Blaming Christians for the Coronavirus Crisis
George Neumayr
by
HUD Secretary Ben Carson (YouTube screenshot)

The ancient pagans of Rome, as their society cratered, blamed Christians. Some modern pagans do the same. Witness the recent piece in the New York Times by Katherine Stewart, “The Religious Right’s Hostility to Science Is Crippling Our Coronavirus Response.”

Even in a paper as biased as the Times, this piece stands out, exposing the depth of secularist hatred toward Christianity.

Stewart’s first line of attack is that the Christians who support Trump hate science. Never mind that science came out of the Christian universities of the West. Stewart equates disagreement with what the Left labels as “science” as irrefutable evidence of hatred of science, as if the Left has a monopoly on all authoritative science.

She then quotes some outside-the-mainstream opinions of a few Christian leaders whose advice Trump is not taking. So who cares? “By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction,” she writes. “But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base. In his daily briefings from the White House, Mr. Trump actively disdains and contradicts the messages coming from his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures.”

She is particularly displeased that Trump would mention Easter as a date on which the country could reopen: “He could, of course, have said, ‘by mid-April.’ But Mr. Trump did not invoke Easter by accident, and many of his evangelical allies were pleased by his vision of ‘packed churches all over our country.’ ‘I think it would be a beautiful time,’ the president said.”

Stewart doesn’t bother to explain how any of this has weakened the nation’s response to the coronavirus. The premise of her piece appears to be that religion and prayer are useless in a crisis and undercut the “scientific” and “medical” credentials of anyone who dares practice Christianity. Hence, she calls incompetent Trump officials who belong to Bible Study groups:

Consider the case of Alex Azar, who as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has had a prominent role in mismanaging the crisis…. Mr. Azar, a “cabinet sponsor” of Capitol Ministries, the Bible study group attended by multiple members of Mr. Trump’s cabinet, brought with him to Health and Human Services an immovable conviction in the righteousness of the pharmaceutical industry (presumably formed during his five-year stint as an executive and lobbyist in the business), a willingness to speak in the most servile way about “the courage” and “openness to change” of Mr. Trump, and a commitment to anti-abortion politics, abstinence education and other causes of the religious right. What he did not bring, evidently, was any notable ability to manage a pandemic.

Naturally, she takes a shot at Ben Carson, too:

Or consider Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and another “cabinet sponsor” of Capitol Ministries. As a former pediatric neurosurgeon, Mr. Carson brought more knowledge about medicine to his post than knowledge about housing issues. But that medical knowledge didn’t stop him from asserting on March 8 that for the “healthy individual” thinking of attending one of Mr. Trump’s then-ongoing large-scale campaign rallies, “there’s no reason that you shouldn’t go.”

For Stewart, simply being Christian makes one anti-science and incompetent. But she is not done. She also assigns “economic ideology” to Christians:

It is fair to point out that the failings of the Trump administration in the current pandemic are at least as attributable to its economic ideology as they are to its religious inclinations. When the so-called private sector is supposed to have the answer to every problem, it’s hard to deal effectively with the very public problem of a pandemic and its economic consequences. But if you examine the political roots of the life-threatening belief in the privatization of everything, you’ll see that Christian nationalism played a major role in creating and promoting the economic foundations of America’s incompetent response to the pandemic.

For decades, Christian nationalist leaders have lined up with the anti-government, anti-tax agenda not just as a matter of politics but also as a matter of theology. Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council, one of the Christian right’s major activist groups, has gone so far as to cast food stamps and other forms of government assistance for essential services as contrary to the “biblical model.” Limited government, according to this line of thinking, is “godly government.”

Stewart doesn’t mention that the anti-government Trump administration just enacted a $6-trillion-dollar relief package. What she accuses Christians of — “fact-free hyper-partisanship” — defines her entire piece.

George Neumayr
George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.
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