During Covid, key Christian leaders interviewed, praised and uncritically promoted NIH Director Francis Collins, whose claims about Covid have since been called into serious question.
The Daily Wire documents that Ed Stetzer, Russell Moore, Tim Keller, Rick Warren and N.T. Wright were among the trusted evangelical names to share their online platforms with Collins, helping him promote Covid views that are now widely doubted or discredited.
In public — including on a livestream panel hosted by Christianity Today — Francis Collins laughed off the “conspiracy” that Covid-19 had escaped from a science lab in Wuhan. Instead, he insisted that the virus had come from nature.
The Gospel Coalition went on to dismiss the manmade theory as a QAnon-level delusion. Relevant magazine hailed Collins as a hero of science while disparaging Christians who held dissenting views on Covid as not “walking in faith”.
In a now-deleted Christianity Today article, pastor and author Ed Stetzer lambasted skeptical Christians, writing, “If you want to believe that some secret lab created this as a biological weapon, and now everyone is covering that up, I can’t stop you.”
Collins Knew About Wuhan and Covered It Up
Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, we now know that at the same time these interviews were taking place, Collins knew that top U.S. and British scientists suspected the Wuhan Institute of Virology — not nature — as the source of the virus. And he was eager to bury the theory, fearful of “great potential harm to science and international harm”.
No doubt, Collins was also concerned about harm to his own reputation. In his role as National Institutes of Heath director, Francis Collins has long supported — and his agencies have generously funded — the gain-of-function research that probably explains the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Uncovered emails also show Collins smearing eminent lockdown critics as “fringe epidemiologists”, and calling for a “a quick and devastating published take down” of their ideas to shift public opinion.
When Questionable Science Becomes Theology
It is understandable that Christian leaders sought to share with their followers what they believed to be trustworthy information. What’s troubling is how uncritically some of that information was accepted — and that none of them have since corrected the record.
During a 2020 interview, Francis Collins held up a cloth mask to theologian Russell Moore, and insisted, “this is not a political statement; this is not an invasion of your personal freedom … this is a life-saving medical device”. Moore offered no pushback, despite medical experts then and now being sharply divided on the efficacy of masks.
Author and pastor Rick Warren likewise discussed masks in an interview with Collins. Warren criticised as unloving Christians who doubted the benefit of masks and chose not to wear them. He also suggested that it is the responsibility of pastors to uncritically affirm government messaging on Covid.
Over a year after these interviews, the CDC has finally admitted that cloth masks aren’t particularly effective.
An Unlikely Ally of Conservative Christians
Francis Collins’ role as a government envoy to evangelical leaders is itself intriguing. In February 2021, Time Magazine drew attention to this, writing that “While Fauci has been medicine’s public face, Collins has been hitting the faith-based circuit … and preaching science to believers.”
Appointed by President Obama to the NIH director role, Collins is a professing Christian who has previously written on the connection between faith and science. The Daily Wire notes that “Keller, Warren, Wright, and Stetzer all publicly lauded him as a godly brother,” and according to Christianity Today, Collins is “follower of Jesus, who affirms the sanctity of human life”.
In fact, for decades Collins has supported policies that make him an unlikely ally of theologically conservative Christians.
He has defended the use of aborted fetuses in experiments, and in his role as NIH director has channeled record-level funding towards the practice. As the Daily Declaration has previously reported, it was under Collins’ watch that barbaric lab experiments took place on fetuses, including the scalps of aborted babies being grafted onto the backs of lab rats and the harvesting of organs from full-term aborted babies.
Collins has also overseen the introduction of diversity, equity and inclusion tests that prioritise or exclude scientists based on their ethnicity. He has described himself as an “ally and advocate” of the gay and trans movements, and has waved through millions of dollars in grants for transgender experiments on children that include sex hormone therapy and mastectomies on young teenage girls.
The Church as the Mouthpiece of the State?
Collins’ public record doesn’t disqualify him from having constructive dialogue with evangelical leaders. But that record should have prompted Christian leaders to to consider that Collins’ ethical and scientific views may be influenced by his politics more than his Christianity.
Moreover, what we now know about the Wuhan lab leak, Collins’ emails, and the contested science on masks and lockdowns should prompt these leaders to question their willingness to act as the mouthpiece of the government.
To quote three great Christian leaders of the past and present:
“The more the church acts like the world the less influence it has.” — John MacArthur
“The church must be reminded it is not the master or the servant of the State, but rather the conscience of the State.” — Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
“To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.” — A. W. Tozer