issue, […] people are holding on to their position more than ever, ”he added.
The phenomenon is not new, according to him.
“While I believe the Trump administration has exacerbated vaccine reluctance and denial of science, I don’t think that’s the cause. This is a problem that has lasted for a long time, ”explained Professor Perry, particularly lamenting the inability of evangelical education“ to teach how to deal with information critically ”.
In an attempt to overcome this problem, Redeeming Babel offers biblical arguments to promote vaccination against COVID-19. With a group of partners, including the Ad Council, this evangelical organization presents a series of eight videos answering various questions.
One of them attacks the conspiracy theory propagated by Marjorie Taylor Greene and several other evangelicals: “Is the vaccine against COVID-19 the ‘mark of the beast’? ”
“Throughout modern history some Christians have used this reading [sur la fin des temps] to assert that a particular institution of the day was the beast predicted by Revelation 13, ”says Curtis Chang, professor of theology at Duke University. “This was generally an institution that the reader was already suspicious of at the start. When Social Security was introduced in the 1930s and sparked political controversy, some Christian opponents called the Roosevelt administration a “beast” and the Social Security number “a mark of the beast.” ”
“And now that’s what’s happening with the vaccine. The beast is the government, or the CDC, or some other institution. And the vaccine itself is the “mark of the beast”, adds Professor Chang before analyzing several passages of the Apocalypse that could justify the vaccination.
This may be too subtle for Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is convinced she has protected herself against COVID-19 through her CrossFit training.
But Jesus, his Savior, would not be impressed by his pull-ups, hearing Jerushah Duford.
“I think Jesus would be for the science, for the mask and for the vaccine,” said Billy Graham’s granddaughter. And I’m sad that some people have a picture of Jesus that is very different from what he was. ”
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