Some religious people see the COVID-19 vaccines as an answer to prayer.

Others are skeptical.

To encourage wary African Americans to roll up their sleeves, many Black churches are working extra hard.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Margo Snipe notes:

As COVID-19 continues to push health disparities to the forefront, Black churches have become advocates for mask-wearing, hand sanitizing and vaccine distribution.

In a Religion News Service interview with Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the Rev. Jacques Andre DeGraff of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem, New York, “talks about how Black communities are overcoming distrust of the medical community.”

This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci joined Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter’s House church in Dallas in a discussion aimed at quelling distrust about the vaccines, report the Dallas Morning News’ Jesus Jimenez and Religion Unplugged’s own Jillian Cheney.

“You have to respect the skepticism in the African American community,” said Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases official. “You can’t just ignore that.”

Here in my home state of Oklahoma, the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Oklahoma City partnered with state and county health departments to organize a “vaccine pod.”

The Rev. Derrick Scobey discusses the outreach effort with The Oklahoman’s faith editor, Carla Hinton:

He said some Blacks recall the infamous “Tuskegee Experiment,” a medical study in which hundreds of Black men in Alabama from the 1930s to the 1970s were misled into thinking they were being treated for disease.
“Because of that you still have African Americans that are very hesitant about taking this vaccine,” Scobey said.
He said he had received the vaccine and his church is recognized as providing hope and help in the community. So he said having the vaccine pod at the church was a “step in the right direction” toward convincing people in the community to get the vaccine.

In a report for Faith & Leadership, veteran religion writer G. Jeffrey MacDonald explains:

This leeriness among Black Americans is rooted in the past and in the present. Burwell notes that many in his community know about the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, a 40-year U.S. Public Health Service study (1932-1972) that deceitfully withheld treatment from 399 Black men with syphilis in order to study the disease’s progression.
Black skeptics worry that they might be similarly abused in the name of science with emerging COVID-19 vaccines.
“It’s not just about Tuskegee,” said the Rev. Paul Abernathy, the executive director of the Neighborhood Resilience Project. “A lot of people had a history of clinical abuse in their social networks or even have personally experienced this in the current health care systems. This history of clinical abuse, I think, heavily informed perspectives on the vaccine.”

Minister R. B. Holmes Jr. of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida, voices concern about COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on racial minorities.

Christianity Today’s Adam MacInnis reports:
Whatever the reason, Holmes said the crisis has created an emergency for black people, and African American community leaders, especially pastors, have to find a way to respond. After one too many funerals in 2020, he felt compelled to action.
“Why sit here as leaders and watch our people die and our families die?”
So Holmes organized the Statewide Coronavirus Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task Force.

Chic Fil A manager Jerry Walkowiak donating his professional drive thru experience to help our vaccination program in Mt Pleasant today. When you need help, call the pros.

A final vaccine-related note: Some joke that the government should enlist the folks who manage the Chick-fil-A drive-thru to oversee vaccine distribution.

Well, a South Carolina mayor did just that. And this might come as no surprise: It worked marvelously.

Power Up: The Week’s Best Reads

1. Church in the Canyon became grieving site for Lakers fans: Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashed across the street from a California church. This fascinating story by USA Today’s Mark Medina details the congregation’s helpful response.

Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 26, 2020, tragedy that claimed the lives of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers.

Religion Unplugged’s own Clemente Lisi wrote last year on the importance of the NBA star’s Catholic faith in his life.

2. Betraying your church — and your party: The Atlantic’s Emma Green explores the surprising reason that a Republican from Illinois gave for supporting former President Donald Trump’s riot-related impeachment.

Hint: It involves Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s faith:

Kinzinger knew most Republicans in his solidly conservative district would not agree with him. But the choice was easy: As someone who identifies as a born-again Christian, he believes he has to tell the truth. What has been painful, though, is seeing how many people who share his faith have chosen to support Trump at all costs, fervently declaring that the election was stolen.