“Is the vaccine the mark of the beast?” the fear was expressed by a family member of someone in a Bible study I attend. Discussion began regarding the character of God and what his word tells us about the concept of a ‘mark of the beast’. Without getting into discussion of whether or not the Bible means a literal mark, or trying to guess what such a scenario would look like, I feel quite confident in saying that the God of my understanding has no skin in the vaccination game.

The concept of such a mark, as it is discussed in the book of Revelation, is explicitly explained as being related to the denial of God and acceptance of something else in his place. While I find little practical use in delving deeply into the understanding of prophecy that appears to be deliberately vague, I do think there are certain observations that can be made from the character of God as he has revealed himself through the Bible.

God does not seem to be in the business of tricking people and leaving ambiguity to the key components of the salvation plan. While there are countless interpretations on the day-to-day interpretations of holy living, there is a clear path from Genesis to Revelation of God’s creation, man’s fall, God’s plan to redeem man through a savior, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and our acceptance of Christ’s payment for our own sin debt with God.

God also seems to have little interest in politics, and while Christ was on earth he did not spend his time concerned with directing the course of political conflicts of the day. I do not imagine him discouraging people from being involved in political discussion, but in his three year ministry on earth it did not seem to be the point of Jesus’ mission.

The God of my understanding seems most concerned with personal relationship with his followers. He is concerned about how I might engage in deeper relationship with him. It seems counter to the character of the God that I meet in scripture to punish people for receiving a shot to protect from illness that is unconnected to any proclamation for or against any religious faith.

I belief God created science and the laws and principles that hold our world together. While medical advancement is certainly an imperfect process, the issue of the speed with which the vaccine has been accepted is a separate topic of its own. Similarly, the concerns with civil liberty, and the balance of caring for the good of the people with the protection of individual desire for agency, is an entirely different subject that goes much deeper than its application of the current vaccine.

My point is that these concepts are complicated and I understand the arguments of people on both sides. I do not have the answer, but I do feel it is important to remove God from the conversation as his relevance seems unconnected to the political issue at the core of our current national debate. From my observation, what we see on both sides are people’s natural responses to the issue of our own mortality. In face of a global pandemic, that impacts each of us differently, there is natural fear that emerges and our responses often push us to impose our own fears onto others.

For myself, it is actually my fears of depression, addiction and isolation that drive my decisions more than my fear of getting COVID. My life experience has taught me that as an extrovert, isolation leads me to depression, which leads me to relapse, which is the monster I personally fear far more than Covid. I have wrestled with my own need for human connection and other peoples feelings of safety and finding balance in two opposing struggles.

For me, leaving Seattle was an important part of my mental health plan. I moved closer to family and into a less crowded area that has been better suited to my personal experience. That choice involved uprooting my entire life, and I made it for a number of reasons, but recognizing, owning, and taking action on my own mental health needs were certainly factors in my decision.

I do not want to impose my belief onto someone else. I know that someone else has an equally valid feeling that makes them want to stay home, not see people, and insist that everyone else get a shot. I also know it is not possible for most people to relocate in the way that I did, and the pressures people face when trying to live up against someone else who is trying to live in an opposing direction.

I love my friends and family who sit on both sides of these issues. In the end, I decided that I have already done so many drugs that I might as well get the vaccine. If I grow a third arm I will blend in with the crowd. It is not the battle of rights where I personally have interest in planting my flag, so I’ll happily walk the middle road and listen, with love and respect to the valid opinions on both my left and right sides.