Breaking Evangelical Resistance to Coronavirus Vaccines will be HardRoundup
tags: Christianity, evangelicalism, Vaccination, COVID-19
Matthew Avery Sutton is the author of multiple books including, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism and Double Crossed: The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War. He is the chair of the history department and the Berry Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts at Washington State University.
Evangelicals make up one quarter of the United States population and they are the Americans least likely to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Even as the Biden administration works fervently to overcome vaccine hesitancy and some in the evangelical community like Franklin Graham, son of legendary preacher Billy Graham, pledge to help them, they face a daunting task. The hurdle: For many evangelicals, the vaccine, and proof that you have had it, are tools of the Antichrist.
Enough people are worried that the vaccines are from the Antichrist that TikTok has apparently banned hashtags that link vaccination with apocalyptic plots. Posts and videos all over social media — many of which Facebook and YouTube have taken down — warn that the government’s efforts to vaccinate people are part of an end times plot. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) recently called vaccine passports the mark of the beast.
This may all sound absurd. But millions of Americans believe it, making evangelical fears over the vaccine a public health problem. The origins of these ideas, however, have little to do with science but are instead grounded at the intersection of history, theology and politics. Understanding, explaining and challenging these beliefs could be key to saving lives.
For the past 150 years, evangelicals have read their Bibles as a code book that foretells the immediate future. They crafted a complicated and convoluted analysis of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation, overlaid with some of Jesus’s and Paul’s New Testament statements, that reveals a hidden “plan of the ages.” What they see in their Bibles is the end of history, and exactly how it will unfold.
Evangelicals have long believed that the current age would climax with horrific plagues, social anarchy, rampant sexual immorality and military conflicts. Seeking to unite the world’s nations and end chaos and war, a new leader appears promising peace and security. Unwilling or unable to recognize he is actually the prophesied Antichrist, most political and religious leaders around the world cede their sovereignty and independence to him through an international agency.
In every generation, evangelicals believed the end was near, and they interpreted the changes happening around them through the lens of biblical prophecy. World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of fascism in Europe during the Great Depression all reinforced their convictions.