By / Aug 27

Federal regulators are likely to approve booster vaccines for all three approved COVID-19 vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — starting six months after inoculation, according to recent news reports. The Biden administration and companies have said that there should be enough supply for boosters that they plan to begin distributing more widely on Sept. 20.

Here is what you should know about COVID-19 booster vaccines. 

What exactly are booster vaccines?

A booster vaccine or booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine that is given after a specified time to “boost” the immune system and the immune response to a particular disease. For example, it is recommended that every 10 years adults get a booster shot of the tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine to ensure protection against those conditions. It’s not entirely clear to medical researchers why some vaccines are effective for life while others require booster doses. 

Are the booster vaccines the same as the initial vaccines?

Viruses constantly mutate, which is why there are a number of viral variants (such as the Delta variant) that differ somewhat from the original novel coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In the future, pharmaceutical companies may create vaccines for specific strains of the virus (as is done now for the flu virus). But for now the booster vaccines for COVID-19 are the same formulation of the original vaccine created by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

What are the side effects of the booster vaccine?

Health officials predict that the effects of the booster vaccine will be ​​similar to the reaction caused by the last dose of the initial vaccine. The most common side effects are headache, fatigue, a low-grade fever, and/or muscle aches.

Do people who are immunocompromised need a COVID-19 booster vaccine?

To develop an initial level of immunity requires a specific dosage. For most people, the two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are sufficient to build an initial immune response. However, people who are immunocompromised may not be “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 until they have an extra dose of the vaccine. For the immunocompromised, this additional (third in the case of Moderna or Pfizer, second for Johnson & Johnson) is not a booster but a necessary dose in the primary vaccine series.

If we need a booster dose, does that mean that the vaccines aren’t working?

No. According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 vaccines are “working very well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant.” With the Delta variant, though, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. For that reason, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is planning for a booster shot so vaccinated people maintain protection over the coming months.

When will booster vaccines be available in the United States?

Before booster vaccines can be administered, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must conduct an independent evaluation to determine their safety and effectiveness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices must also issue booster dose recommendations.

This process is expected to be approved in time for boosters for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be available beginning Sept. 20. As with the initial shots, the people scheduled to ​receive them first are healthcare workers, nursing home residents, senior citizens, and others who received their first round of vaccinations last December.

Federal health officials are currently waiting to determine if a booster will be recommended for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Because that vaccine was not authorized until the end of February, there is less data available but also more time before the period for a booster becomes necessary. 

By / Aug 27

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent discuss how Christians should navigate vaccine mandates, explosions at the Kabul airport, how many Americans remain in Kabul, ICU beds running out once again, colleges cracking down on unvaccinated students, Pfizer’s full FDA approval, masks in school, and one father’s response to mask mandates. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Jason Thacker with “Why Christians should navigate questions of vaccine mandates and religious exemptions with wisdom,” Julie Masson with “3 ways parents can talk to their kids about Afghanistan,” and Jordan Wootten with “Explainer: Texas law banning abortion procedure upheld by court of appeals.”

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. ICU beds are running out again
  2. Colleges crack down on unvaccinated students as campuses reopen
  3. U.S. regulators give Pfizer vaccine full approval
  4. Texas father strips down over masks in schools
  5. Explosions rock Kabul airport
  6. 1,500 Americans remain in Kabul

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By / Aug 26

Between the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in winter 2019 and the subsequent worldwide pandemic that has killed over 4.4 million, the astounding speed at which treatments and vaccines for this deadly virus have been developed is nothing short of miraculous. This speed is due in large part to the concerted and concentrated efforts by governments, medical providers, researchers, local communities, and pharmaceutical companies around the world. In the United States, Operation Warp Speed and other major government interventions have propelled the rapid, yet safe development of these life-saving vaccines as well as the incredible free and open distribution to all those eligible.

While some have raised specific concerns about the safety, timeline, or even the processes used in their creation, the evidence is clear that these vaccines are safe and effective. This was seen most recently in the announcement from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States which gave the first full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Many of the pressing concerns and ethical quandaries have been addressed by medical professionals, as well as Christian ethicists, who support their use and wide distribution throughout society.

With COVID cases still on the rise across the nation due to the delta variant, low vaccination rates in many parts of the country, and the widespread free access to these medical marvels, many businesses and organizations — both in the private and public sector — are beginning to plan for or institute vaccine requirements in order to combat the severity of these outbreaks. Vaccine requirements have recently been announced for those in crucial fields such as healthcare, the military, schools, and other large organizations in recognition of the high-risk situations in which those in these fields operate and for the safety of all involved, including their families and individuals medically unable to get a vaccine. The decision to require vaccinations is serious and consequential — especially for those vaccines that have not received full FDA approval and are being used on emergency authorization.

Vaccines and negative tests

While some communities, businesses, and organizations have decided to require either some proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for access to specific services or amenities, a widespread federal mandate is still unlikely to be announced at this point. As businesses and organizations begin to think through requirements for vaccines, often in combination with negative diagnostic tests, it is important to remember how politically charged this entire situation has become. From rampant COVID-19 disinformation to the political scoreboard often being used to evaluate these public health decisions, any type of mandate will likely receive considerable pushback from some employees — whether spawning from true medical or religious concerns, or fears and misunderstandings based on misinformation. 

As individuals inquire about exemptions, it would be wise for businesses and organizations to encourage these members of their team to meet with their doctors and direct them to outlets with credible information on the life-saving nature of these vaccines. This is especially important as they make personal healthcare decisions that not only affect themselves but those they will interact with in public. Providing space for open dialogue, addressing concerns, and providing certain accommodations based on true medical or religious objections may also help to temper some of the politicization of these debates as we seek to prioritize the health and safety of our communities.

The gravity of religious exemptions

As the likelihood of vaccine requirements for certain aspects of society become more of a reality, many pastors and church leaders will also be involved in these decisions because people may seek religious accommodation in order to not take the vaccine. Certain faith groups and denominations have claimed religious exemptions based on sincere religious convictions for various medical interventions; have consistently argued over time against the use of vaccines; or may have certain moral objections to the COVID vaccines in particular. Yet, pastors and ministry leaders must be aware that some people may seek a religious exemption to these mandates not out of any direct or meaningful religious objection or issue of faith but out of a desire to disregard the mandates that have been common throughout our nation’s history and frequently upheld by the courts.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization that has long advocated for religious freedom throughout our society, “(US) Courts have ruled for over a century that the government may require mandatory vaccines in certain circumstances. Religious objectors may be entitled to accommodations in some circumstances.” ADF also encourages anyone seeking these types of religious accommodations or exemptions from vaccine mandates to seek to determine whether one’s objections actually rise to the level of a religious objection, not simply a medical, social, or political objection. ADF states that “many people have medical or other concerns which do not rise to the level of an actual religious belief. A belief that taking a vaccine is unwise or could be harmful will normally be considered a medical or health objection, not a religious objection.” Defined claims to religious objection must be taken seriously, but claiming a religious objection is no guarantee that public or private entities will recognize it.

Pastors and ministry leaders need to take caution in counseling or even endorsing these types of exemptions because of the gravity of the moral and conscience-based issues involved. Not only can it be disingenuous to claim a religious exemption when one is not present, but spurious claims can also damage the integrity of other religious freedom assertions in the future and what level of trust religious organizations still have in society. 

Many denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, have long supported vaccines, advocated for their use, and even assisted in distribution. In recent decades, the International Mission Board has become one of the largest vaccine-givers — beginning with the ground-breaking polio vaccines in the 1950s — throughout the eastern United States. This is due to the necessity of vaccines in order to send missionaries across the world to share the hope of Christ to the nations.

Therefore, pastors and ministry leaders should proceed with caution if asked to give counsel or endorse a religious exemption claim to vaccine mandates. While this will come down to the discretion and wisdom of specific leaders, it is paramount that pastors understand the gravity of their counsel and the consistency of opposition. While ADF notes that it is “inappropriate for an employer to demand that an employee support their religious accommodation request with statements from the employee’s church or clergy” according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, pastor and ministry leaders will likely be asked in certain cases to defend or support a religious exemption based on social, political, or medical concerns. This can put the church and its leaders in difficult circumstances, especially in terms of ethical and integrity issues.

Standing for religious freedom and wisdom

The situation we find ourselves in today with COVID-19 is dire as many of our hospitals hit maximum capacity and medical professionals begin to suffer extreme exhaustion, putting a massive strain on the local healthcare infrastructure. Thousands upon thousands have lost their lives and many more lost their livelihoods due to the measures enacted to contain the spread of this unrelenting virus. And by God’s grace, we now have solutions in order to mitigate the widespread impact of this pandemic.

Pastors and ministry leaders have already been under enormous stress due to ministry in these chaotic times. The prospect of sorting through yet another pandemic-related dilemma is also daunting. Still, it is important to remember that approaching questions about religious liberty claims is something of deep consequence. We must not allow or give support to mere personal or political preferences masquerading as religious liberty claims. Indeed, doing so is not only morally disingenuous but also can do long-term damage to the credibility of pastors, churches, and Christian institutions in our communities. At the same time, pastors should graciously and patiently consult with those seeking such exemptions or accommodations in order to determine whether the request is predicated on sincere religious grounds. 

Religious liberty is fundamental to the Christian faith and American life. It is a right that our government is designed to recognize and uphold, but also a right that must be guarded and respected given other deeply concerning religious freedom violations we have experienced over the years. As we continue to address questions about vaccines and mandates, Christians should strive to base our decisions not on politics or hearsay but on sound biblical reasoning and the best information available.

By / Aug 20

In this episode, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the latest in Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti and the need for aid, COVID-19 vaccine boosters, states banning mask mandates, and Texas’s ban on second-trimester abortion. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Jill Waggoner with “A Prayer guide for the people of Afghanistan,” Jordan Wootten with “Explainer: Federal court rules in favor of religious freedom rights of Indiana Catholic high school,” and Leeann Poarch with “What 1 Peter can teach us about living in a hostile world: Justice, love, and submission to authority.”

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Evacuation of up to 80,000 lags as U.S. bolsters control of Kabul airport, but Taliban controls access to it
  2. ERLC, others urge Biden to protect, resettle at-risk Afghans
  3. Haiti quake death toll tops 2,000 as anger grows over lack of aid
  4. NAMB- Send Relief
  5. U.S. health officials recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters 8 months after second shot
  6. States banning mask mandates could face civil rights probes
  7. Texas ban on second-trimester abortion procedure upheld by appeals court

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By / Aug 14

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Taliban taking over major portions of Afghanistan, the CDC’s new data about vaccines and pregnant women. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content. And the gang celebrates Josh’s final episode as he wraps his time serving on staff at the ERLC.

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Cuomo resigns over sexual harassment
  2. Taliban take over Afghanistan
  3. Pregnant women and the COVID vaccines

Lunchroom

  • A final Q&A with Josh

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By / Aug 2

In early 2020, we simply didn’t know what we didn’t know about COVID-19 and the impending pandemic. As of today, over 4.2 million lives have been tragically lost worldwide. Wild theories, mask mandates, experimental treatments, and origin stories abounded as our society tried desperately to gain ground against this silent killer. As we sought answers, many of us naturally turned to social media and its instant connectivity to share and learn more about this virus. Yet, those very platforms were littered with misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories — which are themselves reflective of the divisions we face throughout our social order.

Even as the platforms sought to label and remove much of this misleading and fake content, it became increasingly clear that identifying what was what became increasingly difficult since so much was unknown about this pandemic. And while we know so much more than we did last year, these challenges of identification and moderation did not relent even as the widespread deployment of vaccines began and a sense of normalcy returned. If anything, these challenges became more difficult given the polarization surrounding the life saving vaccines, the rise of COVID variants, and yet another wave of infections sweeping across our nation and the world.

In the last few weeks, there have been countless headlines about the fight against COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation, largely because of renewed calls for meaningful action to mitigate the spread coming from congressional leaders, the U.S. Surgeon General, and even the Biden administration. Many of these calls are directed at major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It’s argued those who run these platforms aren’t doing enough to curb the spread of manipulations online, especially during a worldwide health crisis. 

While social media obviously aids the spread of misleading and false information, calls for more moderation often fail to account for the difficulty of combating this and the divergent opinions on how to do so. They also fail to see how these issues fall under a larger cultural narrative on both sides of the ideological divide. Responses to this pandemic have become a microcosm of some of the larger issues in the digital public square, such as the limits of free speech and the efficacy of truth.

What is mis/disinformation?

While conspiracy theories and disinformation may have become a household term in recent years, they are not entirely new concepts. Mentioning these terms tends to elicit deep and powerful emotions, often stemming from the polarization and division that we face today. Much of this polarization is due in part to decades-long disputes over the public nature of ethics, the role of faith in the public square, and breakdown of trust in institutions. Cultural narratives have been built around these issues and are tough to shed, especially during tense times such as a pandemic.

Misinformation broadly refers to the spreading of misleading information — whether it is simply missing context or is blatantly false. While disinformation refers to the intentional manipulation and distribution of facts, often for personal, corporate, or state gain. Conspiracy theories function as grand disinformation narratives based on some type of secret knowledge used to explain conspiratorial and often corrupt behavior by powerful figures in society. They are often designed to exploit the existing fissures in society and widen the gap between certain social, religious, and political groups for personal or social gain.

While some misinformation and disinformation is easy to spot, other examples are notoriously difficult to identify and stop. The technical capabilities of the last couple decades with the internet and social media have made the believability of these manipulations of truth more widespread, particularly as public trust continues to fray. Social media was originally designed to connect various people around the world and champion free expression. But it also tends to thrive on the lack of context, nuance, and complexity, making it deleterious to our public discourse.

Given the intensity and dangers of misinformation online, many social media companies have sought to minimize its spread and even remove it from public sight entirely, citing the negative effects on public discourse and even our physical health. Given the complexity and gravity of the issues at stake, it is slightly ironic that many calls to curb the spread of misinformation online never actually define what it is, nor talk about how to balance the call with issues like free speech. And when definitions are given, they become increasingly divisive and disjointed as platforms seek to implement these policies. 

In an age of expressive individualism based on the idea that the individual is to determine their truth or the state of reality, whose truth is actually truth? Is there a standard and widely accepted definition of reality? Who is to decide? And who gets to decide who decides?

After President Biden called on Facebook in particular to curb the spreading of this false information online — where some reports indicate that 60% of COVID related misinformation came from just 12 individuals — Facebook responded that they had already taken action on all eight recommendations from the Surgeon General about what is considered misinformation and what is within the limits of free speech. This balance is notoriously difficult to strike, though, since very few actually desire unfettered and absolute free speech online because of the immense issues it can cause to public order and community safety. Content moderation is a key feature of social media because without any type of moderation, these platforms would simply be unusable, unsafe, undesirable, and unsustainable. But at the same time, this does not mean that content moderation is without ideological bias or within the appropriate scope. The questions are: Where is that line drawn? And who should draw the line?

Drawing the line

The line of disinformation and free speech is notoriously difficult to identify in our digital age due in large part to the ambiguities surrounding what actually constitutes truth. Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center wrote, “Misinformation is often in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to political speech.” This sentiment is regularly espoused by many across the ideological perspective as a way to argue against certain forms of content moderation due to the ambiguities of defining it. The challenges are especially prominent with COVID-related misinformation and disinformation because of how little was known earlier on about the virus — including treatments, origins, and even the vaccines themselves.

While it is increasingly popular in our post-modern society to champion your personal truth and discover yourself under the auspices of expressive individualism, this pursuit is fundamentally at odds with a Christian understanding of truth and ultimate reality. Thus, it is imperative that Christians stand against these mischaracterizations of reality, regardless of how truth is abused or misused by others throughout our society. We believe in a transcendent reality, a fundamental basis for truth, and ought to reject claims to “truth” that are often more defined by retaining or gaining social capital than they are about Christ himself.

Misinformation and disinformation are not truly in the eye of the beholder, unless we deny the ability to actually discern truth. This is difficult to implement in a world driven by sound bites, instantaneous news, constant outrage, and the onslaught of information we are exposed to without any real hope of actually processing. But these challenges shouldn’t keep Christians from engaging in this space and standing against the rising tide of disinformation.

Navigating these manipulations of truth

It can be difficult to know how to move forward in this age of misinformation and disinformation — especially during a deadly pandemic. Christians are a people of truth and should have nothing to do with spreading falsehoods (Eph. 4:25). And wisdom calls us to slow down in a society that prizes efficiency over reality and to evaluate the words we speak or share online so that they carry the fragrance of Christ (James 1:19-20). As we seek to develop a public theology and ethic for the digital age, we must remember that in a society ravaged by sin, certain allowances and trade-offs must be made in order to champion the rights of all people to freely express themselves, but in a way that upholds the safety and well being of all people. Here are a few steps we can take toward that goal. 

First, we must keep freedom of speech front and center in these debates. This is particularly important given the power of these tools over our public discourse. It is far too easy and convenient on social media to publicly mock or denigrate those on the “other” side of the ideological or religious spectrum. This is a perennial problem throughout society. People from across ideological perspectives fall prey to these lies or willingly promote them in order to attain status or notoriety.

In our secular age, it is common for those without explicitly religious claims to function as if science explains all things or that secular ideals are somehow non religious in nature, even though many conclusions in science — especially moral claims — are accepted by faith as well. Everyone operates inside some set of social values that are not inherently founded upon empirical evidence. Even those who believe in a purely materialistic or naturalistic worldview have a set of beliefs that must be taken on faith.

No matter one’s ideological perspective or worldview, mocking, jeering, and looking down on our fellow image-bearers is unbecoming and should be seen as completely anathema to what it means to follow Christ. This condescension exacerbates the growing polarization of our society, driving members of the public further away from one another. Free speech not only helps to uphold the dignity of all, but it also can help bridge the growing divides in our society. So often these manipulations of truth thrive in environments that seek to eliminate them from public discourse with a heavy hand because they can use that suppression as fuel to spread faster since some will claim that these lies must contain some level of truth that your enemies simply are trying to cover up.

An additional danger with disinformation is that many in our society tend to use that label on the speech we simply don’t like regardless of what truth may actually lie within them. We see a similar trend in the ever widening definitions of hate speech that seem to be more about stamping out dissidents than pursuing physical safety or truth. But this doesn’t mean that free speech trumps everything else, especially during isolated seasons like a public health crisis. A balance must be maintained, but that can only happen when we recognize how our narratives of culture drive how we see one another.

Second, we must begin to seek out information and insight from sources other than social media. Although traditional sources of news are often ideologically biased as well, these news organizations and periodicals do have some level of accountability that is often absent of random users on these platforms. Even some of the most blatantly partisan sources have issued retractions, apologies, or set the record straight on the past spreading of misinformation. Recently, I read a helpful book by Jeffrey Bilbro that helps Christians practically navigate news consumption in our daily lives. Much more can and should be said about our media consumption habits and Bilbro’s book is a helpful place to start.

As Christians, we must strive to verify the information we share online, for the sake of our neighbors and the way in which we represent Christ to the world around us. It is unbiblical to speak in ways that are contrary to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and to spread misleading information in order to gain a political edge. In reality, it is also a rejection of Christ’s atoning work on our behalf; if we are people changed by the gospel, then we should reflect Christ throughout our lives, especially in how we interact online. Truth will always be better than any short-term gain from misinformation.

By / May 7

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss a big dip in U.S. fertility rates, Biden’s July 4th vaccination goal, COVID-19 in children, mask mandates on planes, Trump Facebook ban, Amy Bockerstette’s college title, and the Malian woman who gave birth to nine babies. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Alex Ward with “Why reading classics can help us answer age-old questions: An interview with Karen Swallow Prior,” Jared Kennedy with “Conversations about gender should begin with humility: Helping parents navigate hard topics with their children,” and Rachel Lonas with “Why it’s important to value neurodiversity in the Church: And three ways you can help.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Elizabeth Graham for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Graham serves as Vice President of Operations and Life Initiatives for the ERLC. She provides leadership, guidance and strategy for life and women’s initiatives and provides oversight to other strategic projects as needed. Additionally, she directs the leadership, management and operations for all ERLC events. Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is married to Richmond, and they have a son and a daughter. You can connect with her on Twitter: @elizabethgraham 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. U.S. fertility dips to its lowest rate since the 1970s
  2. Biden sets goal of fully vaccinating 160 million Americans by July 4
  3. Children Now Account For 22% Of New U.S. COVID Cases. Why Is That?
  4. Pfizer vaccine expected to be approved for children ages 12-15 by next week
  5. TSA Extends Mask Mandate Aboard Flights Through Summer As Travel Increases
  6. Trump Facebook Ban Upheld by Oversight Board
  7. Amy Bockerstette to Be 1st Athlete With Down Syndrome to Compete for Collegiate Title
  8. Malian woman gives birth to nine babies

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  • Brave by Faith: In this realistic yet positive book, renowned Bible teacher Alistair Begg examines the first seven chapters of Daniel to show us how to live bravely, confidently, and obediently in an increasingly secular society. | Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com
  • Every person has dignity and potential. But did you know that nearly 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record? To learn more and sign up for the virtual Second Chance month visit prisonfellowship.org/secondchances.
By / Apr 30

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss Biden’s joint address to congress, India and the coronavirus tsunami, no need for masks outdoors, COVID-19 vaccine is safe for pregnant women, and the 2021 NFL draft. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Seth Woodley with “How literature teaches us about leadership: Cultivating virtue reading,” Josh Wester, Jordan Wootten, and Brent McCracken with “Why we desperately need wisdom in this age of information,” and Ericka Anderson with “Why a second chance for incarcerated men is important.”

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Biden promotes sweeping agenda in speech
  2. FDA moves to ban menthol cigarettes
  3. Fact Sheet: The American Families Plan
  4. India’s COVID-19 death toll tops 200,000
  5. CDC: If You’re Vaccinated, You Don’t Need To Mask Outdoors
  6. Coronavirus cases are finally falling
  7. Preliminary Findings of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Women
  8. The NFL draft is this week
  9. Bill Belechick’s WFH draft

Lunchroom

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Sponsors

  • Brave by Faith: In this realistic yet positive book, renowned Bible teacher Alistair Begg examines the first seven chapters of Daniel to show us how to live bravely, confidently, and obediently in an increasingly secular society. | Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com
  • Every person has dignity and potential. But did you know that nearly 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record? To learn more and sign up for the virtual Second Chance month visit prisonfellowship.org/secondchances.
By / Apr 16

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the death of Prince Phillip, Russia, the shooting of Daunte Wright, the court ruling on Down syndome abortion, current FDA recommendations on the J&J vaccine, and the no-hitter thrown by Chicago pitcher. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Chelsea Patterson Sobolik with “Explainer: What you should know about the debate in Congress about the Born-Alive bill,” Andrew Bertodatti and Lamar Hardwick with “How can churches be more inclusive of disabled person?,” and Jill Waggoner with “How learning about trauma changed my life: Learning from The Body Keeps the Score.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Gary Lancaster for his farewell episode. 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, dead at 99
  2. US sanctions Russia over hacks
  3. Russian troops massing on Ukrainian border
  4. Officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright charged
  5. Court ruling on Down syndrome abortion law praised
  6. FDA recommends pausing J&J vaccine after 6 reported cases of blood clots
  7. White House says J&J pause will not have “significant impact” on vaccination plan
  8. Duke University to require vaccinations for fall semester
  9. No-hitter thrown by Chicago pitcher
  10. Turner’s cheesy HR makes LA 1st to 10 wins

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  • Every person has dignity and potential. But did you know that nearly 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record? On Sunday April 11th , we invite you to join Prison Fellowship for a special service focusing on the power of second chances. To learn more and sign up for the virtual Second Chance Sunday service visit prisonfellowship.org/secondchances.
  • Stand for Life: At the ERLC, we stand for life. Our work to save preborn babies and care for the vulnerable is vital to our work. Believing that abortion can end in our lifetime, will you join us as we STAND FOR LIFE?
By / Apr 16

In March, we crossed the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, during a year unlike any other, resulted in a staggering 500,000 deaths in the United States alone. After reaching this milestone, we are faced with alarming statistics of not only the stark losses of life but also of those that reveal the Black community in America has been disproportionately affected during this year of crisis. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Black or African American persons are twice as likely as their white or Asian counterparts to be hospitalized or pass away due to COVID-related symptoms. These statistics further point to the existence of an American social predicament which allows for significant disparities in the availability of social programs and adequate health care for many in Black communities. 

This information points to the necessity of larger numbers of African Americans urgently needing COVID-19 vaccination. With the advent of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, people can now be protected against contracting the virus (or have a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms). These vaccines could bring significant relief to the crisis for the Black community. But despite being the most affected by the virus, and most in need of vaccination, members of the Black community are disproportionately underrepresented in instances of vaccination. While some 20% of the U.S. population has received some form of vaccination, Black or African American persons only make up 7% of that number, according to recent data from the CDC.

So why aren’t members of the Black community running to the front of the line to get vaccinated? One contributing factor is rooted in a longstanding Black collective mistrust of healthcare institutions because of a history of dubious medical practices that resulted in inadequate medical treatment, misuse of Black bodies, and misinformation in Black spaces. The relationship between the medical science community and the Black community is one fraught with tension, implicit bias, and suspicion, often coming from both directions.

One of the most glaring instances of medical deception towards the Black community occurred in Alabama during the “ethically unjustified” 40-year-long experiment known as the Tuskegee Study. From 1932 until its public exposure by the Associated Press in 1972, the Public Health Service–which preceded the CDC–conducted a study on 600 Black men under the guise of treatment for vaguely described diagnoses. The study lacked informed consent from the participants, as they believed they were being given legitimate treatments for illnesses. In reality, those treatments were purposely withheld from these men as scientists observed the long term, natural effects of syphilis on their bodies. 

With the last surviving member of the Tuskegee Study passing recently in 2004, the legacy of Tuskegee remains burned into the Black consciousness and still influences the present-day medical choices of many. Add this to current statistics of high numbers of instances of medical malpractice experienced by Black Americans, and a perceived indifference toward the complaints of Black patients concerning healthcare, and the lack of investment into vaccination sites and resources in predominantly Black neighborhoods, many African Americans are left without sufficient options for vaccination. Worse, many end up thinking that it would be more beneficial and health conscious to not receive the COVID-19 vaccination at all.  

So, what then can be done to aid a community in crisis? This answer is rooted in the longstanding Black collective trust and veneration of the Church as a community presence and institution. It is the Church that is left with the responsibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus toward a community in need. The Church has in past times been the answer to the issues plaguing the Black community and must be that answer once again.

From serving as temporary hospitals during the Black Plague to being gathering centers for social justice meetings during the Civil Rights Era, churches have often been galvanizing hubs to help people receive information and care. The Church very often serves as the center of Black social life in America where many get not only their direction for faith, but also their teaching on initiatives in politics, education and healthcare, with politicians, activists and medical professionals often turning to the Church to utilize their platforms to distribute information directly to congregants. 

As the pandemic persists, it might once again fall on the Church to help spread truth and assuage fears in the Black community if there is hope for their getting vaccinated at higher rates. Churches can act as vaccination sites in typically low-income or Black neighborhoods. They can host information forums where medical professionals answer questions for congregants; and church leaders themselves can model the vaccine’s safety by receiving it. 

To follow the call of the Bible to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17), the Church must be an active voice in ensuring that members of marginalized groups are receiving the care and information needed to be protected in a crisis. While many members of the Black community mistrust medical institutions, they retain trust in the Church, so the Church must honor that trust and help guide people out of this unprecedented trial.