Russell Moore, a notable Southern Baptist theologian, believes that seeing so many people become ill or die from Covid-19 has helped decrease vaccine hesitancy.
In a live interview with the Washington Post, Moore claimed that suffering might be contributing to declining vaccine hesitancy across the board. "One of the things, I think, that is moving the needle a little bit, more than anything else is the experience of seeing great suffering."
"Sadly, many people are seeing people that believed themselves to be invulnerable getting sick or dying," he continued in his response. "And there's a great deal of concern about that so, that, I think, is having more of a motivating factor than even all of the public service announcements and information that we can give."
In Moore's discussion with Frances Stead Sellers of the Washington Post, Moore expressed that he believes certain sectors of Evangelicalism are hesitant due to the notion that God would protect them. However, misinformation is often the more common cause of hesitancy. "I hear from pastors often, who are saying, 'I'm trying to encourage my people to be vaccinated, showing them all the things that we can do together if we are,'" Moore told Sellers. "But there's a great deal of misinformation that comes through on social media feeds and sometimes cable news networks, and that simply is much more time in the week than an hour or two hours on Sunday."
Conspiracy theories also have a common cause of hesitancy. "I don't encounter many people in evangelical life — at least who are churchgoers — who are anti-vaxxers," Moore said. "But I do encounter a lot who are just wondering, who do I trust and what do I believe? And so sometimes that takes a long time." In that same way, Moore claims that he rarely hears people identify as QAnon followers. However, he does see many who have promoted QAnon-adjacent ideas without knowing.
Moore says that he has consistently run into younger evangelicals trying to find ways to convince their parents to get vaccinated. "They're worried about them and want to know how to connect with them," Moore said. "That's almost a mirror image of the conversations I would have been having ten years ago, when parents would be saying, 'Help me to know how to talk and connect to my children.'"
Russell Moore is the previous president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore resigned from the position in May 2021 due to growing pressure on him. He now serves as a minister in residence at Immanuel Nashville Church and as the Christianity Today's Public Theology Project director.