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Get Thee Vaccinated, Evangelical Friends

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

First, the good news: As of this week, more than 65 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Millions more are well on their way.

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.

From The New York Times: "'If we can't get a significant number of white evangelicals to come around on this, the pandemic is going to last much longer than it needs to,' said Jamie Aten, founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution in Illinois."

See what I mean?

Humans.

Also from that Times story: "Lauri Armstrong, a Bible-believing nutritionist outside of Dallas, said she did not need the vaccine because God designed the body to heal itself, if given the right nutrients. More than that, she said, 'It would be God's will if I am here or if I am not here.'"

See, this is where I stop and say out loud to our dogs, "I did not just read that."

I read it again to make sure I understand Lauri. She did not improve upon closer acquaintance.

I'm related to many evangelicals, and some of them I love, but we are at an impasse here. Listing all the reasons to get vaccinated is like reading a restaurant menu to a giraffe. They are smart and attentive, but we're not speaking the same language. If I hear one more person tell me, "It's in God's hands ... "

When did white preachers stop telling the helicopter story?

I grew up with various versions of this story, in our family and at church. 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, with an "e" — 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 chuff-chuff-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, and she is in a mood. "Why?" she yells at God. "Why did you let me drown?"

God looks as Laurie always thought he would look, with adjustments. Think Santa if he were on a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Lean and bright-eyed, with great skin.

God pulls his hand out of the pocket of his robe and starts counting on his fingers as he answers Laurie. "I sent you a police car. I sent you a boat. I sent you a hel-i-cop-ter."

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. I once told Mom I was pretty sure God didn't expect me to love — and here I made air quotes with my fingers — "everybody."

"Think again," she said, marching me up to my bedroom to spend the next hour doing just that. God's soldier, that woman.

I've been trying to figure out how Mom, a nurse's aide and thus a believer in science, might have convinced the beloved evangelicals in her life to get this vaccine. She was so patient and kind — and always at the ready with examples from Jesus, her favorite activist.

Then again, even Mom had her limits. More than once, I 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.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Daughters of Erietown. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

Trump Asks Evangelical Pastors For Help With… Utah?

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump acknowledged on Thursday that his campaign was struggling in Utah, a usually rock-solid Republican state, on a day in which he briefly set aside his self-confidence for a rare display of doubt.

Trump made the comment in urging conservative Christian evangelicals to organize support for him in several key states where the Nov. 8 election is likely to be decided, such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

The wealthy New York businessman has suffered a number of self-inflicted wounds in recent days that have given the advantage in the campaign to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We’re having a tremendous problem in Utah,” Trump told a conference room filled with evangelical pastors, blaming a “false narrative” that has been built up around his candidacy. He has repeatedly blamed the news media for dishonest tactics.

A SurveyUSA opinion poll conducted for the Salt Lake Tribune in June showed Clinton and Trump tied. Other polls have given Trump a lead but not the type of advantage that previous Republican nominees have enjoyed in the state.

The normally confident Trump never apologizes and is loathe to admit that he might face difficulties. But in talking to the National Association of Home Builders earlier in Miami Beach, Trump admitted his past years before he became a politician could be causing him problems now.

“If I had planned for it, I wouldn’t have had such a rocky path,” he said. “I wouldn’t have spoken to Howard so much.”

That was a reference to his many appearances on the “Howard Stern Show” radio program. He has been estimated to have appeared on the show more than two dozen times over 20 years, and the conversation frequently turned ribald.

Trump, who is trailing Clinton in Virginia, a formerly Republican state that Democratic President Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012, urged evangelicals to help him in that state as well.

In doing so, Trump pledged to rewrite the so-called Johnson Amendment, the 1954 change in the U.S. tax code that prohibits church leaders from using the pulpit for political purposes.

“If we get those people to vote, we’re going to win in Virginia,” he said. “If they don’t vote, it’s not going to happen.”

Trump also said “we need help in Ohio,” the state where he held his Republican National Convention last month.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, who lost to Trump in the Republican primary race, has refused to endorse Trump.

“We’re very close in Ohio, but we need help,” Trump said.

Trump has seen a steady stream of moderate Republicans vow not to support him, such as U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and 50 Republican national security experts signed a letter opposing him.

All this is evidence of fissures in the party over the bellicose rhetoric and positions of Trump, who on Wednesday called Obama “the founder of ISIS,” the acronym for Islamic State, and Clinton “the co-founder.”

Trump joked that winning the White House and doing a good job as president might be his only way to salvation.

“So go out and spread the words and once I get in, I will do the thing that I do very well,” said Trump with a smile. “I figure it’s probably maybe the only way I’m going to get to heaven, so I better do a good job.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: Attendees pray after Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke at an American Renewal Project event at the Orlando Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, August 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

New ‘Democracy Corps’ Poll: GOP Civil War Is An Opportunity For Democrats

A new poll from Democracy Corps, a Democratic non-profit political polling and consulting firm run by James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, reveals that Donald Trump’s supposedly universal support among the Republican base might have quite a few holes in it, especially among more centrist voters.

The poll looked at likely Republican voters as they belonged to one of four groups: the Tea Party, observant Catholics, moderates, and Evangelicals.

Asked to describe their feelings towards various political figures by assigning them a number, likely Tea Party and Evangelical voters favored Donald Trump +40 and +16, respectively, while observant Catholics and moderates responded, on average, -26 and -25.

Only 45 percent of moderates and 65 percent of observant Catholics said they would vote for Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election match up against Hillary Clinton, compared to 81 percent of Evangelicals and 81 percent of Tea Partiers. 9 percent of moderates and 5 percent of observant Catholic respondents said they would vote for Hillary Clinton in such a scenario.

Moderate respondents were especially resistant, when asked, to the tone and character of the Trump campaign thus far. If the New York billionaire continues at his current pace, he will almost certainly be the Republican nominee.

“Moderates form 31 percent of the Republican Party base, and they are solidly pro-choice on abortion and hostile to pro-life groups. About one in five are poised to defect from the party,” stated a press release that accompanied the poll.

“The strongest attacks that we tested centered on [Trump’s] character and leadership qualities: that he is an ego-maniac at the expense of the country, that he is disrespectful towards women, and that he cannot be trusted to keep the country safe and handle our nuclear weapons.”

Photo: Donald Trump reacts to supporters as he arrives to a campaign event in Radford, Virginia February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Trump’s Conversation With God

By Carl Hiaasen, Tribune Content Agency

An absolutely true news item: In an interview with CNN, Donald Trump said, “I have a very great relationship with God.”

___

God responds: What relationship? I haven’t heard from you in, like, 40 years.

Trump: Look, I’ve been busy becoming fabulously successful. Making business deals, banking billions of dollars, hosting my top-rated reality show, buying and selling beauty pageants, marrying and divorcing amazingly gorgeous women.

My life’s fantastic, almost as good as Yours!

God: And now you’re running for president of the United States.

Trump: That’s right, and I’m totally killing it in the polls! Everybody loves me, especially the evangelicals.

God: You have got to be kidding.

Trump: Don’t act so shocked. Who else could these people vote for? Huckabee’s a total zero, Cruz is a nasty Canadian, Jeb is a low-energy loser, and Rubio’s a punk.

They’re pathetic, and I say that with all due respect.

God: And this is how you think a devout Christian talks?

Trump: Hey, I’m a great, great Christian. Got a Bible and everything!

God: Yeah, I heard. The one your mother supposedly gave you.

Trump: I carry it everywhere. Actually, somebody on my staff carries it for me. But it’s an unbelievably great, great Bible. I spend all my spare time on the jet reading it.

God: I saw the YouTube clip from Liberty University. ‘Two Corinthians’? Really?

Trump: Two Corinthians, Second Corinthians, what’s the big deal? Those kids knew what I meant.

God: They were laughing, Donald.

Trump: Sure, because they love me. Everybody loves me. Have you seen the crowds at my rallies? Unbelievable! Ten thousand people showed up in Pensacola!

God: Ten thousand white people. I was there.

Trump: Look, we ran out of tickets for the others. It happens.

That doesn’t mean African-Americans don’t love me. Hispanics love me, too. Even Muslims love me, and by that I mean the good Muslims, which I assume some of them are.

God: I’m just curious. Are you remotely familiar with the concept of tolerance? Compassion? Humility?

Trump: That’s the problem.

We’re too nice. Why do you think America is such a disaster? We’ve gotta stop being so nice. The rest of the world thinks we’re weak.

Your son Jesus, with all due respect — he was way too nice.

God: Excuse me?

Trump: In one of those gospel blogs, I forget which, they quote Jesus saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Seriously? Because, frankly, my neighbors in Palm Beach are a pain in the a–. And, even if they weren’t, I couldn’t love anybody as much as I love myself.

God: That was Matthew, FYI.

Trump: McConaughey? Where? He’s amazing. Did you see “The Dallas Buyer’s Club?”

God: No, I’m talking about the disciple Matthew. That’s the gospel you were citing. He was one of the original evangelicals.

Trump: I knew that. Everybody knows that. Matthew was a great, great disciple. He would have been absolutely fantastic on The Apprentice.

God: Know what? We’re done here.

Trump: What I was saying before? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge, huge fan of Jesus. An incredible guy, and a helluva carpenter.

If he ever comes back, I’d hire him in a heartbeat. Tell him I said so.

God: I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.

Trump: But, frankly, all that stuff he preached about turning the other cheek, not hating your enemies — it didn’t work out so great for him, did it?

That’s my point. Being nice doesn’t cut it. Being nice gets you crucified.

God: Do me a favor, Donald — quit dropping my name in your speeches and interviews. Just knock it off.

Trump: I will, I will. Right after the South Carolina primary.

God: No, stop it right now.

Trump: But what about Iowa? And New Hampshire? Please, Lord — can I call you Lord? — I really need that Christian vote.

God: I still can’t believe they’re buying this lame act.

Trump: Oh, they’re totally eating it up. Amazing, right?

God: The Bible’s not supposed to be a political prop. Put it away.

Trump: Oh, come on. You know how long it took my staff to even find that thing? How many of my warehouses they had to search?

I’ll make you a deal. If You let me keep using the Bible in my campaign appearances, just for a few more weeks, I promise not to quote from it.

No more Corinthians. No more McConaugheys.

God (sighing): See you in church, Donald. You can Google the directions.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

Photo: Donald Trump trying to be pious. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake