Recently we posted about Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, whose plan to protect citizens from the coronavirus included… fasting and prayer and nothing else.
As you can expect, there was significant backlash — and not just from atheists. Critics include people like Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, who urged his followers to listen to scientists and wear masks:
Lavanhar called Stitt’s comments “tone deaf” and talked about how many Oklahomans are fasting “not by choice.” He also made clear, “We’ve been praying all along. What we need now is action.”
The Washington Post reported on others like him:
The Rev. Shannon Fleck, the executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, put out a statement saying that “prayer should be accompanied by a willingness to act.”
She also called for statewide mask rules, telling Stitt to pray “about what will happen to us if you don’t.”
“Be brave, and show all of Oklahoma that your moves toward a show of holiness are not hollow words on a proclamation,” Fleck urged.
These religious leaders remind us that there doesn’t have to be opposition to common sense and science from their communities. It’s not Christianity that’s the problem here; it’s Stitt’s brand of Christianity that is. Whatever you think about the intersection of religion and reason, there are plenty of faith leaders who understand the threat of COVID and want the country to treat it as seriously as scientists.
Stitt may not listen to epidemiologists, but you would hope he’d listen to them.