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Pastor Greg Locke threatens members against masks and the vaccine as the Delta variant continues to soar through the country. As vaccination rates in his home state slow and infection rates climb, the pastor of Global Vision Bible Church claims Covid 19 is a hoax. He has undermined emergency mandates and refuses to comply with guidance from public health officials. Regardless of Locke’s controversial commentary surrounding the virus, his evangelical church has grown during the pandemic as he continues to attract far-right churchgoers.
Despite the country’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign, reportedly evangelical Christians are more resistant to getting the vaccine than other major religious groups. Evangelicals make up about one-quarter of the U.S. population, and health officials say persuading them to get the shot is crucial to slowing the spread of the Delta variant fueling recent increases in Covid-19 cases.
With defiant pastors such as Locke, achieving herd immunity is a steep challenge. The Nashville-area pastor gave a sharp warning to members by saying:
If you start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave. I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church.
This fiery rant during a Sunday morning service is a recurring event for the 45-year-old minister. He has made several false statements about the pandemic in addition to claims that it is fake. During a previous message Locke stated:
The death count is manipulated, and the vaccine is a dangerous scam. I discourage everybody under this tent to get it.
The preacher has also openly defied the state’s emergency mandates. In July 2020, he posted on Facebook that the church was remaining open and that people did not have to wear masks or social distance. Then, the following Sunday, while strutting back and forth on a stage beneath a sprawling red-and-white striped circus tent he warned churchgoers to not wear masks and railed against the possibility of more shutdowns. He screamed:
I don’t care if they send the military, they roll up in there with tanks … ladies and gentlemen, we are staying open. We are packed to capacity. You ain’t gotta wear a mask.
They will be serving Frostys in hell before we shut this place down, just because a buck wild, demon-possessed government tells us to.
And don’t believe this delta variant nonsense! Stop it!
The pastor threatens to put out mask-wearing members as the Delta variant soars through the country. However, he is not the only one pushing hard against it. Millions of white evangelical adults in the U.S. do not intend to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Tenets of faith and mistrust of science, as well as politics all play a role in this decision. The sheer size of the community poses a major problem for the country’s ability to recover from a pandemic that has resulted in the deaths of half a million Americans.
Evangelical ideas and instincts have a way of spreading and posing huge problems for herd immunity. The way American evangelicals think, write, and feel about certain issues quickly replicate throughout the world.
Some evangelicals believe that any Covid restrictions, including mask mandates and stipulations on in-person church worship, constitute oppression. They are fueled by the supposition that the entire pandemic is a battle between faith and fear, freedom and persecution.
Many evangelicals believe the former president was God’s man and President Biden is against Christ. Driven by the mix of political and religious convictions, large numbers of evangelicals are sure Biden is paving the way for the end times. The Biden administration’s internationalist focus attempts to expand the state and support for inclusive and diverse social policies from transgender rights to anti-racism reinforce their fears.
If pastors continue to diminish the pandemic and its damning effects, the Delta variant will continue to soar through the nation. Evangelical hesitancy poses serious health risks as the United States struggles to vaccinate enough Americans to develop herd immunity to the deadly virus. Speed is of the essence, and understanding and overcoming these evangelical fears is key to meeting this goal.
Pastor Locke refuses to allow social distancing or masks in his church. He has threatened to throw people out who seek to follow CDC precautions. As the pandemic continues, the Delta variant is soaring through the country and claiming victims. Many people have died due to the virus and with convictions like those of this Tennessee pastor the country should anticipate countless others.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Public Religion Research Institute: jlkjljljlk
Wall Street Journal: White Evangelicals Resist Covid-19 Vaccine Most Among Religious Groups
New York Times: White Evangelical Resistance Is Obstacle in Vaccination Effort
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