Business Insider has put together an interesting look at a serious new problem facing a growing number of evangelical pastors in the U.S.: the far-right radicalization of their congregations. Across America, pastors are seeing political conspiracy theories spread like wildfire through their churches, as more and more evangelical Christians start to believe baseless lies about COVID-19, President Joe Biden’s legitimate electoral win and the fate of former President Donald Trump.
These conspiracies have been boosted by white evangelical leaders and so-called “prophesies” from people like Mark Taylor, Jeremiah Johnson and Kris Vallotton assured Christians that God would grant Trump an electoral win — a narrative that helped fan the flames of the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Vallotton and Johnson have both apologized for their debunked “prophesies” but the damage has certainly been done. A conservative outlet called the American Enterprise Institute found that over a quarter of white evangelical responders believed in QAnon and three in five do not believe Biden is the legitimate president. A separate study found that 36 percent of white evangelicals will either “definitely or probably” not get the COVID-19 vaccine. These are far and away the highest numbers for any religious group in the U.S.
A LifeWay study found that 45 percent of Protestant pastors say they’ve heard conspiracy theories from their congregations, which has prompted 1,400 pastors and faith leaders to sign a statement condemning White Christian Nationalism — the ideology many believe to be at the root of much of the conspiratorial rot.
Insider spoke with pastors who felt they had no choice but to leave to their churches once their congregations radicalized. One pastor said churchgoers refused to abide by COVID-19-era social distancing guidelines, which jeopardized the health and safety of his wife, who was at high risk for contracting the virus. Another pastor moved to Scotland after he saw QAnon divide his church.
“The church is going through the biggest information shift since the printing press,” that pastor told Insider.
You can read the full story here.