On March 15, Politico reported that according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the terrorist group ISIS — in its al Naba newsletter — was advising its members to avoid traveling to Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic and offered tips on social distancing and ways to avoid becoming infected (including frequent handwashing). ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria) is among the most vicious terrorist organizations in the world; they’re so violent that even al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been critical of their methods. But at least ISIS had enough common sense and scientific knowledge to realize that coronavirus posed a major threat to its members; in the U.S., the Christian Right and white nationalists have failed to take coronavirus seriously. And as the death toll continues to soar, it is painfully obvious that the Christian Right and white nationalists are doing a lot more to kill Americans than ISIS and other radical Islamists.
Islamist terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda encourage suicide bombing, which — as countless anti-terror Muslims will point out — is an insult to Islam because the Qu’ran is very anti-suicide. For that matter, Christianity is equally anti-suicide. And yet, the Christian Right and many of President Donald Trump’s far-right white evangelical supporters have been encouraging behavior that is suicidal. When far-right white evangelicals, white nationalists and coronavirus truthers rail against social distancing and encourage large gatherings, they are encouraging suicidal behavior. And there have been many examples.
Item: In mid-march in Tampa, Florida, Pastor Howard-Browne of the River at Tampa Bay Church Vowed to defy social distancing and told a crowd, “I’ve got news for you: this church will never close.” And he was arrested two weeks later.
Item: in Louisiana, Rev. Tony Spell of the fundamentalist Life Tabernacle Church was arrested in late March for continuing to hold large gatherings with up to 1000 people.
Item: televangelist Jonathan Shuttlesworth rushed to Howard-Browne’s defense, denouncing pastors who promoted social distancing as “losers” and asserted, “If you’re putting out pamphlets and telling everybody to use Purell before they come into the sanctuary…. you should just turn in your ministry credentials and burn your church down. You’re a loser. Bunch of pansies. No balls. Got neutered somewhere along the line and don’t even realize it.” And Shuttlesworth vowed to hold a packed Easter service in defiance of social distancing.
Of course, extremists like Howard-Browne and Shuttlesworth don’t represent Christianity on the whole. Countless Catholic and non-fundamentalist Mainline Protestant churches have, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, discontinued in-person gatherings and held online services instead. But the Christian Right embodies a dangerous form of Christianity that is bitterly anti-science, and its ideology goes hand in hand with white nationalism and the coronavirus truther movement.
Coronavirus truthers ignorantly believe that the mainstream media, Democrats, liberals, progressives and Never Trump conservatives have been exaggerating the threat of COVID-19. But the figures reported by researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore underscore just how deadly the pandemic is: according to Hopkins, more than 147,300 people had died from coronavirus worldwide as of early Friday morning, April 17. And the coronavirus epicenter is now the U.S, for which Hopkins has reported a death troll of more than 33,200 — which is artificially low because less than 1% of Americans have been tested for COVID-19.
The Christian Right, white nationalists and coronavirus truthers are so twisted that they have even turned Dr. Anthony Fauci into one of the objects of their hatred. Fauci, an expert immunologist who is part of Trump’s coronavirus task force, has had to increase his security detail because of death threats from extremists who believe he is exaggerating the threat in order to undermine Trump’s presidency.
Coronavirus truthers refuse to believe media accounts of just how overwhelmed U.S. hospitals have been during the pandemic. And in a pathetic attempt to “disprove” media reports, they have been promoting the #FilmYourHospital hashtag and filming hospital parking lots. But if they actually went inside those hospitals as real journalists have been doing, the truthers would see for themselves just how overwhelmed doctors and nurses have been.
But then, science has never been a strong point of the Christian Right or white nationalists. They are bitterly anti-science, which is why they so deeply resent anyone who offers accurate information on the pandemic — be it Dr. Fauci or reporters at CNN and MSNBC.
As shocking as it is, even the terrorists of ISIS have shown more respect for science when it comes to COVID-19 than the Christian Right, American white nationalists and coronavirus truthers. And the more the Christian Right rails against Fauci and social distancing, the more painfully obvious it becomes that they are a white nationalist death cult.