Category Archives: Evangelical Christianity

Trust, Mistrust and a Monstrous God

 

One of the things that is so interesting about this pandemic is the astonishing fact that so many people mistrust so many so deeply. The distrust is virtually unshakeable. I am trying to understand why that happens. And it happens a lot where I live, in Southern Manitoba.

This has caught me by surprise. Or at least it once did. After nearly 2 years of this pandemic, it no longer surprises me. I expect it. I am surprised when someone demonstrates trust.  I think it has something to do with the deeply felt religious beliefs in our community, but that still does not explain it.

Here is what Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dylan Robertson said about exactly this issue:

“Manitoba children could qualify for COVID-19 vaccines within weeks, but evangelical parents might not let their kids roll up their sleeves.

In a recent Probe Research survey shared with the Free Press, two-thirds of evangelical Manitobans said they “worry about the long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccinations in children,” compared with 41 per cent of overall respondents.

In addition, 49 per cent of those identifying as evangelical said COVID-19 as an issue was “overblown,” compared with 28 per cent of the overall population.”

 

What would lead Manitoba parents to distrust government or the authorities so much that they would put the lives of their children in danger when the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence, and by now, real life experiences, make it so clear that not taking vaccines is a dangerous choice?

The Free Press  interviewed Rick Hiemstra, research director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and this is what he said, “A lack of trust and polarization have come home to roost.” So many of these evangelicals now identify with their group—Christians who don’t trust vaccines. They don’t trust  scientists. No matter how many of them. They don’t trust the government. Instead, they trust what other members of their tribe has told them or trust what they have “learned” from their own “research” on the Internet. And they do while they put the lives of their children in danger.

Here is what a local theologian said as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press,

“Evangelical scholar Nicholas Greco said numerous factors cause that gap, from a desire to rely on God for healing, to science clashing with creationism, to general skepticism of media and government.

Evangelicals often are reflective of a social and political conservatism, which calls for smaller governments (and) personal autonomy, but also tends to lead to a mistrust of government,” said Greco, who is provost of Providence University College in Otterburne.

Greco, a long-time communications professor, said there’s a perception the government wants to control everyone, and that the media is overhyping the virus as part of some sort of conspiracy.

“The rhetoric I hear from many of my colleagues… is that we don’t want the government to have further control, because if they do, we will lose our freedoms,” he said.

The evangelicals believe conspiracy theories rather than scientists and they believe it so strongly they put the lives of their children in danger. It is like an article of their faith that vaccines are untrustworthy, and no reasoning, no data, or no actual experiences will shake them from their convictions.

Here is what the Free Press reported, “At a recent panel, one congregant said everyone who got the vaccine is going to die within a few years, and that they’ll all go to hell.”

As an aside, think for a moment about what a monstrous God this person believed in—a god who would punish someone for eternity for doing what our scientists have strongly recommended.

It is as if denial of vaccine efficacy has become part of their religious faith.

Christians Sing while People Die

 

The Winnipeg Free Press (Tom Brodbeck) has again reported on the effect that Christians have been having on the health of Manitobans.

“First the reporters explained how Intensive Care Units are working.  According to the Free Press

“Manitoba’s intensive care units can handle close to one new admission a day, on average, without disrupting normal hospital operations. Two per day, on a sustained basis, may force hospital administrators to redeploy staff to ICUs from other wards.

More than three daily admissions can lead to disaster — the kind Manitoba experienced earlier this year, when officials airlifted 57 COVID-19 patients out of province for critical care treatment. ICU patients tend to remain in hospital for long periods, which means they pile up fast when admission rates are high.

That’s how Manitoba Health described its ICU capacity in October, when public health officials pleaded with people to get fully vaccinated and follow public health orders to reduce pressure on hospitals.”

 

Of course, the Winnipeg Free has already reported how many people in Southern Health particularly in the Winkler area (though Steinbach is not much better) have been repeatedly ignoring Manitoba’s public Health Orders. Worst of all, dozens of people have been gathering in “secret churches” in barns and sheds ordinarily used for farm equipment. They want to gather together and sing together, even though such activities are dangerous at this time.  At the same time the region has the lowest rate of vaccine acceptance in the province and among the worst rates in Canada. All of this is done in the name of religion and freedom. The results have been disastrous, not just for the Southern Health Region but for all of Manitoba. As Tom Brodbeck of the Winnipeg Free Press opined:

“Since then, the ICU situation has gone from bad to worse, largely owing to scores of unvaccinated patients — mostly from the Southern Health region— clogging up hospital beds and threatening to collapse Manitoba’s health-care system.

ICU admissions from Southern Health alone over the past month have been enough to trigger contingency planning at Manitoba hospitals.

By mid-November, the number of newCOVID-19 ICU admissions from Southern Health exceeded an average of one a day, according to statistics compiled from the province’s online data portal.

There were two ICU admissions from Southern Health some days in November. On Dec. 6, there were four. No other health region, including Winnipeg, had more than one ICU admission in a single day over the past month.

Between Nov. 12 and Dec. 12 (the most recent available data), 33 of 69 COVID-19 ICU admissions were from Southern Health. The region is home to about 15 per cent of Manitoba’s population.

During that same period, 15 ICU admissions came from Winnipeg, 13 from Prairie Mountain, five from Interlake-Eastern, and three from the Northern health region.”

 

It is reasonable to infer, that because so many people from Southern Health are using the ICUs, and because so many of them are unvaccinated and flaunt public health orders, that the Manitoba Health system is jeopardy. This is despite the fact that Southern Health accounts for only 15% of Manitoba’s population. Sadly, a small group of recalcitrant people who resist vaccine and health orders, is putting the lives of Manitobans at great risk. And in many cases, this is done in the name of religion.

Added to that, Brodbeck asserted,

“There is incontrovertible evidence that low vaccine coverage and a stubborn refusal to follow public health orders, including masking indoors and adhering to proof-of-vaccination policies, is killing and hospitalizing people from Southern Health at disproportionate rates.”

 

Moreover, during this time we constantly hear reports about over worked nurses and other staff who are on the verge of emotional and physical collapse as they try their best to help people who are harming themselves and others as a result of their failure to follow health orders.  As a result Brodbeck informed,

 “Hospitals have been forced to redeploy health-care staff and cancel thousands of procedures to accommodate that, leaving tens of thousands of Manitobans suffering in pain and misery on growing wait lists.

This is the direct result of a misguided and misinformed anti-vaccination campaign that has taken a foothold in parts of the province. It is also the result of a provincial government that has refused to effectively enforce public health orders.

Manitoba hospitals are averaging over three new ICU patients a day (around half from Southern Health, the vast majority of whom are not fully vaccinated). Instead of having enough capacity to absorb another wave, Manitoba hospitals already have 34 COVID-19 patients in ICUs and 135 in hospital overall.”

It really looks like Manitoba and Southern Health in particular are headed for disaster and people in Southern Health have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. They have illegally exercised their religious  freedom while they wreak havoc on the community. That is a strange kind of religion. If it is religion at all.

 

Religion of Thugs

 

I recently read about a strange  Kind of Christianity—Churches flaunt rules as People Suffer and  Die.

Here is what was reported in the  Winnipeg Free Press by Brenda Suderman,

“Christian worshippers are secretly holding church services in farm sheds and machine shops in southern Manitoba communities as a way to evade Covid-19 public health orders.

Held on private properties, the Sunday services, attended by dozens, and up to hundreds,, have been organized to circumvent current public health rules, which required mask use and limit the size of religious gatherings if attendees are not full vaccinated for Covid-19 Communities in the Southern Health region have some of the lowest vaccination rates in Manitoba including Winkler and the Rural Municipality of Stanley, where the services are reportedly being held.”

According to Suderman, attendees gather in large insulated and heated farm buildings used for equipment maintenance, repair and storage. Usually, the buildings are equipped with overhead doors large enough to accommodate big farm machinery and have one two doors for pedestrians and perhaps an occasional window.

It appears nothing is being done by the province because the local MLA and current Manitoba Minister of Justice who oversees the criminal justice system and is responsible for making sure Manitoba’s laws are enforced said,

“It’s very sensitive. We’re also trying to send the message that we know how important it is for people to gather to meet their spiritual needs… If there were some groups of people looking to meet in clandestine ways in undisclosed locations, it would be very challenging to monitor.”

 

Perhaps Manitoba’s police are too busy checking up on drivers driving without wearing seat belts.

What makes the negligence of the Minister of Justice even more disturbing is the sharp rise of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in this region where Christians flout the law. Christians are flouting the law to facilitate their personal desires for freedom and as a direct result Manitobans are dying and being put at risk of further harms.  What kind of Christianity is that?

In a previous post I called this the religion of thugs. Actually, it’s not religion at all.

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The religion of Us vs. Them

 

I have bravely commented before in this blog that when religion leads to hate, it is no longer religion.  I still believe that. More firmly than ever in fact. But obviously, many religious adherents, though not all, think otherwise. Unsurprisingly, this is coming up during COVID-19.  Dan Lett a Winnipeg Free Press opinion columnist has written a recent piece commenting on this phenomenon.

He commented on statements made by Manitoba’s Minister of Justice Cameron Friesen who happens to represent the region of Manitoba that contains Winkler and the Rural Municipality of Stanley, that have the lowest rates of vaccine uptake in the province and the highest rates of COVID-19. For more than a month now, the Southern Health Region of Manitoba that contains those two communities, and of course, Steinbach and our surrounding rural municipality of Hanover, which also have similar rates, have had very low rates of vaccine uptake and very high rates of new COVID cases. Friesen was recently asked about the news that many people in his region were attending church services in private homes and bars in efforts to get around Manitoba’s public health orders that prevented them from meeting together in churches as closely as they wanted.

Friesen was asked if the province would start enforcing those health orders.  That was hardly a surprising question, but his response was surprising. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported,

“Friesen assured Manitobans that enforcement was taking place but that it would be difficult to find the underground churches, and that the government’s efforts may not necessarily result in fines or tickets.

“We’re also trying to send the message that we know how important it is for people to gather to meet their spiritual needs.”

 

Holding both of those positions at once is about like riding two horses at the same time. When they inevitably ride apart, the rider is bound to get a splitting headache or worse. As Lett said, “In one sentence, Friesen confirmed this government’s tolerance for the deliberate actions of some that has sparked and driven a dangerous fourth wave of COVID-19.”

Lett concluded this was clear evidence that the Manitoba government was prepared to acquiesce in allowing Christians to break the law. Lett believes this suggests the Conservative government of Manitoba is prepared to permit the perpetual pandemic that could follow. As Lett said,

“A combination of tolerance, education and enforcement has not been able to convince tracts of people in some communities in southern Manitoba to embrace public health orders. The Morden-Winkler area in particular has become an epidemiological and ideological battleground, with the province’s health-care system caught in the crossfire.”

 

As I mentioned, Steinbach is really in that same community though with a little less rebellious vigour.

Lett suggested that at the very least Friesen ought to have told Manitobans

“While acknowledging the importance of worshipping in person, Friesen could have said now was not the time for worship in large numbers not permitted by public health orders. Further, he might have shown the courage to serve his fellow Christians an inconvenient truth: in-person worship is important, but it is not a transcendent Christian value.”

 Lett pointed out that for some reason Churches in southern Manitoba in particular have put in-person worship during the pandemic as a tradition that trumps all others. He asked, what happened to other Christian values? The vast majority of other churches have accepted, though often not without reluctance, that Manitoba has the right to impose restrictions on gatherings, even religious gatherings, to try stem the tide of the disease.

 As Lett opined,

 “Increasingly, the leaders of these churches turn to the Bible in an effort to justify their emphasis on in-person worship. And to be sure, worshipping in a group is an important element in the Christian identity.

However, many other religious leaders have made it clear: this one element of faith was never intended to take precedence over other Christian imperatives like loving one another, and making sacrifices for our family, friends and neighbours.”

 

After that Lett asked a very good question, namely, how did we get into this mess?  Lett suggested the cause was “many of the truly die-hard anti-vax, anti-mask and anti-social distancing citizens find community with each other through churches.”

 This leads me to the point I wanted to make. Many churches have shown their willingness to abide by Manitoba’s health orders and have recognized that God does not require in person church services at all times. But these churches, mainly from southern Manitoba, have instead demonstrated that they have, what Lett called,  an “us against the world” philosophy” that  runs deep.That is precisely the attitude I believe is deeply anti-religious. When churches find that attitude running deep, they should consider whether or they are still religions at all.

Lett concluded his column by saying,

“Whether he’s deferring to constituents in an effort to preserve his political career, or he truly believes individuals should be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, his comments are irresponsible. But he utters them with knowledge and comfort that in certain faith circles, he is a hero.”

 

I would go even farther than Lett. I would suggest that perhaps he is not even catering to a faith group at all, but rather, a group of thugs who think they can do whatever they want in the name of religion. Is thugs too strong a word? I think not. You can call them Christians. I call them thugs.

 

Co-parenting with the Government

 

Jordan Klepper was sent by the The Daily Show with Trevor Noah show to Johnston County North Carolina to visit with people protesting masks and vaccines. Kleeper has a knack for getting people to say strange things on camera.

Parents there were desperate to get their children back into schools. Nothing wrong with that agenda, but it was interesting how they went about accomplishing that. North Carolina, of course, is part of the American bible belt. Sort of like North Carolina’s version of Manitoba’sSouthern Health district .

Just like Manitoba hospitals there have Intensive Care Units that are filled and they faced mandates to wear masks. The parents that protested did not like those restrictions. And some of their arguments in favor of their positions were deeply fascinating. The protest rally reminded me a lot of the one I saw in Steinbach at about the same time. As Jordan Klepper said, “putting on a piece of cloth was just too much,” for the protesters. It was a terrible encroachment on their freedom.

The most common T-shirt or sign the protesters displayed was telling: “I don’t co-parent with the government.” Others included: “Stop muzzling our children.”   “My rights don’t end where your feelings begin!!!” “Say No to critical race theory.” “Educate not indoctrinate.”  Or “Unmasked, unmuzzled, unvaccinated, unafraid.” One  sign painted on an image of the American flag said, “that mask is as useless as our governor.”

The protesters, like those in Steinbach, were against it all. They didn’t like compulsory vaccines or masks or social distancing rules.  All the things the scientists said were needed to keep schools open were opposed by the protesters. One protester said, “Masks will never protect Americans.” Another said masks don’t work. Her child was suffering after wearing a mask for so long. She told Kleeper the problems he had as a result were acne on his face. But he didn’t have covid.  She admitted that. But he had acne. Klepper asked her if she had to choose between acne or Covid-19 fro her son what would she choose? She made it clear she would consider Acne as being worse.

Another mother protester said the problem with wearing masks was that children were forced to breath in air that the body was trying to get rid of. Klepper asked her how surgeons did it? They had been wearing masks for years. Her answer was this: “That’s a good question.” Yeah that is a good question.

Klepper pointed out that a recent study from the CDC and Duke University, one of North Carolina’s world class colleges, said  that wearing masks would be helpful for school children. She challenged people to smell the toxins going into the body as a result of masks. According to Klepper “There’s science and there’s the smell test so you’re going with the smell test?”  She nodded assent.

Klepper asked another woman what were the problems with masks.  She answered, “I think breathing. I’ve done a little bit of research about carbon dioxide that people are saying is an issue now with the masks.” When Klepper pointed out that scientific research had established that wearing masks in settings like schools was an advisable thing she just said, “Nah. Oh no. I mean I don’t think so.” She just threw up her hands and said  “oh I just don’t know.”  She had not even a hint of an answer to a very simple question from Klepper. She preferred “a little bit of research” and “what some people are saying” to the world’s best scientific and health evidence.

A male protester when asked where was the harm in having kids wear masks replied that “For kids the harm is they can’t gauge emotional awareness. They don’t see the facial expressions.” Klepper asked, “You think not being able to see the lower half of a facial expression outweighs the dangers of Covid might pose to kids in the community?” The man replied, “Well the dangers are what you think they are.”  In other words, (I think) something is dangerous only if I think they are dangerous. The man also suggested that most of the people in the hospitals were not really sick. Even those in ICUs.

Another man asked if the diagnoses were true. He had walked through the hospitals and he said they are not filled with covid patients. I know from personal experience that this is a common claim. I have heard it too. This man said he had walked through a hospital taking videos and guess what, “they’re not covid patients.” He did not explain how he could tell by looking at them whether or not they were covid patients. He did not explain how hospital security had let him in ( a frightening possibility).

 

Klepper asked one of the women wearing a sign that said she did not co-parent with the government, if her kids went to private or public school. She said public school and Klepper asked, “isn’t that sort of co-parenting with the government?” She said no because “we get to vote our school board so we have a voice.”  Klepper, “So you work with the government?” Mother, “Yeah.” She detected no incongruity.

 

Klepper asked another parent similar questions because he too sent his child to public schools. “So you are kind of co-parenting with the government?” “Well in that regard if you say my taxes pay for that then yeah.”  Klepper asked him if he gave back his child tax credit?” The man looked dumbfounded and said, “No.”

Klepper said “ they saw this as a fight against something much more disturbing than face coverings.” One replied, “Terrible. Wearing a mask is slavery. Also, I discovered in my research that Satanists wear a mask during the rituals.  6 feet apart and wear a mask during their rituals.” She also said “we are in a war with Satan…I have no fears.”  Klepper replied, “You have no fears just a healthy belief in Satan and his affect on Covid?” Her reply:” Absolutely.”

Loathe Thy Neighbour

 

Recently Malak Abas wrote an article reporting that in Winkler, another community like Steinbach, civility is in short supply as shown by residents and businesses being harassed and abused at their places of work for following and enforcing provincial health orders. The headline for the article was a slight poke at the reported Christians in town: “Loathe Thy Neighbour.” It seem like the good citizens of Winkler think that is what the Good Book tells them to do.

 

The Free Press reporters visited Winkler and found that at a dozen businesses none of  implemented provincial wide public health orders that mandated actions to curb an expected fourth wave of Covid-19. The authorities want to avoid what is happening around the world in many places. Manitoban seem to think we can avoid the disasters elsewhere. Maybe because they think we have a direct line to the Big Guy.

What is really disconcerting is that Winkler has the second lowest vaccination rates in Manitoba.  The lowest of course, are in the surrounding Rural Municipality of Stanley. Steinbach and its surrounding Municipality, Hanover, are not far behind.  So far faith in God is not helping much, because Southern Health in which these communities are all located also has the highest rate of Covid-19. As the Free Press reported,  recently, “The province reported 88 new COVID-19 cases Friday; 30 of them — the highest number of any of the five regions — were in Southern Health, where Winkler is located.”

There seems to be a direct link between religious communities and high rates of Covid-19 and low rates of vaccination uptake. I have been exploring in this blog why that might be the case.

According to the Free Press, the vast majority of patrons in the restaurant the reporters visited were unmasked and were not asked to show proof of immunization as Manitoba’s health orders require. It seems, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, no one notices the sick when God is on their side.

Not only that but people in Winkler are getting nasty about their intransigence. As the Free Press reported,

Winkler is taking a break from being in Friendly Manitoba, it seems. “Not all, but some of them are just angry, they take it out on staff members at the store,” police Chief Ryan Hunt said. “We’re just seeing a lot of frustration.”

The Free Press also reported that a woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared a backlash toward her business or her family said,

“she hadn’t asked the Free Press reporter to wear a mask in the store out of a sense of defeat. People who aren’t following the rules in stores often get loud. And even violent. “They’re very negative,” she said. “They yell, they swear, they spit, they refuse to stand behind the plastic shields.”

Things were so bad that one business owner posted this sign on its door: “Kindness is mandatory. Proof of kindness required at front entrance.”

One would have thought Christians did not need such a reminder. One would have thought wrong.

 

Invasion of Idiots comes to Steinbach

 

 

 

Just when you think there’s no more room for ignorance, more of it comes sloshing into Steinbach. For the second time Steinbach was the scene of a protest of Manitoba’s health restrictions imposed by government officials trying to stem the tide of Covid-19.  Both protests were led by Sheena Friesen who called on those in attendance including me, to make our voices heard protesting the limits on our freedoms. I felt I had to see what was going on in Steinbach so I grabbed my camera and drove to our City Hall.  Needless to say, I was one of the very few people there wearing a mask. I stood out and was proud to do so.

 

Friesen is a chapter leader of an organization called Vaccine Choice for Canada. She urged us to ditch our fear and live life to the fullest. “Don’t acquiesce; don’t let them push you around,” she said. In fact, she assured us, “I will live under a bridge with my family like a troll if necessary.” She thanked God for bringing her to this community of protesters. There were about 100 protesters I estimated. Not a huge number, but Steinbach is much less vaccinated than most of Manitoba. The last figures I have seen showed Steinbach had vaccination rates of about 60% compared to more than 70% for the province.  The Rural Municipality of Hanover which surrounds our town has even lower rates of vaccine acceptance.  Vaccine resistance is real in Steinbach, as it is in Winkler and its surrounding rural municipality. They have the lowest rates of vaccine uptake in the province.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence that these regions are heavily populated with Mennonites and other conservative Christian groups and also strongly support conservative political candidates?   One of the speakers claimed “my Jesus is a rebel.” Funny I never thought of Jesus as someone who would selfishly put his “rights” above the needs of vulnerable people to personal safety. None of the speakers expressed any concern for the 30,000 people in Manitoba who have had to put aside surgeries and other important medical procedure because of the fears that Manitoba’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by unvaccinated people who contract Covid-19. These people care only for themselves and their “rights and freedoms.”

The grim reaper was in attendance. In fact he pointed at me and I pointed back. What did he mean? What did I mean? Is it wise to tick off the grim reaper?

Frankly, my overall impression of the speakers in attendance  is that they were selfish and stupid. That is a mighty powerful toxic cocktail. I really hate to put it that way, but their speeches were ill thought out and frankly not very smart. I was dismayed by the quality of the speakers. One said to the audience don’t worry if your children are not allowed in school for not wearing masks, “You can home school them.”  Have children home schooled by these ignorant people is a thought that is enough to make one shudder.

 

They think wearing a mask is a great violation of their freedom, immensely more important than the right to life and health of others around them.  One speaker, a very young man who “owned a corporation” said before the restrictions his business made a profit of $10,000 per day!  Last week after new restrictions came into effect reduced his daily profit to $400. A truly astonishing reduction. Unbelievable actually. But all he cared about was his loss of profit. He did not mention the people who got sick or were missing life saving surgery as a result of the unvaccinated.

More protesters who were not very friendly to facts.

 

In my opinion the speakers and those who loudly supported them  exemplified what Italian writer Umberto Eco referred to as “an invasion of idiots.” This is what he wrote:

“Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community. Then they were quickly silenced, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of the idiots.” (Trans. T. Bolin).

  

If this is the best of vaccine resistance its hard to believe it can be so dangerously effective. But is!

When Ideology Swallows Sense

 

I have been struggling to understand this amazing phenomenon that regions with a high prevalence of Christians and conservatives, such as southern Manitoba where I live, also have a high prevalence of vaccine hesitancy. Why is that the case?  What unites these two ideologies with nonsense? I think this is a very important question.

 

I have been surprised by the number of people that won’t take the Covid-19 vaccines because they don’t trust the government. To me that seems ludicrous. I have managed to dodge the prevailing political wisdom that assumes anything the government does is bad while anything the private sector does is good. I hear it all the time.  It is particularly prevalent here. That has been the prevailing political belief since at least the time of Saint Ronald Regan. Even left wingers are subject to this ideology; it is so common and so pervasive.

Some people blame the internet for this problem, and it is a partial cause.  But it does not explain enough. One of my favorite political commentators in my favorite newspaper (now a magazine), Nesrine Malik of The Guardian, pointed out something very interesting when she said,

“People with the wildest theories about the pandemic can be found in countries even where most people don’t have access to the internet, cable TV or the shock jocks of commercial radio. A common impulse is to write off those espousing conspiracies, consigning them to the casualties claimed by WhatsApp groups, disinformation or silent mental health issues. These things may be true – but vaccine hesitancy is a symptom of broader failures. What all people wary of vaccines have in common, from Khartoum to Kansas is their trust in the state has been eroded. Without understanding this, we will be fated to keep channeling our frustrations towards individuals without grasping why they have lost trust in the first place.”

 

Malik emphasizes that governments around the world, particularly in the developing world, have earned this distrust. Endemic corruption breeds justifiable distrust. I agree entirely with that. But what about countries like Canada with governments that are not as corrupt? Why is distrust of governments so common here? Not that our governments are perfect, but they have at least a modicum of integrity.

As Malik said,

“Vaccine rejection doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s easier to dismiss hesitancy and conspiracies as unhinged behaviour; it makes us feel less unnerved by displays of unreason from those who we think are, or should be, rational people. Sure, among vaccine-hesitant people are those who are simply stubborn, misanthropic or selfish. But, just as the pandemic exploited the weaknesses of our economic and public health systems, vaccine hesitancy has exposed the weaknesses of states’ bond with their citizens. There are no easy answers for how to deal with those who repeat conspiracy theories and falsehoods, but scrutinising the systems that lost their trust is perhaps a good place to start.”

 

I also want to point out that in the west since the 1980s during the reigns of Saint Ronny, Princess Maggie, and Prince Brian in the US. UK and Canada respectively, people have been fed a steady diet that the state is unreliable and predatory.  As Saint Ronald Reagan said, the most scary 11 words in the English language are, ‘I am from the government and I am here to help.’

 This is all part of neo-liberal dogma/propaganda that the government can’t be trusted only the private sector is worth our trust. Of course, this ideology has for decades served the interests of the wealthy who care more about minimizing their personal or corporate taxes than the plight of the less advantaged. As a result many of them  have used their wealth to convince us of its truth because it is in their interest to do so. This ideology is now so prevalent that even people whose best interests would be served by government are reluctant to accept its help. Vaccines are a case in point. Governments provide many things of enormous value that the private sector is unwilling or unsuited to provide including hospitals, roads, libraries, universities, parks, environmental regulations, health and safety standards to name only a few. For decades we have been taught and many of us believed that governments are bad and private enterprise is good.

Now we are paying a heavy price for blindly following that ideology.

Spreading Falsehoods in a time of pandemic

 

Steinbach, religion, and vaccine resistance is in the news again. Recently the Carillon News in Steinbach published an article about a family of 12 that came to Steinbach all the way from Lac du Bonnet to publicly protest against Manitoba’s official response to the Covid-19 pandemic.   I was struck by one of the photos that showed a very young girl, probably less than 10 years old carrying a sign that read “They killed babies to produce vaccines.” Needless to say that was a shocking statement. Absurd actually.

It took me a little while to realize that the sign was likely referring to the claim that stem cells from aborted fetuses had been used to produce one of the vaccines. These stem cells were “harvested” decades ago. Long before anyone ever heard anything about Covid-19. Yet I can see some argument here, namely that if those who think  that abortion is always murder, we should not try to “profit” from the murder. But the sign of course could not get into the complexities of examining that moral judgment. This is a complicated issue and I won’t get into here. Perhaps later. For now, I just want to say no babies were killed for the purpose of the vaccine as the sign suggested.

Each of us are entitled to our own opinions, even very young girls carrying signs.  But the moral issue is a little more complex than a sign at a protest might lead one to believe. Leading people to believe that vaccines were created by killing babies is a case of gross misstatement that is not acceptable in the midst of a health pandemic where people need the best information available. I will leave this issue with that comment for now.

Other family members of this young protester also carried signs. One read, “prayer and worship are the solution.” I would strongly suggest that in the case of such a pandemic good scientific data and advice from scientists should not be avoided in order to get answers to prayers. There is nothing wrong with prayer but if the desire to pray interferes with getting the best scientific data during a pandemic I am opposed to that.

Another family member held a sign that read, “First communism, then starvation.” This again reflected the right wing bias of many protesters. It show the strong connection between religion, right-wing politics and what I call unreason. Frankly, suggesting that Manitoba health orders are part of “Communism” is absurd.

I also recognize that historically many anti-vaxxers were left wingers, but I think in this pandemic most belong in the camp of the conservatives. If anyone thinks I am wrong I would ask them to enlighten me.

The father of the young protesters was interviewed by the Carillon News and he said, “The vaccine prevents nothing. Prayer and worship is about the only thing we can do, so that our way is to have a little bit of resistance to the government.” This statement again shows the frequent connection between anti-vaccines, Christianity, and right wing politics—the toxic brew as I have been calling it.

That is the statement that really bothers me. There is plenty of evidence that the vaccines are enormously important at preventing serious illness from the coronavirus. We see it every day in Canada and the US where since the vaccines have become widely available here in North America, the pandemic has largely turned into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  Doling out misinformation that vaccines don’t help is seriously wrong.  I think the father should be ashamed of himself. I wonder if spreading such misinformation should be a criminal offence. It certainly should not be tolerated.

In a pandemic spreading nonsense or what I have been calling unreason,  can have serious consequences. We should all remember that. Every day in the Southern Bible Belt we have more unreason. It is blossoming. And the flowers are black.

 

Vaccine Unreason in Southern Health Region (Again)

 

I live in the Southern Health Region of Manitoba. While our region is very diverse, it also has many conservative Christians and conservative right wing people as well. I know I have been going on and on about these people and everyday I want to switch to another topic and then something else comes up. This happened again.

Our region also has the lowest rate of Covid-19 vaccinations in the province. Is that a coincidence? Or did that happen for a reason?

Last week, one day there were 56 new Covid-19 cases in Manitoba. Of those 22 were in the Southern Health region even though it only has a population of 211,986 people. Winnipeg, on the other hand, has a population of 791,284 people and it had only 18 new Covid-19 cases. The next day Southern Health had 41 new cases and Winnipeg had 29 new cases.

I think these numbers tell a significant story. What do you think?

At the same time, many people in our region complain how “my rights” are being trampled on by government health restrictions. Really, Winnipeg should complain about the alt-right Christians. Some people no doubt think I have been too hard on the Christian right in southern Manitoba. I think I have been too easy on them.

Since then our region has seen rallies by the Christian alt-right in Winkler and Steinbach. Both were similar with people saying their rights have been trampled on by health restrictions imposed by our government. It is interesting that our government is in fact a conservative government elected be these same people. Imagine how the people would protest if a heathen left-wing government did this to them.

 

One of the Winkler protesters said this: “mask use reduces oxygen levels, that she doesn’t believe in vaccinations and that, as a Christian, she trusts God to protect her from illness.”

The protesters include people of strong faith. The suggest that if they get a vaccine they don’t trust God anymore. They say they trust in God to heal them. That is all the protection they need. Vaccines can’t save them only God can do that. This makes me wonder if they have a tooth ache do they wait for God to heal them or go to a dentist? If they have a broken leg do they go to a doctor? What about if they have sever abdominal pains? Do they not have faith in God that he can heal them? Do they lock their doors when they go away on a holiday or let God protect them? How do they pick and choose what God can heal and what requires expertise? I really would like to know. Perhaps one of my faithful readers can enlighten me.