U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham drew some sizzling flak from fellow evangelicals after he encouraged people to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and he revealed he and his wife had already been inoculated.
The evangelist, the son of Billy Graham, posted on his Facebook page that he is an advocate for taking the vaccine to fight the novel coronavirus that has claimed 2.75 million lives worldwide and 546,825 in the United States as of March 26.
"I have even been asked, if Jesus were physically walking on earth now, would He be an advocate for vaccines?
"My answer was that based on the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, I would have to say - yes. I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives," Graham said.
TRUMP ASLO ADVOCATES THE JAB
Graham, a staunch supporter of former U.S. president, Donald Trump, said he believes Jesus would have done the same. He posted also after former vice-president Mike Pence had visited Samaritan's Purse with him.
He posted his message days after Trump had urged his Republican Party supporters to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying he would recommend it.
In a TV interview, Trump said the vaccine is "safe" and "something that works," the BBC reported on March 17.
Graham spoke of the work of the charity, Samaritan's Purse, in working with COVID-19 hospital wards and said it allowed him to see first-hand the suffering brought by the pandemic.
"I also have staff and their family members who contracted the virus and spent weeks on a ventilator and months hospitalized as a result," he said.
"I don't want anyone to have to go through that. Vaccines have worked for polio, smallpox, measles, the flu, and so many other deadly illnesses - why not for this virus?" Graham said.
"Since there are different vaccines available, my recommendation is that people do their research, talk to their doctor, and pray about it to determine which vaccine, if any, is right for them," said Graham.
"My wife and I have both had the vaccine, and at 68 years old, I want to get as many more miles out of these old bones as possible!" Graham noted.
Many comments applauded Graham for his post, with one writer saying, "Thank you for posting this. So many Christians worried about getting vaccinated."
But not everybody was behind Graham after he spoke.
In just one day, the Facebook post received over 18,000 comments—many of which were angry, upset, and confused by the evangelist's stance, Newsweek reported.
"Wow!! This is so sad! You trust big phantoms and all their LOVE OF MONEY over how God made the immune system? I feel sickened by this," wrote one Facebook user.
Several users also shared unfounded claims that the vaccines are harmful and disagreed with Graham's statement that Jesus would have supported it.
Others rebuked him for using his high-profile platform to encourage people to get inoculated.
One Facebook user wrote: "Jesus, you know the son of the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE would most certainly have NOT taken a man-made vaccine... You are a wolf in sheep's clothing."
'THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE'
Another wrote, "Wrong Franklin, the shot IS NOT a vaccine! You will know the truth and the truth, and the truth will set you FREE, thus says the Word of God! We're being LIED to by an EVIL government! Really Franklin?!?!?."
"You're so lost, and I'm disgusted with you because your words are going to kill many Americans and you will have to answer to God for telling people to not let their immune system keep them healthy the way God made us.....you disgust me!" another person posted.
U.S. polls have shown that white evangelicals have some of the highest vaccine skepticism levels in the United States and are more likely to follow conspiracy theories than those belonging to other traditions.
In January, 44 percent of white evangelicals said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated, compared with just under a third of other U.S. adults who said the same, according to a Washington-Post-ABC News poll.