Not Peace, But Division? Evangelical Vaccine Refusers Divide Families


The Trump cult managed to exacerbate essentially all social and political problems in the US. It is hopeless. How could you ever hope to each all these people through all the layers of bs?

AND this is exactly the task we face as educators and scientists. It would be easy, but we have to find a way.

Well, I know a lot of evangelicals, ones who have gotten vaccinated (the majority) and ones who don’t. Of those who don’t, there are those who will get more information and be vaccinated eventually, especially after they see unvaccinated friends get really sick since the virus will probably eventually find most of the unvaccinated population. But the ones who will always refuse are into alternative medicine, natural foods, and were already leaning against vaccination in general. There are big differences between these camps, though each may lean into different conspiracy theories.

Unfortunately, I commented on a Facebook post of a friend I haven’t seen in person in over a decade who was sharing/worrying about vaccine shedding making her sick. I nicely explained how that wasn’t likely. She proceeded to shame anyone who would get vaccinated while pregnant even though I just said I had, then we had a back and forth about autism. I let it go there :roll_eyes:So I learned my lesson to never assume that people who post a little here and there about health aren’t anti-vaxxers and that a little information will persuade them. :neutral_face:

But honestly, the people in the quoted tweets in the article who won’t let their unvaccinated parents see their grandkids are a different kind of crazy if they’re worried about their children. There are people on the opposite end who have no sense of risk either.


Are you under the impression that they (or we) will only be infected once? What we know about the 4 other coronaviruses that infect humans is that such assumptions are unlikely to be correct.

And your point is?

I don’t see any. They share irrationality.

What did you say? What is “vaccine shedding”?

Doesn’t that apply to creationists?

How so? In what way is wanting one’s children to have live grandparents “a different kind of crazy”?

Can you provide some examples of some of these people from “the opposite end,” with math?

It’s a theory on the part of anti-vaxxers that vaccinated people shed RNA or viral proteins or something the way infected people shed virus, and this leads to all manner of dangerous symptoms, including miscarriages, in those exposed to them.

The way we reach vaccine hesitant people is by providing accurate information from people they trust, and being willing to answer their questions, correcting the misinformation they have heard.

Fortunately, most of my friends, coworkers and family members have been vaccinated. However, I have also been answering questions from some who are hesitant due to fear and mis-information, and have been able to reassure many that the decision to get vaccinated makes a lot of sense. Some of this discussion involved me watching conspiracy theory videos and explaining why those videos should not be trusted, explaining the incorrect information.

Here was an email reply from one person:
“Michelle, for the thorough explanation in layman’s terms about the vaccines. I am done with all these conspiracy theories. They are worthless myths.”

and a Facebook message from another:
“Thanks for the great responses and we will take it all into consideration. I think you’ve moved the needle from, “we never getting the vaccine” to “we’re considering our options””


Source: Faith leaders are key to reaching herd immunity in U.S., researchers say, Baptist News

Belief in QAnon conspiracy theories also correlates with vaccine resistance and refusal, the survey found.

The survey asked respondents whether they agree with four common tenets of QAnon-related conspiracy theories, including three that have nothing to do with vaccination. The result was that 88% of America’s vaccine refusers said they believe some or all of the QAnon conspiracies, compared to 13% of the overall population who believe QAnon.

However, those who agree with QAnon conspiracy theories are among the most likely to overcome vaccine hesitancy when influenced by faith leaders. Among those who generally agree with QAnon conspiracy theories and who are vaccine hesitant, 36% said one or more of the faith-based approaches would make them at least somewhat more likely to get a vaccine.

So why are these anti-vaccine views so prominent among republicans, and white protestant evangelicals?

As Kevin Drum has pointed out, Republicans have been more hesitant about vaccines for a long time. The overall hesitancy is lower for this vaccine than most previous ones.


Loyalty signalling?

Right-wing authoritarianism (combined with leaders making anti-vax statements)?

A penchant for conspiracy theories (combined with anti-vax conspiracy theories)?

Or a combination of all of the above, plus probably some factors I either haven’t thought of, or forgot in the moment.

Is there any decent/reputable data on the interplay between religiosity and vaccine uptake in the UK/Europe?
Would be interesting to see if the evangelical problem is more US Evangelical specific

I’m not seeing it for the UK. This may be due to the fact that total Vaccine Heistancy there is quite low (7%), meaning that it could be difficult to accurately split that up by religion without fairly large sample sizes.

Also, I’m not sure if UK statistics even breaks down religion by ‘Evangelical’ separately (see for example here). A fair proportion of them may be classified as the broader movements they are the Evangelical wings of (Evangelical Anglicans, Evangelical Congregationals, etc).

The best estimate I could find was this Wikipedia article, which states that “In the 21st century there are an estimated 2 million evangelicals in the UK”, making them 3% of the UK population.

When we’re working with populations that are only around 7% and 3% respectively of the UK population, estimating the overlap will be problematical without an extremely large sample.


Thanks Tim, useful thoughts

My thoughts, based on being sorta connected to these groups by friendships and family (though the churches I’ve been a part of aren’t culture war churches and have been at least a little more diverse), that conservative evangelicals, especially conservative, white evangelicals have been cultivating a mistrust of government and science for a long time. They’ve allowed themselves to be primed for receiving misinformation. The misinformation fits the world view they’ve constructed.

This is the result of a trajectory that a portion of the Christians in the U.S. have been on for quite a while now. Fortunately some are jumping ship. Unfortunately some are stuck in the trajectory or doubling down.


Which, presuming they don’t mistrust all science equally (which would be somewhat impractical in the modern world), raises the question of which parts of science they choose to trust or mistrust?

Antibiotics? Painkillers (arguably a worthy target of mistrust, yet the shear scale of the problem argues against widespread mistrust)? Medical science in general?

Which will in turn raises the question of why some areas are chosen for particular mistrust?

Those are great questions. I may have been wrong in contibuting it partially to a mistrust of science. Evangelical Christians go to the doctor, for sure. I want to think about this more. Falling for misinformation on the internet seems a bit like an election night redo. They (we :frowning: ) seem to be ready to believe anything as long as it goes against the mainstream at the moment.

So the doctor in their home town is trustworthy, but the doctor in front of the cameras on TV isn’t? In spite of the fact that they’re both getting their information from the same source (I would hope): peer-reviewed medical research.

Is it the fact that they already know the doctor in their home town that makes them not part of this suspicion of “the mainstream”. Have they any idea how big and all-encompassing the mainstream is? It is after all what tells them what the weather is going to be tomorrow, what crops are likely to be profitable in the coming year, etc, etc.

It must be an uncomfortably scary and hostile world that they live in, to have to mistrust so much. :frowning:

I have no insight other than being part of the evangelical world. But I don’t think this is unique to evangelicals, I think the same issue apparent everywhere, but manifests itself differently. The world is complicated, and becoming more complicated by the day. It’s difficult, or even impossible to fully process everything, so we must rely on some extent on our gut and on those who are experts. But there are competing experts, so many of us, maybe all of us, adopt a framework or world view that helps us determine which experts to trust. For some that is a certain political world view, for some it may be “I’m the expert, based on my common sense” and for some evangelicals, it’s a unique combination of theology and politics. (From what I can see, this combination is somewhat unique to the USA).

I think it’s often easy to identify where this approach fails when we look at others, but we often miss where we are blind to evidence that doesn’t fit into the world view we have adopted.


I would agree, and the data bears this out:


Similar data:


What this is however showing that the levels of hesitancy, although widespread, are also very unevenly spread.

This raises the question of what (large parts of) the US has in common with (large parts of) Russia, etc? Looking beyond sectarian specifics to these commonalities might (I desperately hope) provide insight.

My native New Zealand (not shown on either graphic), although we like to pride ourselves on our handling of this issue, is not without its darker spots, as the article on this thread shows.

Yes, and the aggregate response to these competing experts seems to be very different in different areas of the world.

One possible solution to this problem might be the one suggested in the Pandas Thumb OP I link to on this thread.