One of the reactions I often hear anytime I post about televangelist Jim Bakker is that he doesn’t represent Christianity. He’s on the fringes. He doesn’t count. Even other evangelicals don’t take him seriously.
Well, Gabe Lyons can’t be dismissed like that. He’s an author, speaker, and co-founder (with his wife Rebekah) of Q Ideas, an organization that sponsors a Christian version of TED Talks. He’s about as evangelical as they come.
And he’s promoting the same dangerous bullshit that just got Bakker in a heap of trouble.
According to Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service, Gabe and Rebekah Lyons recently interviewed a man for the “Rhythms for Life” podcast, and that guest — chiropractor and nutritionist (and NOT epidemiologist) Joshua Axe — claimed that essentials oils, like the kind he sells on his website, can defeat COVID-19.
In the podcast conversation with Gabe Lyons, Axe downplayed the threat of the novel coronavirus by claiming “we’ve actually had worse threats in the past,” suggested the pharmaceutical industry and “the media” benefit from “driving fear” around the pandemic and claimed he has “complete confidence” that he could either avoid infection from the coronavirus or defeat it in a few days by boosting his immune system through alternative methods such as ingesting ginger tea and oregano oil.
That’s obviously a lie. And there was no pushback from either host. (Remember: Jim Bakker is currently fighting a lawsuit over the fact that one of his guests hawked a fake COVID cure.)
That podcast was taped in late February, before lockdowns occurred anywhere, but that’s almost besides the point. If someone makes a medical claim like that, it’s not asking much to demand proof or tell the audience it’s bullshit. (Or, you know, don’t invite scam artists onto your show in the first place.)
Rebekah Lyons even promoted the episode on Instagram with a message saying, “Who do you call to get insight on boosting immunity in light of the Coronavirus? @drjoshaxe of course!”
View this post on Instagram
Who do you call to get insight on boosting immunity in light of the Coronavirus? @drjoshaxe of course! You guys LOVED his episode kicking off season 2, and he was gracious to sit down with us on Friday for a ✨BONUS EPISODE ✨on all the things! How to be smart, how to not let fear win. I’m so grateful for these incredible voices that offer a proactive step in ways we can prepare and not be helpless as we engage this topic. #rhythmsforlifepodcast #linkinprofile #coronavirus
Jenkins also pointed out another one of Axe’s harmful statements:
Axe also criticized White House coronavirus response coordinator Anthony Fauci by putting up a slide in which he quotes the doctor as saying “our Ultimate Hope is a vaccine.”
“A vaccine — again, that’s not the ultimate solution,” Axe said. “The ultimate solution is God, and also, secondarily, supporting this body God has given us, strengthening our immune system so we can fight off not only this virus, but every virus we’re exposed to in the future.”
The precise origin of the Fauci quote is unclear. While the White House adviser has said similar things in the past, there is no indication he capitalizes “ultimate hope” or that the phrase is meant to be a religious reference.
Making matters worse, Axe isn’t even a licensed chiropractor. His license from the Tennessee Department of Health expired in 2013. He’s just a guy who promotes nonsense for a living.
And he has a platform with one of the most well-known evangelical Christians out there. It’s easy for someone like me to say evangelicals are in the business of promoting lies, but this goes beyond religion. The fact is: If people listened to Lyons and came away from his interview thinking Axe’s advice was credible, they could be in serious physical danger, wrongly believing they’re immune to the virus or wrongly thinking there’s a quick fix available if they ever catch it.
The Lyons haven’t issued any statement about this as of this writing, but without this reporting, how many Christians would’ve ever called them out for their bad behavior? It’s been more than two months since that podcast aired. In that time, Axe was invited by Lyons to speak at a virtual conference that took place in late April, where he promoted the same unreliable, unscientific responses to COVID.
(Screenshot via YouTube)