Gov. Tate Reeves crossed the state line August 26 to attend a fundraiser in Memphis, Tennessee, where a local news outlet reported the governor shared his views on COVID-19 affecting the state, which has been hit hard by the Delta variant.
"I'm often asked by some of my friends on the other side of the aisle about COVID, why does it seem like folks in Mississippi, and maybe in the Mid-South, are a little less scared, shall we say," Reeves told the gathering. "When you believe in eternal life, when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don't have to be so scared of things."
Gov. Reeves went on to add that God “also tells us to take necessary precautions,” which is likely a reference to the governor’s ongoing push for more Mississippians to get vaccinated against the virus. But it was his comments about “eternal life” that made national headlines.
The governor’s comments were first published by The Daily Memphian, a small online newspaper. That story was nonetheless picked up by the wildly-popular Drudge Report, with an unflattering photo of the red-cheeked governor that drew even more eyes to the story. From there his comments predictably went viral.
Responding to the controversy, Rob Chambers of Mississippi-based AFA Action says the national media is acting surprised to learn Gov. Reeves holds a Christian worldview.
“I think that's pretty obvious from this news piece,” he says, referring to The Daily Memphian story, “and Christians in Mississippi ought to be thankful for that."
For a liberal and secularized national media, it was an irresistible story that combined a famously poor and rural Bible Belt state; a Republican governor; and a churchgoing population with one of the lowest vaccination rates, and currently the highest per-capita deaths, in the nation.
So it was no surprise to many to witness The Washington Post, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone magazine publish articles about the Governor's comments and Mississippi's grim statistics.
Chambers points out that Bible-believing Christians are instructed by Scripture to walk by faith daily, not to live in fear, because God is ultimately in control.
In fact, the words “fear not” or a similar phrase are said to be mentioned in the Bible 365 times such as Psalm 56. “When am I am afraid,” David wrote, “I will trust in you.”
Meanwhile, both committed Christians and religion-mocking atheists can agree the planet was crippled with fear and anxiety during the early days and weeks of the pandemic. For many, those feelings have not gone away despite the survival rate, which is 98% in mostly-unvaccinated Mississippi, where there is currently a huge surge in cases and hospitalizations that is being blamed on the Delta variant.
Chambers says Gov. Reeves deserves credit not only for speaking about his faith but for holding back his executive powers when other governors subjected their population to business-crushing mandates and draconian safety measures.
"[Reeves] understands that there is a limited role in government," says Chambers, who has known the governor for years. "He understands that government should be limited."
After the Governor's comments made national news, American Family News sought comment from Gov. Reeves regarding the news coverage.
"The Governor stands by what he said," a spokesperson said.
AFA Action is a division of the American Family Association, the parent organization of American Family News which oversees AFN.net.