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Christian Coronavirus Scapegoats

Vice President Mike Pence leading White House officials in prayer over coronavirus (White House photo)

You saw this tweet the other day, maybe; I mentioned it in my last post:

On Sunday, there was this:

J.D. Flynn hit back pretty effectively with a series of tweets showing Democratic presidents praying:

Of course if the only thing Pence and his team were doing was praying, Blue Chekist critics like Thomas Chatterton Williams would have a point. That’s not the only thing they’re doing at all. What offends these people is that government leaders like Pence are making any time at all to ask for God’s help. These people genuinely want an American laïcité. I am confident that if a Democrat were in power now, and had a White House team photographed in prayer while sorting out how to respond, nobody on the Left would bat an eye. We are not France; we’re America. Our leaders appeal to God, and make a point of being seen appealing to God.

Here’s what’s going to happen. The coronavirus epidemic is going to get much worse, and liberal elites — by which I mean journalists, academics, Blue Chekist types — are going to focus their anxiety, anger and hatred over it not just on Trump, but on conservative Christians. The president put Mike Pence in charge of the administration’s coronavirus response, which is going to give the Blue Chekist types more ammunition. My point is not just that they are going to criticize the administration — that’s baked in the cake, and some of it will be deserved, as it would for any administration — but that they are going to find a way to fault conservative Christians for this plague. It’s human nature to look for a scapegoat, and this public health crisis looks to provide the emotional justification a lot of people seek to blame Trump-supporting Christians — and conservative Christians who didn’t support Trump, but who hold morally conservative views — for bringing the disaster onto us. Evangelicals are going to be the most targeted.

This is not the most important thing to be worrying about right now, heaven knows. But there it is. I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I don’t expect to be wrong. They’re not going to let this crisis go to waste.

UPDATE: Here’s a related story, about how coronavirus is being politicized, hurting our ability to respond. It’s not just one side doing it, either. Excerpt:

Some public-health experts and elected officials who have handled outbreaks said Mr. Trump’s tirades against Democrats and his boasts that the United States was “way ahead” and “totally prepared” for an unpredictable contagion were undercutting statements from the administration’s own health experts.

Katherine Foss, a media studies professor at Middle Tennessee State University who has written a book on the how the media has covered past American epidemics, said the public needs credible, useful information during a health crisis.

She said Mr. Trump’s attempts to minimize the threat posed by the coronavirus was a dramatic departure from the way most political figures have approached past health emergencies.

“We’ve never had a political leader say stuff like this,” she said.

But, she added, “At the same time, what we can’t do is just have media messages that focus on his words and not address practical things that people can do,” concrete information that she said everyone, Trump supporters and critics alike, are hungry for.

That national outlets may be more alarmist and politicized than local ones is common to nearly every epidemic she has studied. But what sets this one apart from most of those is that it is unfolding on Facebook and Twitter as well.

“The most alarming messages have come from just people speculating on social media and other people taking that as fact,” she said.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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