The Beast is back.
My most-clicked post of the year concerned "Mark of the Beast: 666 reasons to look for religion angle in microchips installed in employees' hands."
That recent post noted a Wisconsin technology company's plan to install microchips in employees' hands and highlighted the holy ghosts in mainstream media reports.
Just last week, Deann Alford — a faithful GetReligion reader who supplied excellent commentary for my original post — shared a link to a yet another haunted piece on the chips controversy.
But fret not, faithful masses devoted to high-quality news coverage of religion: Godbeat pro Holly Meyer of The Tennessean (part of the national USA Today network) has produced an excellent story on the subject.
Her newsy lede:
NASHVILLE — The apocalyptic "mark of the beast" prophecy in the Bible makes some wary of a Wisconsin company's recent decision to embed microchips into the hands of willing employees.
The end times account in the New Testament's Book of Revelation warns believers about being marked on the right hand and the forehead by the Antichrist.
But inserting rice-sized microchips under the skin of Three Square Market employees does not fulfill the prophecy, said Chris Vlachos, a New Testament professor at Wheaton College in Chicago.
"I think that this is more of a fulfillment of end times novels and movies than the Book of Revelation itself," Vlachos said.
Earlier this week Three Square Market, the Wisconsin firm that makes cafeteria kiosks to replace vending machines, brought in a tattoo artist to embed microchips into the 40 employees that volunteered.
And later in the story:
Globalism as well as advancements in technologies, like bar codes and credit cards, periodically trigger "mark of the beast" concerns for those who take seriously the prophecy, which talks of a one-government world.
Randall Balmer, the chair of the religion department at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, said the Book of Revelation presents a real challenge for those like evangelical Christians who take the Bible seriously and often try to interpret it literally.
"A lot of evangelicals certainly take the Book of Revelation seriously. They try to understand it," said Balmer, who is an Episcopal priest but grew up in an evangelical Christian family. "This is a source of real fascination for a lot of people, but it's also kind of a parlor game."
Vlachos said popular media often drives people's views.
"The majority of people are getting their notions on this issue from movies and novels rather than the Book of Revelation and apocalyptic genre material in the Old and New Testament," Vlachos said.
Kudos to Meyer for talking to scholars and producing a timely report for a national audience.
One of my fellow GetReligionistas did suggest an additional area that the story could have tackled:
The verses Rev. 13:16-17 not only apply to the “mark” but to the impossibility of engaging in any financial system without this mark. People fear that if you don’t have a microchip, no matter what’s written on it, you cannot buy or sell anything. Sure that’s not an issue now, but could it be in the future?
As I mentioned in my first post, I am no expert on Revelation, so I appreciate all the feedback. I'll stress again, for anyone who cares to comment, that GetReligion is focused on journalism and media issues. Comments should make a point related to those areas.