Tampa Bay Times

Get the shot God provided


Sometimes, I wonder if I’m ever going to get over how some humans have behaved during this pandemic.

First, the good news: More than a third of Americans have had at least one dose of vaccine. Now, the pull-out-your-hair news: A Pew Research study reports that, of the 41 million white evangelica­l adults in the U.S., a whopping 45 percent of them said in late February they don’t plan to get vaccinated.

I’m related to many evangelica­ls, and some of them I love, but we are at an impasse here. If I hear one more person tell me, “It’s in God’s hands ...”

When did white preachers stop telling the helicopter story? Whenever our pastor was winding up to tell it, Mom would shoot that look at me from the choir that meant this was exactly the story I needed to be hearing, young lady.

My mom’s version, sort of: A town’s river has overflowed. Floodwater­s are headed for the home of a woman — let’s call her Laurie — whose faith in God is unflappabl­e, she’ll have you know. A police officer knocks on Laurie’s door. “Ma’am,” she says, “Your house will soon be underwater. Come with us, please.”

“Oh, no, thank you,” Laurie says. “God will save me.” An hour later, water is starting to seep into Laurie’s second-floor hallway. Emergency workers paddle a boat up to her bedroom window and yell, “Ma’am, you’re going to drown. Get in the boat, please.”

Not our Laurie. “God will save me,” she tells them, waving goodbye.

An hour later, Laurie is sitting on her roof. A helicopter hovers overhead, dangling a rope ladder within her reach. “Ma’am!” a man yells over the chuffchuff-chuff of the helicopter blades. “This is your last chance! Climb. Up. The rope!” Laurie cups her hands around her mouth and yells, “God. Will. Save. Me!” Minutes later, our Laurie drowns.

She arrives at heaven’s gate. “Why?” she yells at God. “Why did you let me drown?” God starts counting on his fingers as he answers Laurie. “I sent you a police car. I sent you a boat. I sent you a helicopter.”

I learned about God from my mother, a devout Christian who insisted that we’re called to love everybody because that’s what God does, no exceptions. She was patient, kind and always ready with examples from Jesus, her favorite activist. But even Mom had limits. I also heard her say, “If you want to die stupid, God will let you.” (I may be paraphrasi­ng.)

Get in that boat, my evangelica­l friends. Grab that rope ladder, and get yourselves vaccinated so that we can keep disagreein­g for years to come.

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