Covid and Religious Conspiracy Theories-Laura Alvarez

Seeing the COVID pandemic unfold through the eyes of the Christian church has troubled me. As we continue to encourage people to vaccinate themselves, I have seen some Christians online claim the vaccine is the “mark of the beast” – a mark which will bar you from the gates of heaven. For example, I have seen people use Revelation 13:16-18 from the New Testament as justification for this conspiracy. It says: “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” People specifically connect verse 17 with the vaccine, since rumors claim that vaccination may become mandatory to travel, work, or generally function in society.

Additionally, it was rumored that the vaccine contained luciferase, a compound whose name makes people think of Lucifer – the devil. Luckily, pharmaceutical companies have made the vaccine’s ingredient list available, laying these false claims to rest. Although I have seen the “mark of the beast” conspiracy circulate the internet a few times, the most popular conspiracy theory I have seen is that masks are harming us and that the real pandemic is fear. In their minds, the church ought to teach “faith over fear” because fear and panic are said to not come from the Lord.

I find it concerning that those representing the church cannot distinguish between healthy caution and panic, as it is the recklessness of not exerting proper precautions that has led to the pandemic’s prolongation. Masks have been proven to significantly reduce transmission of Covid while not limiting our capacity to breath; yet, recently I saw that a pastor my mom was watching was spreading anti-mask propaganda on national television. Although I agree that we should not go into panic mode, spreading the narrative that masks should not be worn is extremely dangerous and selfish. Personally, I saw my step-dad’s church suffer the consequences of not taking proper precautions: a couple months ago, the entire church caught the virus at the same time, ultimately killing the pastor and making many others sick.

How is your church/religious group keeping safe during the pandemic while still practicing? Have there been any popular conspiracy theories regarding Covid and your religion?

5 thoughts on “Covid and Religious Conspiracy Theories-Laura Alvarez”

  1. Hi Laura! Great post! I thought you touched on a lot of themes that I have been thinking about related to religion and COVID-19. I have unfortunately heard the same rhetoric that God is bigger than the pandemic and that gathering to pray can eliminate covid-19. This is a case where religion and science can have some clash. I sometimes think about the irony of the logic that some people use to not following covid-19 precautions under the guise of religion; for example, many religions emphasize caring about one’s community and family and making tough choices for the greater good of humanity but they still fail to see how not wearing a mask harms the community. Luckily, the Gurdwaras (Sikh Temple) that I normally attend closed – they did recently open but have a small capacity and enforce masking. My faith of Sikhi emphasizes the need to think about community which in part motivated me to stick to guidelines even when the pandemic fatigue set in. Because many people look to their religion and worldviews during tough times, I think places of worship and religious leaders need to enforce safety precautions so that more people will adhere to them and take them seriously. This is definitely a complicated topic but one that needs to be talked about.

  2. It was very interesting to hear your comments, Laura! I am grateful that my church has been very aware of our pandemic situation and has taken steps to address it with safety in mind. Initially, all our church buildings were closed and we held meetings in our own homes or virtually, but we have slowly been moving back to in-person services with distancing, masks, and other practices consistent with health and local guidelines. Our meetings are shorter than normal to limit exposure as well.

  3. Hello, Laura! Thanks for this post, it was very reflective of a lot of frustration I’ve been feeling myself lately. The examples you brought up were upsetting to hear, especially of the negative consequences for your step-dad’s church. The way I see it, there is a reason that God provided us with scientific knowledge, scientists, and the opportunity to take steps to prevent ourselves. All of the things that we need to do to protect ourselves have been given to us, but God can’t force us to take them – that responsibility is up to us. There’s an expression in Russian that goes, “Бережёного бог бережёт”. This translates to “God protects he who protects himself”, essentially saying that it’s up to us to be smart and keep ourselves safe, and God will help us from there. It’s the same principle behind things like seatbelts or bike helmets – I’m not going to go out driving without a seatbelt because I just assume God will protect me from an accident. I believe that there is a lot of wisdom in this idea, and wish more people would follow this principle.

  4. Hi Laura,

    I agree with you, it surprises me in some instances when religious people object to vaccines. For me, as a Jewish person, it is really distressing to me to see Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and Israel resist public health measures like masks and social distancing. Orthodox Jewish life is very communal and really the whole community is vital to the individual, and these distancing measures are very against that lifestyle, so I see why it’s difficult to follow. But in Judaism, we have a concept called Pkuach Nefesh (watching over a soul), which is the idea that saving a life is the best good deed that can be done. If you were to save a life but break almost every single Jewish commandment in the process, the saving of a life would outweigh those other actions. Which is why I don’t get why certain Jeiwhs communities resist these life saving measures.

  5. Thanks for highlighting these ideas, Laura! I know folks who attend the same type of church that I do, and they are having services at those rural Wisconsin churches, but my home church right outside of Madison hasn’t had any indoor in person services for over a year. Since we are practicing the same religion, I think there are other factors at play for why some are gathering and some are not.

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