Evangelicals in the Crosshairs

It’s time that Christians respond to Progressive attacks with the historical facts about our pandemic legacy. 

Millennials and Gen Zs are not only leaving the Church, many are taking dead aim at it.  Nowhere has that been more evident than during this pandemic.  Social media, TV talking heads, and newspapers have launched withering attacks against Evangelicals.  That should come as no surprise.  After Evangelicals became the largest group to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, it was inevitable that they would face the wrath of angry Progressives—many of them our children and grandkids.  To rephrase a proverb: “Hell hath no fury like Millennials scorned.” 

     Attacks have heated up since our COVID 19 crisis.  Here’s a sampling:  In a March 29, 2020 New York Times column, Katherine Stewart wrote, “The road to Coronavirus hell was paved by Evangelicals.”  Imagine if that op-ed had stated that this “road to hell” was paved by Islamists, Undocumented Immigrants, LGBTQ advocates, or the Chinese?  The editorial board of The New York Times would have refused to print Ms. Stewart’s op-ed.  But Evangelicals are too often fair game in today’s toxic climate.  

     The mayor of New York City was happy for help from Samaritan’s Purse. But, after they put up their makeshift medical tents in Central Park, His Honor caved in to the purveyors of political correctness by refusing to visit their site.  On April 4, 2020, Daily Beast headline blared, “New Yorkers are Right to Be Skeptical of Evangelical-run Coronavirus Ward in Central Park.”  An April 2, 2020, Washington Post article said, “White Evangelicals don’t take the novel coronavirus seriously because they believe in muscular Christianity.”  I could cite hundreds of blogs, Facebook posts, social media sites, cable talking heads, and newspaper articles that have accused Evangelical Christians of the most horrifying attitudes and actions.  

Old Prejudices Recycled

     These recent accusations are as ancient as Nero blaming Christians for the fires that burned Rome.  Throughout their earliest history, followers of Jesus were blamed for every plague, famine, or barbarian invasion.  Lies spread by pagans resulted in the martyrdom of untold thousands of Christians.  Stalin, Hitler, Mao, the Kim dynasty in North Korea, as well as other anti-Christs have killed more than 70 million Christ followers.  To be sure, American Evangelicals are not facing persecution yet, but history shows that pogroms almost always begin with the spreading of false charges to condition the general public to go along with sterner actions.  When the propaganda machine of Nazi Germany first began to ridicule the Jew, no one thought these anti-Semitic rants would lead to wholesale genocide.  

Falsehood Exposed by Fact

     Evangelicals have plenty of faults that need to be confessed and eradicated.  But truth is a two-edged sword.  It is not only a scalpel that exposes our sins, but a saber that fights false charges against us.  Nowhere is that truer than in this issue of pandemics.  Christians have a proud legacy when it comes to plagues and other catastrophes.  Here’s a brief history:

    The Antonine Plague [160-180 AD] and theCyprian Plague [249-262 AD] killed a quarter to half of the population of the Roman world, as well as four emperors. In each one, aristocrats and doctors fled the hot spots.  Most pagans hid indoors to avoid contact with the afflicted.  Records show that Christians had a radically-different approach.  They nursed the sick, buried the dead, and took pagan widows and orphans into their homes.  Jesus followers were usually the first responders, with many dying in the process.  Historian and demographer, Rodney Stark, claims that cities that had Christian communities suffered only half the death rate as other places.  It’s no wonder that the Church grew more after those plagues than at any other time.  

     Study the history of pandemics and you will find that Christians rose to the challenge of their Faith.  In 1527, the Bubonic Plague hit Wittenberg.  Despite pleas that he leave, Martin Luther remained to care for the sick and dying.  His selfless action resulted in the death of his daughter, Elizabeth.  He later wrote a tract entitled, “Whether Christians Should Flee the Plague.”  These words sum up his credo: 

“We die at our posts.  Christian doctors cannot abandon their hospitals.  Christian governors cannot flee their districts.  Christian pastors cannot abandon their congregations.  The plague does not dissolve our duties:  It turns them into crosses, on which we must prepare to die.”  

     The record of history remains unchanged:  from Roman plagues to the Black Death to the Spanish Flu to the Ebola outbreak to the coronavirus pandemic, Christians have always been on the frontline.  Their charity is unmatched. The latest study of the National Philanthropic Report says that Americans gave $427.71 billion to charitable causes, seven times more than Europeans gave.  The biggest percentage came from individual donations, and the ten most generous states were in the Bible Belt.  The Northeastern States were the least charitable.  Christians contribute 65% of all charitable giving in the U.S.  By about the same percentages, Christians make up the lion’s share of social justice workers overseas.  

Spread the Good News

     In an age when your children and grandchildren are being indoctrinated with an animus toward Evangelicals, it is important to share these facts with them.  You may not sway them to embrace your Faith, but you just might turn them a bit.  More importantly, you should live out Christian courage and charity in the face of this pandemic and other social crises that are sure to follow. When those Early Christians decided to stay in the epicenters of Roman plagues, and Martin Luther was willing to sacrifice everything during the bubonic pandemic, they understood the words of Jesus: “All men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13:35] May your children and grandchildren see that in you.  

Dr. Bob Petterson
Legacy Imperative