Conservative pastors and leaders are encouraging the shot while the people in the pews have been more divided.
The president of the Southern Baptist Convention posted a photo on Facebook last week of him getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It drew more than 1,100 comments—many of them voicing admiration for J. D. Greear, and many others assailing him.
Some of the critics wondered if worshippers would now need “vaccine passports” to enter The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, where Greear is pastor. Others depicted the vaccines as satanic or unsafe, or suggested Greear was complicit in government propaganda.
The divided reaction highlighted a phenomenon that has become increasingly apparent in recent polls and surveys: Vaccine skepticism is more widespread among white evangelicals than almost any other major bloc of Americans.
In a March poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 40 percent of white evangelical Protestants said they likely won’t get vaccinated, compared with 25 percent of all Americans, 28 percent of white mainline Protestants, and 27 percent of nonwhite Protestants.
The findings have aroused concern even within evangelical circles. The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 local churches, is part of a new coalition that will host events, work with media outlets and distribute various public messages to build trust among wary evangelicals.
“The pathway to ending the pandemic runs through the evangelical church,” said Curtis Chang, a former pastor and missionary who founded ChristiansAndTheVaccine.com, the cornerstone of the new initiative. With white evangelicals comprising an estimated 20 percent of the US population, resistance to vaccination by half of them would seriously hamper efforts to achieve herd immunity, Chang …