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Did Q Conference Claim Essential Oils Can Stop Coronavirus?

Jack Jenkins

A Christian group known for hosting talks that include a variety of perspectives is getting scrutiny over one of its speakers.

The talks discussed alternative health methods such as practicing gratitude and consuming essential oils to boost the immune system.

The talks took place on platforms affiliated with Gabe Lyons and his wife, Rebekah, both of whom are influential evangelical Christian authors and speakers. The two founded Q, which is described on its website as “a learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society.” 

The organization hosts an annual conference that resembles TED Talks and features prominent Christian speakers, as well as business leaders, politicians and entertainers. Videos of the talks and affiliated podcasts are distributed via apps to digital devices such as Apple TV. 

Lyons recently hosted two coronavirus-themed conversations with Joshua Axe, who is listed as a chiropractor and nutritionist on his website, which sells a wide variety of alternative health supplements such as essential oils. The website does not describe Axe as an expert on epidemiology, but it does boast that his company, Axe Wellness, has won accolades in Tennessee. The nature of his practice is unclear: the state’s Department of Health lists his chiropractic license as expired as of 2013.

The first conversation occurred on a Feb. 28 episode of the “Rhythms for Life” podcast, a reference to Rebekah Lyons’ book “Rhythms of Renewal,” which is described as outlining methods to “overcome anxiety with daily habits that strengthen you mentally and physically.”

In the podcast conversation with Gabe Lyons, Axe said, “I’m in complete confidence that if I’m exposed to the coronavirus that either I won’t get it, or if I do get it, that, hey, it will be a few days and I’ll be fine afterwards,” he said. “Because when your immune system is strong — God designed our bodies to fight viruses. And that’s the thing: For me, it’s an attitude and mentality of faith over fear.”

At no point did Gabe Lyons challenge Axe’s claims, though other speakers at Q did provide alternative perspectives.  The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which operates underneath the National Institutes of Health.  “The media has reported that some people are seeking ‘alternative’ remedies to prevent or to treat COVID-19,” the statement reads. “Some of these purported remedies include herbal therapies, teas, essential oils, tinctures, and silver products such as colloidal silver. There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by COVID-19.”

Rebekah Lyons posted about Axe on Instagram shortly after his appearance on the podcast, saying “Who do you call to get insight on boosting immunity in light of the Coronavirus? (Axe) of course!”

Gabe Lyons hosted Axe again during the Q 2020 Virtual Summit that took place April 22-23, for a session called “Building Immunity.”

Axe’s presentation at the conference occurred immediately after a short question-and-answer session between Gabe Lyons and a physician on the topic of the coronavirus. Q 2020 featured multiple segments that appeared to follow a similar setup: two differing or opposing perspectives on one topic — such as a later debate between Metaxas and columnist David French on whether Christians should vote for Donald Trump.

After the Q&A with the physician, Lyons introduced Axe by asking, “Is all our confidence going to be in future medicine or vaccines, or is there anything we can be doing as people — is there any way in which we can live, and the way God has designed us — to fight off viruses?” 

Axe then launched into an 18-minute talk in which he promoted “herbal and natural forms of medicine,” argued that positive emotions are crucial to health, suggested “the media” has caused more disease than helped people by promoting “fear” during the pandemic and declared “the ultimate way to protect yourself and your family during any health crisis is to put your faith in God and follow the health principles laid out in the Bible.”

Axe also criticized White House coronavirus response coordinator Anthony Fauci by putting up a slide in which he quotes the doctor as saying “our Ultimate Hope is a vaccine.” 

“A vaccine — again, that’s not the ultimate solution,” Axe said. “The ultimate solution is God, and also, secondarily, supporting this body God has given us, strengthening our immune system so we can fight off not only this virus, but every virus we’re exposed to in the future.”

The precise origin of the Fauci quote is unclear. While the White House adviser has said similar things in the past, there is no indication he capitalizes “ultimate hope” or that the phrase is meant to be a religious reference.

The segment triggered minor backlash from some viewers on Twitter and from Tearfund, an evangelical Christian relief and development agency based in the United Kingdom. A vice president of Tearfund USA, the group’s U.S.-based arm, spoke at a previous Q gathering and was listed as one of the 2020 speakers as well. 

“The Q Ideas forum brings together many perspectives, which we value,” read a tweet from the group. “But in this case we were extremely disappointed. As soon as the talks streamed we immediately raised our concerns with them. We hope they’ll exercise better judgment in the future.” 

According to Gabe Lyons, the head of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, was also reportedly invited to address the Q conference. Collins did not speak at the Q 2020 conference; his office did not respond to requests from RNS to verify the authenticity of the invitation to speak. 

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Jack Jenkins
Jack Jenkins

JACK JENKINS is a national reporter for Religion News Service and a former Senior Religion Reporter for ThinkProgress. His work, which has also been published in The Atlantic and the Washington Post, and he is cited regularly in the New York Times, The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, MSNBC, CNN, and other top media outlets. A graduate of Presbyterian College, Jenkins earned his Master of Divinity at Harvard University.

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