Evangelicals fear the ‘mark of the beast’ from a coronavirus vaccine

Peggy Popham gets her flu shot every year, despite her daughter Laura’s opposition to vaccines.

“I’m 70 and I’ve gotten sick before,” said Popham. “I don’t have a great immune system.”

Popham, who spoke to Yahoo News by phone while quarantining at home in Asheville, N.C., acknowledges that the same factors put her at risk for the coronavirus. “Of course,” she said, she’s worried about contracting COVID-19. 

But she’s more worried about a possible vaccine for it. 

Absolutely not,” she said. “I would not take the vaccine.”

That’s a view shared by nearly one in five Americans, according to a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll, which found that an additional 26 percent weren’t sure if they’d take it. Some of them no doubt have been influenced by the anti-vaccine disinformation that has been spreading for more than a decade on social media — although that has been directed primarily at routine childhood immunizations and their hypothesized link to autism. Popham’s reasons aren’t medical: They are religious and political.

Popham believes that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert on the administration’s coronavirus task force, is part of the “deep state” along with Bill Gates, another prominent villain of coronavirus conspiracy theorists. She believes their interest in developing a coronavirus vaccine is “driven by money” as well as “a socialist agenda” designed to “get control of us.” Based on research she’s done online, Popham thinks it’s likely that the vaccine will include some sort of human tracking device. 

“It will keep track of us,” she said. “Kind of like in the end days, as the Bible says, you’ll be numbered.” 

Popham, who described herself as a lifelong Republican, said that while her beliefs about the coronavirus vaccine “have a lot to do with my political views,” they also “go along with my faith.” 

And although she suspects the worst of Fauci, rattling off bits and pieces of several conspiracy theories and debunked claims that have proliferated across the internet in recent weeks, she considers her views well grounded, and rejects the extremist position that the entire pandemic is a gigantic hoax — although she believes the death count, now over 85,000 in the United States and more than 300,000 worldwide, is “exaggerated.”

“I might sound like a fanatic, but I’m really not,” she said. “I’m normal.” 

Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House on April 29. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House on April 29. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

She is, in fact, not out of the mainstream of the large segment of the American population whose views of current events are informed by the Bible, and who interpret every significant political and social development as a possible harbinger of the return of Jesus Christ. Though she is keeping an open mind on whether the coronavirus is the end-times plague, she sees “a lot of correlations” between the “agenda” driving the coronavirus vaccine and the “Revelation prophecies in the Bible.” The coronavirus pandemic created the perfect environment for apocalyptic Christianity to fuse with antigovernment libertarianism, New Age rejection of mainstream science and medicine, and internet-fueled gullibility toward baroque conspiracy theories about secret cabals ruling the world through viruses. 

Prominent evangelical pastors, including one who has since died of COVID-19, have promoted baseless claims about Bill Gates, implantable microchips that could be used to control the population under the guise of tracking COVID-19 infections and immunity, and a link between coronavirus vaccination and the mark of the beast, a signifier, in biblical prophecy, of submission to the Antichrist. Such ideas have since spread beyond evangelical circles.

Some Christian scholars have recently sought to debunk attempts to link the coronavirus vaccine to the mark of the beast through detailed biblical analysis. But the general impulse among evangelicals is skepticism toward secular authority, including measures taken in the name of public health.

Source: Yahoo News



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