Russell Moore COVID vaccine
Russell Moore participates in a Washington Post Live interview on Aug. 10, 2021. (Video screen grab)

Russell Moore: Evangelicals Less Resistant to Vaccine After Loved Ones Get COVID

By Adelle Banks

Russell Moore, Southern Baptist ethicist-turned-public theologian, said that knowing people who became seriously ill or died from COVID-19 may be causing some vaccine-hesitant individuals to change their minds.

“One of the things, I think, that is moving the needle a little bit, more than anything else, is the experience of seeing great suffering,” he said Tuesday in a Washington Post Live interview.

“Sadly, many people are seeing people that believed themselves to be invulnerable getting sick or dying,” he continued. “And there’s a great deal of concern about that so, that, I think, is having more of a motivating factor than even all of the public service announcements and information that we can give.”

Moore resigned as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in May and has become a minister in residence of a Nashville, Tennessee, church that is not affiliated with the SBC. He is the new director of Christianity Today magazine’s Public Theology Project.

In a discussion with Washington Post senior writer Frances Stead Sellers, Moore said some people in certain sectors of evangelicalism — particularly Pentecostalism — may say, “God will protect me, I don’t need a vaccine” but, he said, it is primarily misinformation that’s driving the hesitancy to access vaccines.

“I hear from pastors often, who are saying, ‘I’m trying to encourage my people to be vaccinated, showing them all the things that we can do together if we are,’” he said. “But there’s a great deal of misinformation that comes through on social media feeds and sometimes cable news networks, and that simply is much more time in the week than an hour or two hours on Sunday.”

A recent survey by Public Religion Research Institute found vaccine hesitancy has fallen among all religious groups. But the trend was less pronounced among white evangelicals, whose acceptance rate increased from 45% to 56% between March and June. That religious group remained the one with the highest percentage of vaccine refusers: 24% (compared to 26% in March).

Moore added that conspiracy theories and uncertainty, rather than pastors, are driving the evangelical hesitancy or refusal to get the vaccine. Pastors, he said, are often encouraging vaccinations and ministering to those who are sick.

“I don’t encounter many people in evangelical life — at least who are churchgoers — who are anti-vaxxers,” Moore said. “But I do encounter a lot who are just wondering, who do I trust and what do I believe? And so sometimes that takes a long time.”

Moore also said he rarely hears someone say, “I’m a supporter of QAnon.” But the conspiracy theories spread by QAnon and similar groups are reaching people who may not know their source.

According to Moore, a concerning and growing issue is the number of younger evangelicals who are seeking advice on how to educate their parents who have bought into these kinds of theories.

“They’re worried about them and want to know how to connect with them,” Moore said. “That’s almost a mirror image of the conversations I would have been having 10 years ago, when parents would be saying, ‘Help me to know how to talk and connect to my children.’”

Moore was also asked about his decision to leave the Southern Baptist Convention, a move that was followed by the release of leaked correspondence in which he bemoaned racism within the institution and accused some SBC leaders of trying to delay attempts to address sexual abuse allegations.

“I think the decision was more about how best to carry out the calling that I think God has put on my life,” he responded. “In a time when institutions are often not trusted, not just because of the cultural moment but because in many cases those institutions have failed, we can do without some institutions. But we cannot do without the church of Jesus Christ, in my view. So that’s going to require some new ways of connecting and being together.”

Adelle Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at Religion News Service.

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37 thoughts on “Russell Moore: Evangelicals Less Resistant to Vaccine After Loved Ones Get COVID”

  1. I think that some of the hesitation is related to the fact that the vaccines are “experimental” drugs and we really do not know the long term affects. I take a flu shot every year, but it has been vetted and approved, which took time. There is a new drug, Novavax, that more resembles the flue shots we have today. It is awaiting approval and when that happens I believe we will see more people vaccinated.

    1. They’re still allowing themselves to be misled by misinformation though. All the Covid-19 vaccines that are available in the US have undergone the largest vaccination trials in history, with tens of thousands of participants each, and over four billion doses have already been delivered worldwide over the last eight months.

      We have discovered a serious side-effect so rare (around 1 in 250,000) that it would never have been discovered during normal vaccine trial because only a tiny fraction of that number would have participated.

      The first mRNA vaccine safety trial was conducted 15 years ago and there have been a whole bunch of safety and efficacy trials with the same technology ever since with vaccines and other types of drug. There has never been any indication of serious problems with the technology regarding safety.

      Also, the “long term” fears about vaccine safety are overblown. Again, the main problem with longer term problems is the relatively small sample size when a vaccine is tested and then introduced which isn’t large enough to uncover any relatively rare serious side effects. When you are delivering doses by the billion, which we are today, there’s simply no chance of a serious side effect common enough to warrant stopping using the vaccine remaining undiscovered.

      People suddenly dropping dead en masse after three years with no warning is the stuff of post-apocalyptic scifi movies, not science. If people were going to start dropping dead, it would already be happening in large enough numbers that the alarm bells would be ringing. (And no, conspiracy theorists, it isn’t happening already.)

      The bottom line is: all the Covid vaccines approved for use in the US are safe and effective, and will be the difference between life and death for tens of thousands of people in the months to come as the Delta variant sweeps across the county.

      1. As a vaccine hesitant, I would find your post more convincing if you actually linked to the original clinical trial data. I found that for Pfizer/Moderna trial (which is ongoing), there are 43,548 participants – see https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33301246/ – is this really the largest vaccination trial in history? Perhaps you are right. But when can we verify this information rather than just have it told to us by a news organisation or read it on a forum?

      2. Frances Christenson

        Mike, I would like to know if you are a doctor and qualified to give medical advice. Please see the following. The original reason for jabs was to reach herd immunity.
        _____________________________________________________________

        The White House acknowledged earlier on Wednesday that it has started to see COVID cases leveling off in the hardest-hit states.

        WHITE HOUSE SAYS U.S. HAS STARTED TO SEE SOME LEVELING OFF OF COVID-19 INFECTIONS IN STATES SEEING SURGE
        ______________________________________________________________________________

        Iceland’s top epidemiologist admits the vaccination is not achieving the herd immunity as hoped for:

        While data shows vaccination is reducing the rate of serious illness due to COVID-19 in Iceland, the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says it has not led to the herd immunity that experts hoped for. In the past two to three weeks, the Delta variant has outstripped all others in Iceland and it has become clear that vaccinated people can easily contract it as well as spread it to others, Þórólfur stated in a briefing this morning.

        …The panel opens for questions. “What needs to happen for you to tighten restrictions, Þórólfur? You don’t sound very positive at the moment.”

        Þórólfur says he has not decided on measures beyond August 13. He is in discussions with the Health Minister, and it is the government that must decide whether it is necessary to impose tighter restrictions. Þórólfur adds that at this time he will likely make recommendations in a different format than the memorandums he has previously sent to the Health Minister.

        As a reminder, Iceland has over 70% of its population vaccinated, and nearly everyone over 16 has received their shots.

        During another discussion, the Director of the National University Hospital Páll Matthíasson asserted that the pandemic is here to stay. He recommends that people turn the focus from lockdowns and restrictions to preparing hospitals for the new realities.

        “This and other pandemics are here to stay,” Páll says. “We must strengthen the healthcare system so that it is not always on the brink of collapse.” We are all in the same boat in this society. It’s a pretty good boat despite everything, but we must work together to ensure success, Páll says.

        Pfizer has announced that the development of a booster to target the delta variant. But what about all the other variants likely to arise?

        One Swedish Professor thinks people might need five booster shots.

        While many people have bragged about being “fully vaccinated” after taking two COVID-19 jabs, a Swedish professor says that as many as five shots may be needed to combat falling immunity.

        “We don’t know how long the vaccine protects against serious illness and death,” said Karolinska Institute Professor Matti Sällberg. “This means that you pick the safe before the unsafe.”

        Alternatively, it may be time to shift our desperate focus from vaccines to healthcare readiness. This includes readily available treatments allowing people to recover fully at cost-effective price points. The Iceland team may be the first group of epidemiologists who realize that a new approach may better respond to this virus.

        1. “Mike, I would like to know if you are a doctor and qualified to give medical advice”

          Frances, we might ask you the same.

          Did you not read the first line of your very own posting?

          “While data shows vaccination is reducing the rate of serious illness due to COVID-19 in Iceland,”

          Reducing the rate of serious illness is a GOOD thing, Frances.

        1. This pre-pandemic article is about Moderna’s difficulty developing an mRNA treatment for the “rare and debilitating disease known as Crigler-Najjar syndrome”.

          The article is nearly three years prior to COVID-19 and the subsequent advanced effort to develop the COVID-19 vaccine. It is unsurprising that a company with thousands of scientists continued to improve their work over the course of several years. That’s what scientists do.

          You might as well post something that says “early automobile development hits a snag!” as proof that automobiles don’t work. It’s about that relevant.

          1. And the same nasty side effects are still with us in 2021. That’s some snag.

            Last time I checked, automobiles aren’t involved with gene therapy and don’t get injected into your body.

      3. Mike Walker,

        Please provide your sources for the: “The first mRNA vaccine safety trial was conducted 15 years ago and there have been a whole bunch of safety and efficacy trials with the same technology ever since with vaccines and other types of drug. There has never been any indication of serious problems with the technology regarding safety.” statement.

        From 2017 Moderna https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/10/moderna-trouble-mrna/

        “But mRNA is a tricky technology. Several major pharmaceutical companies have tried and abandoned the idea, struggling to get mRNA into cells without triggering nasty side effects.”

        “It (mRNA) never proved safe enough to test in humans, according to several former Moderna employees and collaborators who worked closely on the project. Unable to press forward with that technology, Moderna has had to focus instead on developing a handful of vaccines (not mRNA), turning to a less lucrative field that might not justify the company’s nearly $5 billion valuation.”

        “But things gradually came apart last year.
        Every drug has what’s called a therapeutic window, the scientific sweet spot where a treatment is powerful enough to have an effect on a disease but not so strong as to put patients at too much risk. For mRNA, that has proved elusive.”

        “Every drug has what’s called a therapeutic window, the scientific sweet spot where a treatment is powerful enough to have an effect on a disease but not so strong as to put patients at too much risk. For mRNA, that has proved elusive.”

    2. By far most of the people I know with concerns about the vaccine are medical professionals .The problem with Christians going to Russell Moore for advice on this issue is that his voice is not independent but he works with the funding of radical interest and a John Hopkins pressure group. Baptist finally booted Moore for his long alignment with left leaning political interest like those using the pandemic policy for a power grab. This is “CommuniVax” in whose recent event Moore participated with less that trustworthy partners and funding. https://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/our-work/Center-projects/CommuniVax.html

  2. For me, I hesitate due to the ban on hearing dissenting views. I know Bill Gates is not going to inject a chip into me, but I don’t know for sure if any of the vaccines are totally safe. If someone dies within 28 days of a positive test for COVID, it is recorded as a COVID death. If someone dies within 28 days of a COVID vaccine, shouldn’t we at least be suspicious? I would like to have a forum where genuine concerns can be raised and discussed without that forum being labelled as “antivax” or “misinformation”. Any such forums currently are taken off-line or censored.

    1. That forum is actually provided by the CDC itself, Adrian. Far from seeking to *hide* potential adverse effects, they actually publicly collect them.

      See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html
      “Adverse events described on this page have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
      VAERS accepts reports of any adverse event following any vaccination.
      Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.”

      Your idea that all genuine concerns are “censored” is itself propaganda. Potential adverse effects are carefully catalogued by the medical professionals fighting the virus.

      Are there a small number of adverse effects from vaccines? Yes.

      This is true of ALL medical procedures. We do not stop doing open heart surgery, or using penicillin, because of a small number of adverse effects.

      1. Frances Christenson

        Lea, we are not requiring, or pushing for, all citizens to get open heart surgeries or take penicillin so you are not comparing apples to apples. This jab has killed more citizens than all jabs combined and that is from VAERS.

        We also know that the VAERS reporting is deeply flawed. Consider the following. This unfortunately is the best the USA has to offer and considering we are suppose to be a first world county it is below what I would think we are capable of.

        Significant Under-Reporting to VAERS
        A 2011 report by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated that fewer than one percent of all vaccine adverse events are reported to the government:4

        Although 25% of ambulatory patients experience an adverse drug event, less than 0.3% of all adverse drug events and 1-13% of serious events are reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Likewise, fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported. Low reporting rates preclude or slow the identification of “problem” drugs and vaccines that endanger public health. New surveillance methods for drug and vaccine adverse effects are needed.

        I think people need to do their own research, talk to their doctor and make up their own mind!!

        1. “I think people need to do their own research, talk to their doctor and make up their own mind!!”

          If that’s truly your belief, why are you leaving so many comments here?
          Clearly you are violating your own instructions, Frances.

          And btw, a 2011 study? The COVID pandemic started in late 2019, remember. You’re very out of date.

          1. Frances Christenson

            OK. Is it posted here that I only get one post, Lea? If so I apologize. I believe you have posted almost as much as me and even talked over Mike. Is that allowed here? Who is moderating?? Aren’t you also as guilty as I in posting more than once? Guess we are alike in many ways.

            So, you are disputing a Harvard study from 2011 that never was shown to be incorrect recently? There are many laws on our books that you still obey that are older than 2011. Are you advocating we throw that wisdom out as well? Heck, there are many scientific discoveries we still abide by today that go back way farther than 2011. So let’s see you have a problem with the date of the study but no problem with the information within the study? Is that correct? I didn’t hear any counter facts to dispute the information. I can wait.

            [ . . . ]

          2. Frances, please go talk to the doctors at our local hospital. Ask them how many of those that have died there are unvaccinated. Ask them if COVID-19 is real. Ask them if vaccines work.

            If you won’t do this, then you simply prove that you are uninterested in pursuing truth.

          3. Doesn’t matter about the date since the study is not about COVID directly, but rather about how adverse events are reported.

          4. The date is indeed relevant, Adrian, since reporting has changed since it was published. Do you think the medical community’s reporting practices have stood still for the last TEN years? And during a global pandemic?

          5. “If that’s truly your belief, why are you leaving so many comments here?
            Clearly you are violating your own instructions, Frances.”

            Because there are so many “Jesus commands” thrown around.

        2. Frances Christenson,

          It is a waste of time engaging with this one, unless you want to learn how to gaslight, be a hypocrite, use DARVO, judge others, insult, attack character of others, act morally superior without holding that standard to yourself, make claims without providing sources, shame tactics, and generally not add anything constructive to the conversation.

          I have tried to have conversations multiple times and it is the same thing over and over again, not worth the effort. Your presented facts will always be wrong and when asked to provide proof, you will be told to “go look it up”.

          1. Correct Andrew. Go look up 80,000 peer reviewed articles on Google as proof.

            The article you cited is still relevant even though it was soooo three and a half years ago. The mRNA delivery system, which is truly gene therapy, has never not been problematic. But people will say that’s not true because of 80,000 peer reviewed articles.

            The part I have trouble with is I would be considered elderly by many, and yet my immune system is stronger now than when I was 20. I haven’t been sick in several years. I haven’t had the flu in decades. That’s apparently irrelevant, and I’m supposed to submit to an experimental treatment because someone said Jesus commands it.

            I’m curious as we travel down this dark road if vaxxed Christians will consider it their Christian duty to report unvaxxed to the authorities. When that happens, I hope there are some families around like the Ten Booms.

      2. Thanks Lea, I am well aware of VAERS. However, VAERS is a reporting system and definitely not a forum. There is no possibility to leave comments or start a discussion there. A forum allows free discussion by anyone.

        VAERS isn’t actually carefully catalogued by professionals either – anyone can raise an event there.

        Open heart surgery is rather different – it is only performed where there is an immediate threat to the life of the patient or the patient has such a low quality of life (e.g. trouble breathing while walking a few feet). COVID is quite unlikely to kill you if you are young and healthy, so you have to do an appropriate risk/benefit analysis.

        1. Heart problems are not contagious, Adrian. The risk/benefit analysis of vaccination must include not only ourselves, but our neighbors.

          We must protect then as we would ourselves, as Jesus commands.

        2. Apparently Adrian, Jesus has appointed others to tell you to get vaccinated. He issued a memo that you didn’t get, and forget about the Holy Spirit.

          Now, you need to march on down and get jabbed immediately. Do you understand? Jesus commands it!

      3. https://medicalkidnap.com/2021/08/02/20595-dead-1-9-million-injured-50-serious-reported-in-european-unions-database-of-adverse-drug-reactions-for-covid-19-shots/

        20,595 DEAD 1.9 Million Injured (50% SERIOUS) Reported in European Union’s Database of Adverse Drug Reactions for COVID-19 Shots

        by Brian Shilhavy
        Editor, Health Impact News

        The European Union database of suspected drug reaction reports is EudraVigilance, and they are now reporting 20,595 fatalities, and 1,960,607 injuries, following COVID-19 injections.

        A Health Impact News subscriber from Europe reminded us that this database maintained at EudraVigilance is only for countries in Europe who are part of the European Union (EU), which comprises 27 countries.

        The total number of countries in Europe is much higher, almost twice as many, numbering around 50. (There are some differences of opinion as to which countries are technically part of Europe.)

        So as high as these numbers are, they do NOT reflect all of Europe. The actual number in Europe who are reported dead or injured due to COVID-19 shots would be much higher than what we are reporting here.

        The EudraVigilance database reports that through July 31, 2021 there are 20,595 deaths and 1,960,607 injuries reported following injections of four experimental COVID-19 shots:

        COVID-19 MRNA VACCINE MODERNA (CX-024414)
        COVID-19 MRNA VACCINE PFIZER-BIONTECH
        COVID-19 VACCINE ASTRAZENECA (CHADOX1 NCOV-19)
        COVID-19 VACCINE JANSSEN (AD26.COV2.S)

        From the total of injuries recorded, half of them (968,870) are serious injuries.

        “Seriousness provides information on the suspected undesirable effect; it can be classified as ‘serious’ if it corresponds to a medical occurrence that results in death, is life-threatening, requires inpatient hospitalisation, results in another medically important condition, or prolongation of existing hospitalisation, results in persistent or significant disability or incapacity, or is a congenital anomaly/birth defect.”

        A Health Impact News subscriber in Europe ran the reports for each of the four COVID-19 shots we are including here. This subscriber has volunteered to do this, and it is a lot of work to tabulate each reaction with injuries and fatalities, since there is no place on the EudraVigilance system we have found that tabulates all the results.

        1. 4.34 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide.
          620,000 deaths from COVID-19 n the United States
          746,546 deaths from COVID-19 in the EU.

          These numbers, which do not come from a spammy “medical kidnap” site, are orders of magnitude bigger than the numbers you list above.

          1. But the deaths/injuries he listed above are only those recorded in the short-term. What about the variants that we’re told will be coming regardless of what we do? What if vaccination ends up weakening your defenses against those? These questions are all speculative, but so much of the information and future outlook is just that, speculation.

            And there’s still the question of the mRNA delivery system that is being used that tends to cause the problems. It’s gene therapy.

  3. Frances Christenson

    Stop listening to your Pastor, or Christian leaders, about medical advice. That is insane. Did Russel Moore sleep in a Holiday Inn and now thinks he can give medical advice? I hope he gets sued for practicing medicine without being licensed. Do you own research and talk to your doctor. Listen to both sides of this issue and make up your own mind. You are responsible for your own health.

    Pretty soon Russell Moore will pretend he is a financial adviser and tell you how to invest! At least if he did that he probably would end up in jail. Good grief. The church is going nuts.

    Here we are on this forum taking down pastors for being authoritariam and using fear to control those in the pew on one hand but then we are using the same tactics in the church when it comes to vaccines. We amazingly don’t listen to Christian leaders when it comes to God’s Word but we all fall in line when a Christian leader tells us to get jabbed. That is crazy. They have no medical credentials or right to give medical advice. We hate our Pastors telling us what to do but Christians applaud other Christian for demanding everyone in the church take a jab. Talk about double minded. This is getting weird. Just make up your own mind.

    1. Over 98% of US doctors recommend vaccines, Frances.

      Responsible pastors are simply *passing on* the overwhelming advice of the medical community to their flocks.

      1. You could well be right about your 98% Lea, but please quote your source for this information so we can be sure. It would be good to know how many doctors were actually questioned and if there is any variance from country to country.

        1. Hey Adrian, this is actually more of a response to your first comment, but I didn’t want to get lost in the weeds. You may have noticed in this “discussion” that it comes down to which sources you trust and which you don’t. Personally, when I see a source that appears to have an agenda behind it (usually political), I lose interest. To me, it makes the most sense to trust sources that have been reviewed by other experts, and not novices like myself. As they say, a little knowledge can get you in trouble. Others feel the experts are not to be trusted. This skepticism strikes me as a recent development that is tied more to one’s politics than it is to science, generally speaking. Also, my wife is a nurse. So viewing the medical community with suspicion strikes me as bizarre, as I personally know a lot of these doctors and nurses on the front line and can vouch for their character.

          https://www.nebraskamed.com/COVID/does-vaers-list-deaths-caused-by-covid-19-vaccines

          -Also I believe the 98% number comes from the American Medical Association

    2. You sound like Mike Rowe, and that’s not easy. Urging people to get as much information as possible and making up their own minds sounds like a very rational thing to do.

      People keep talking about high percentages of medical professionals who’ve been jabbed. I know that 100% of everyone doesn’t know the long-term side effects. Thanks again for your insight.

  4. Christopher Hanley

    The COVID deaths of relatives influence Evangelicals’ decision to get vaccinated. But perhaps the decision to get vaccinated also influences. I was offered the shots and promptly took them. I’ve had no side effects(at 65 years of age). Not everyone is like me, but most are.
    One thing I wonder: are people afraid of COVID vaccination, relatively new, or vaccination, 198 years in the making? Surely its not the latter?

  5. Frances Christenson

    Go do your own research. This virus transmits to animals AND humans due to gain of function. The vaccinated are getting sick and no one can dispute that because of hard data. Even if the world reaches 100% vaccinated humans will still get it from animals unless of course you want to destroy all the animals on the planet. Good luck with that one. Zero Covid is not attainable. Doctors around the world are saying vaccines will not help us reach herd immunity like we were told. Even doctors that are vaccinated are saying this. They are focusing in on treatments that will save lives and keep people out of the hospitals. That is all great stuff. If anyone has a problem with saving lives with early medical treatments I have to wonder where your heart is at.

    If you want the jab or don’t want the jab is fine. I really don’t care because adults can make up their own mind and face their own consequences. Just look at both sides before consulting your doctor.

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