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.