Vaccines save lives. Even Donald Trump is now promoting the vaccines, much to the chagrin of right-wing “pundits” like Candace Owens. But it is the following tweet from Franklin Graham, son of Billy and president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse which is ostensibly a humanitarian aid organization, that truly took my breath away:
Christians around the world are wondering if #COVID19 is being used as a way to condition the world population to accept a mark like this. If a scannable chip can contain vaccine information, adding other personal information could be a short step away.https://t.co/cfTIkjIojP
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) December 30, 2021
This is a truly appalling tweet, and I don’t make that judgment lightly. Graham is well aware that there is vast vaccine hesitancy in the United States, especially among Christian conservatives. The current full vaccination rate in the United States is a measly 62%. Much of the reluctance derives from a toxic admixture of disinformation about vaccine risk and utterly paranoid conspiracy theories, the most outlandish of which involve speculations about the possibility that the anti-Christ might be using vaccines to prepare the way for the end of the world.
In one sense, there is nothing new here. Evangelicals have a long and embarrassing history of looking for the anti-Christ in all the wrong places ranging from barcodes to heavy metal music to the old Proctor & Gamble logo. However, the stakes are quite different here. When I was a kid, I still recall Christian parents who threw out their tubes of Crest toothpaste because Proctor & Gamble was allegedly a business platform for the launch of the anti-Christ. Dumb? You bet. But the cost was only a couple bucks to buy a new tube of toothpaste.
In this case, by contrast, Graham is spreading paranoia about life-saving vaccines. If conservative Christians come to believe that the devil may be using the vaccines to prepare not anti-bodies but rather the anti-Christ, how likely do you think they will be to take it? The cost of this error is not a couple of bucks but human lives.
The end result will be yet more wholly unnecessary suffering and death. Every day, more than 1000 people continue to die from COVID19 in the United States with the cumulative death toll now exceeding 830,000 souls. And more of those deaths will be attributable directly to the dangerous disinformation of Graham and others like him. And to consider the irony that all the while he is the president of a humanitarian organization?! That fact makes me seethe with anger.
One last thing: Graham’s opening phrase “Christians around the world are wondering…” bears an interesting resemblance to Trump’s stock means of spreading disinformation: “a lot of people are saying”. See this WaPo analysis of Trump’s use of this rhetorical phrase as a tool for spreading propaganda.
I do not know whether Graham actually believes the disinformation he is spreading. If he does, he is delusional, if he does not, he truly is wicked. On either count, there is no way he should remain the president and CEO of a humanitarian aid organization.