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Franklin Graham Supports COVID Vaccinations…. And Gets “Cancelled” For It By Some of His Followers?

I just got my first COVID-19 Moderna vaccine.

Some of my Christian friends, however, are a bit nervous about the vaccines. Sure, there are genuine concerns. But most of these concerns, upon closer examination, are unwarranted.

Hesitancy about using vaccines has a variety of factors behind it. A March 2021 Pew Research study observes that about 33% of Black Protestant Christians are wary of taking a COVID vaccine. The same study observes that about 45% of White Evangelical Christians are either cautious or dead set against any COVID vaccine.

So it comes as no surprise that when Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, and an influential spokesperson for many evangelical Christians today, announced his support for taking COVID vaccines, the reaction from some of his most ardent followers was swift and furious. Like Graham, I have relatives in my family line who served as medical missionaries, where the administration of vaccines have saved countless numbers of lives. Nevertheless, some denounced Graham as promoting a “devilish lie.” Some of Graham’s critics believe that taking the vaccine is a sign of taking “the mark of the beast.” However, a careful reading of Scripture shows that taking “the mark of the beast” in the Book of Revelation, is a loyalty oath, and not something that can be forced upon someone by someone else. It would appear that bad interpretation of the Bible is just as much a pandemic as is COVID-19.

Furthermore, when people use Bible passages like 1 Corinthians 6:19 (“Do you not know that you body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…“), that is really a misuse of the Bible. You might as well decline the use of any modern medicine, if you plan to be consistent with that way of thinking. Paul even recommended that Timothy take some wine to remedy the latter’s health ailments (1 Timothy 5:23). So it seems odd for Paul to suggest that if he really had in mind a prohibition against all forms of medicine.

Others are hesitant about such vaccines because of suspicions about government programs.

Others are unsure, because as in the case of the Moderna vaccine that I took, these mRNA vaccines are so new and have not been tested across millions and millions of people. However, the mRNA vaccine technology is not as new as people think, having undergone a number of other successful test trials in other applications over the past several decades.

Then there is the long held distrust of the medical establishment by the “anti-vax” movement, which is totally against vaccines of any and all kinds.

Critics of vaccines do have at least one point to make in their arguments, and it is an important one: No vaccine is entirely risk free.

When I went to get my vaccine, I was asked a whole list of questions, to make sure I was the right candidate to receive the vaccine. Not everyone should take the vaccine, because of certain side effects. But the percentage of people who should not take the vaccine is very, very small. For most people who do experience side effects, those side effects are relatively mild and do not last for long. If people have questions about their use of a vaccine, they should consult their doctor. If their doctor does not offer good answers to these questions, then that might be a strong signal suggesting that it is time to find a new doctor.

But while no vaccine is entirely risk free, that is true with just about everything in life. I know of many people who think nothing of it to hop into a car, and drive across town to run an errand or go to work. However, the likelihood of getting into a life-threatening automobile accident is orders of magnitude higher than is experiencing a life-threatening injury from a vaccine. Still, I see thousands of people driving in their automobiles all of the time. Furthermore, taking a COVID vaccine is much, much safer than being exposed to the COVID virus itself.

I have come to learn that vaccine hesistancy is not just an American evangelical Christian thing. A large percentage of secular Europe is more skeptical of vaccines than is the American evangelical Christian community. I have also seen paranoia at the other extreme, too, where some people are so freaked out by COVID-19, that they will wear a mask while driving in their car…. even though no one else is with them!!

Yesterday, Christians in the West celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus, along with the hope of Christ coming once again to right all wrongs and heal all diseases. Yet unless Jesus returns in the near future, the likelihood is that mass COVID vaccination programs will continue to be effective in reducing the pandemic, and life should return to a more regular pattern of normalcy.

COVID will never fully go away. Yet the same is true about the 1919 Spanish Flu, based on the N1H1 virus, that killed millions of people, in the wake of World War One, a century ago. Descendants of the 1919 N1H1 virus still exist today, though they typically come in a more muted and less deadly form. Still, getting a yearly flu shot goes a long way towards making the flu more of a nuisance and less deadly than it was when 50 million people died a hundred years ago, when fewer treatment options and no effective vaccines were available then.

Aside from the health factors, Christians really should support COVID-19 vaccination, for the simple reason that such decisions impact their witness to the truth of the Gospel. For if Christians get the reputation that they are highly susceptible to conspiracy-thinking that goes against science, then the next generation of young people will be only more and more inclined to judge the Christian faith itself as yet just another conspiracy theory that should be rejected.

Let us help our young people have more confidence in the truth of the Gospel… and not less.

Does Bill Gates Want to Use a COVID-19 Vaccine to Give Us the Mark of the Beast?

Bill Gates is working on a vaccine for COVID-19. Is this the “mark of the beast,” that the Book of Revelation warns us about?

For a number of Christians, what Bill Gates is doing is alarming. If it is not a vaccine, laced with some possible hidden microchip technology, it could be some type of universal ID system, using a chip implant of some sort. Should Christians be concerned? Should Christians resist taking the vaccine?

Does Bill Gates have a plan to give everyone the “mark of the beast?”

There are a number of problems with this type of thinking. First, fears about a chip implant are a bit late in the ball game. We already have a technological means of tracking people with a computer chip. You are probably using something like this to read this blog article.

It is called a smartphone.

Secondly, fears about the “mark of the beast” have a long, long history, of attempts to identify the “mark” with something that turned out to be nothing to fear. For example, when the New England Puritans, like Cotton Mather, started to promote inoculation against small pox, in the 1720s, a number of other Christians resisted such vaccination efforts. At one point, someone even firebombed Reverend Mather’s home in Boston, in protest. The vaccination itself left a permanent scar, on each person, which was nicknamed “the mark of the beast.” So, these type of prophecy speculations today are nothing new to church history. Thankfully, small pox today has been eradicated due to vaccinations, so we don’t have to worry about small pox anymore.

But the most difficult and third problem with all of this has to do with how we read the Bible.

The way to start is to read the relevant portion of Scripture. Some just look at Revelation 13:16-18, but a longer reading puts it all in context (Revelation 13:5-8, 11-18 ESV). Highlighted below are key phrases to consider:

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain…. 
Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. 

The popular idea, when reading about the “mark of the beast,” is to think that some demonic figure (the “beast,” as in the first and/or second beast mentioned in this passage) will try to force everyone, including believing Christians, to have this “mark of the beast” implanted in our bodies. The implication is that Christians should do whatever they can to be wary of the imposition of such a mark, and resist it with every means possible…. even if it means rejecting something like a COVID-19 vaccine.

I have thought about adapting a maxim, that is surely appropriate for a blog article like this: Having an open mind on all things is surely good, yet on the whole, it is far better to follow the evidence we already do have, instead of speculating on the possibility of evidence we do not currently possess.

Here is what I mean by that.

The popular interpretation summarized above makes a number of assumptions. First, it assumes a futurist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. A futurist interpretation suggests that the bulk of what is described in Revelation corresponds to future events. Many Christians are not aware that there are other, faithfully-orthodox methods of reading Revelation that do not assume a futurist framework.

For example, we have good evidence to indicate that the prophecy regarding the “mark of the beast” has already been fulfilled in the past, specifically in the first century of the church. Interested students of the Bible might want to at least consider this preterist, or past-fulfillment based, approach to interpreting this passage, as a reasonable alternative to the futurist approach.

Furthermore, we also have evidence that suggests that a more symbolic approach to the “mark of the beast,” exemplified by either an historicist or idealist approach to interpreting this passage, might carry more weight than a futurist reading.

But let us lay all of the above aside, and assume for now that the futurist reading is correct. It very well might be. Even though it is nearly impossible to figure out evidence for something that might happen in the future, most evangelical Christians today take a futurist approach, so it is not without precedent nor credibility. Regardless of approach, a more thorough attention to the context of the “mark of the beast” will help to illuminate why more popular understandings are problematic.

Does even the futurist approach really line up with the popular idea of “the mark of the beast” being imposed on Christians?

Notice first, in the passage above, that “and all who dwell on earth will worship it,” namely the “it” being the first and/or second beast. Who are those “all who dwell on the earth?” Well, the next phrase in the highlighted verse tells us, “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” In other words, those who are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will worship the beast.

This little nugget of Scriptural truth helps us to decipher what is meant later on by “the earth and its inhabitants [who] worship the first beast” and “it [the second beast] deceives those who dwell on earth.” The ones who are deceived by the beast are not believing Christians.

It is also helpful to realize what is meant by the “forehead,” which is where the mark of the beast might be placed. Elsewhere in the Book of Revelation we can read that the people of God, those who worship Jesus and put their trust in Him, will be “sealed” with a “seal” placed on their forehead (Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4 ESV), as in Revelation 7:3, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” Furthermore, “foreheads” alludes to the concept in Hebrews 10:16, that associates the covenant of God, placed upon the hearts of believers, as also being written on our “minds.”

In other words, those who worship and love Jesus will have this forehead seal. This is contrasted with those others who are “marked on the right hand or the forehead;” that is, those who have “the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.” 

The “mark of the beast,” whether it be a literal or symbolic mark, represents those who have identified with the powers that oppose Christ. Consider the “mark of the beast” to be like an oath of allegiance. Or think of it as the mark of someone passing a loyalty test. It can not be coercively forced on someone else. Instead, the “mark of the beast” is taken upon someone willingly.

What do we conclude from all of this? Those who possess the “mark of the beast” are simply those who worship the antithesis of the Gospel. Those who reject Jesus, and subject themselves to worshiping that which is opposed to Jesus will be the ones who receive the mark of the beast.

So, should Christians be concerned that someone might force the “mark of the beast” upon Christians? NO, not according to what is taught in Scripture. Therefore, unless you are planning on committing apostasy anytime soon, followers of Jesus need not worry about any potential threat of having the “mark of the beast” imposed on them, against their will.

Should we be concerned about those influences associated with the power behind the “mark of the beast?” Absolutely. That which opposes the Gospel should not be taken lightly. In the case of vaccines, we should do what we can, as believers, to promote the development of a safe, effective vaccine, freed from the influences of those who might try to use something like this, as an act of bioterrorism, or for some other nefarious purposes.

Should we be concerned about others who might take upon themselves the “mark of the beast? Again, absolutely. But the way we are to go about this is by spreading the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus. We are to pray that the Holy Spirit might penetrate hearts, that others might turn from their rebellion against God, and embrace the Savior.

Despite whatever you may think of Bill Gates, followers of Jesus should support vaccination efforts, like his, that are intended to save lives. We have evidence that people, like Bill Gates, are at least trying to do good, to help people. Now, surely, Bill Gates is not perfect, but we do not have evidence for Bill Gates, that he wants to implant the “mark of the beast” on ChristiansSadly, such hyper-vigilance against the “mark of the beast” is associated with all sorts of conspiracy-type thinking, that mars the reputation of the Gospel, and invites an unbelieving world to view Christians with needless mockery and derision. Instead, let us all pray for the development of a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, as soon as reasonably possible.



About Vaccine Hesitancy: Having a Conversation


Several months ago, I blogged on Veracity about vaccines, encouraging Christians to consider that one of the best ways that we can express the love of Christ to our non-believing neighbor is by encouraging the use of vaccines, particularly with children. Though I received no comments directly to that post, I have since received some pushback offline. So, I feel obligated to address it, particularly in view of the current measles outbreak that is ravaging certain Orthodox Jewish communities, that have been particularly hesistant to vaccination.

Within the past twenty years, there has been an increase of concern about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, despite the fact that we had nearly wiped out measles in the United States, in the early part of the first decade of the 21st century. Many doctors say that the recent measles outbreaks in America can be directly correlated to the decreased practice of vaccination across the country, and many Christians are involved in this movement.  Yes, there is misinformation in the vaccination debate, but there is also a lot of unnecessary vitriol, from both sides. Here are some points for discussion, that I hope everyone (maybe?? maybe?? maybe??) can adopt:

  • Parents who are hesitant about vaccination love and care for their kids. Take a trip scanning through social media, and you will quickly find rude and insulting comments lodged at parents who do not support vaccination. We need to find ways of encouraging conversation, instead of just shutting down conversation with un-Christlike comments. Parents need compassion, not condemnation.
  • Not everyone can take vaccines. Some people are unable to take vaccines, due to known medical risks. Folks should consult their doctor about those risks, before going ahead with vaccines. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. The good news is that across the broader population, those who are unable to take vaccines without adverse side-effects can be protected by herd immunity. Unfortunately, as the rates of vaccination continues to decline, the effectiveness of herd immunity continues to decline as well, leaving those who are unable to take vaccines at risk of exposure to deadly diseases.
  • Some vaccines have been developed from cell lines that were derived from aborted fetuses. As Young Earth Creationist scientist, Jay Wile, observes, most Christians are rightly horrified by abortion, and so might reject vaccination on moral grounds. Yet some, like popular Christian talk show host of Wallbuilders, David Barton, draw from this the conclusion that parts of dead babies are hiding in the vaccines, that your doctor wants you to take. This is misleading information. Cell lines derived from aborted fetuses are not the same as dead baby body parts, or “debris,” themselves. Nevertheless, how is a Christian who cares about the unborn to respond, regarding this connection between some vaccines and abortion? Following the lead set by the Roman Catholic Church here, is a wise move to make. Christians should lobby for the medical and pharmaceutical professions to find other ways of obtaining cell lines, without crossing ethical boundaries that violates Pro-Life concerns. Nevertheless, until those vaccines become available, across the board, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the benefits of using such suspect vaccines outweighs such ethical concerns.
  • Time is limited, and not everyone can be an expert. That is why we have doctors. As is the case with you, my time is limited. I can not be an expert on everything. That is why it is important to find a doctor, whom you can trust, to help guide you through navigating cost/benefit analysis for taking vaccines.
  • In some very limited cases, vaccines can produce negative outcomes. I have known friends who have experienced such negative reactions, particularly to flu vaccines. Nothing in life is risk free. This may sound insensitive to someone who has a child who was injured by vaccines, but it need not be. We should encourage those in the medical profession to better help those who have concerns, or those in this small category who might have experienced some injury in using vaccines. In at least a few cases, some are probably receiving vaccines, when they should not, because they are not being properly screened. Every child, every person is important to God. Nevertheless, this point needs to be balanced by the next point.
  • The overwhelming scientific consensus in medicine today indicates that the benefit of taking vaccines, to protect against deadly diseases, far exceeds the risks involved in actually taking the vaccine.

I know that some Veracity readers might be confused, or challenge me on some of these points (particularly the last one). But it is important to consider that when you search for information on the Internet, whether it be using Google, YouTube, or Facebook, these databases are designed to narrow your search field to include results, that by default, will skew what you are looking for. For example, if you do an Internet-based search for “vaccine injury,” the results of your search will be skewed to point you towards websites that favor anti-vaccine movement information, as opposed to pro-vaccine information, in line with the current scientific consensus. Likewise, if you search for “vaccine injury” on YouTube, you will be directed to anti-vaccine videos more than pro-vaccine videos, even though Google may force a CDC-sponsored video to pop up at the top of your search, in an effort to counter-balance the anti-vaccine info that otherwise pops up. And the more you watch anti-vaccine videos on YouTube, the more it will skew your searching for vaccine information in the future, to be biased towards giving you other anti-vaccine videos to watch, instead of pro-vaccine videos.

That is just how Internet-based social media works, folks. We live in an era of “fake news,” largely due to the proliferation of disinformation spread by social media. As someone working in the field of information technology for 34 years, I know how this works. It should be no surprise that the current rise of the interest in  the anti-vaccine movement coincides with the rise in popularity of social media websites, like Facebook, etc.

My grandfather served as a medical doctor missionary in South Africa, in the 1920s, vaccinating hundreds of Africans against the spread of tuberculosis. My grandfather’s actions to get vaccines out to people saved countless lives. But in letters I have from my grandmother from those years, while her  husband doctor was running off into the African hinterlands, with his bag of medicines, my grandfather’s greatest challenge was in trying to calm the fears of those, who would benefit the most from those living-saving vaccines.

Apparently, some things never change.

Vaccines were not 100% safe back then, with positively zero side effects, just as they are not absolutely, without any margin of error, 100% safe today. But their benefits surely outweigh the risks, by a significant order in magnitude. In fact, the order of magnitude is so great that the risks associated with taking vaccines is almost negligible, compared to the benefits. Serious negative reactions to vaccines are barely a fraction of a percentage point. You and your children are at a higher risk of contracting a deadly disease, that a vaccine can prevent, than having a negative, life-threatening result from taking a vaccine. I know of older family members, who have since died in recent years, who would tell me tales of barely surviving measles, mumps, and polio infections, some 70 to 80 years ago. These type of diseases are thankfully rare today, but the rise of anti-vaccine concerns threatens to reverse those gains that doctors like my grandfather fought so hard for.

Nevertheless, my own personal view is that vaccines should be received voluntarily, and not by mandatory government force (but stay home please, if there is an outbreak locally). People should do the right thing, because… well…. it is the right thing to do. I am also concerned when information content providers unduly restrict information about the anti-vaccine movement. Government sponsored dictates and censorship of ideas only serve to reinforce the perception of conspiracy. Instead, we need more information, specifically correct information, not less.

I am not a doctor, and I have never played one on television. I am not omniscient. So, if folks really want to challenge on the data, just make sure it is backed up by truly peer-reviewed science, and not some questionable source that passes itself off as “peer review.” Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidential backing in order to overturn a current scientific consensus.

It surely is possible that vaccines are not as completely safe as they have been made out to be. I could be quite wrong about my support for vaccines. But surely, peer reviewed science will sort that out. That is how science works.

So I simply ask that the challenger to the current consensus be willing to consider the other side of the argument, about the effectiveness of vaccines, and how God has given us a wonderful tool to do much good in the world, to limit some of the deadly effects of natural evil, exacerbated by the Fall. Consider giving vaccines a chance, if not to protect yourself, but also to help to protect others, and express the love of Jesus in a concrete manner. Can we have a conversation, please?

I am personally encouraged that Christian young people, like high school senior, Ethan Lindenberger, who grew up in a Christian family that opposed vaccines, was willing to do the research himself, to figure out if vaccines were good or bad, and weigh the evidence himself, and conclude that he should get vaccinated. This young man plans on pursuing a career in either Christian ministry or politics. The first video below is Ethan’s testimony before Congress.

The video with Ethan is followed after that with an interview by anti-vaccine leader Del Bigtree, with Ethan’s mother and older brother. What disturbed me the most about this video are several peculiar expectations Ethan’s mother originally had about vaccines:

  • (1) Ethan’s mother was told, as she put it, that she would need to get the chicken pox vaccine initially, and repeated again once every ten years after that. Current CDC recommendations are that vaccine recipients should get the vaccine only twice, “the first dose at 12 through 15 months old and a second dose at 4 through 6 years old.” For adults, the vaccine should be given twice, “4 to 8 weeks apart.” Perhaps the recommendations several years ago were different, but I highly doubt it. Did she not clearly understand her doctor, or was her doctor not properly informed, or worse, incompetent?
  • (2) Ethan’s mother expected that the vaccine need be only applied once, and that once a vaccine is given, it will be a “forever thing.”  But numerous vaccines require an additional treatment, for the fullest effectiveness. Yearly vaccines, like for the flu, should be taken every year, because of the changing nature of the flu. Again, did she not clearly understand her doctor, or was her doctor not properly informed, or worse, incompetent?
  • (3) Ethan’s mother expected that vaccines were always 100% safe, with no potential side effects ever. But as noted above, nothing in life is 100% risk free. Driving a car is risky. Stepping outside during a thunderstorm puts you at risk of getting hit by lightning. But does this keep people from driving cars, or being fearful of springtime and summertime, when thunderstorms are more prevalent? Where did Ethan’s mother get this expectation from?

But to reiterate, it is apparent that Ethan’s mother really loves her son, and only wants the best for him. If this story moves you, you might want to consider praying for this family.

After that is another video, which shows several pro-vaccine people in dialogue with several anti-vaccine people. After that is the last video, by the well-known “Dr. Mike,” critiquing the pro/anti-vaccine discussion video. Is this a good way of having the conversation?



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