YOU'RE NEXTThere are certain Bible passages which have caused much more mayhem than others. Exodus 22:18, for example, has directly caused the deaths of many women over the centuries. Matthew 28:18-20 led to forced conversions and uncountable violence in order to “spread the Gospel.” These days, Leviticus 18:22 is making life difficult for gays.

Another passage that appears to have inordinate control over many — especially of the Protestant-fundamentalist “end times” type of Christian — is Revelation 13:11-18, which is as follows:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.

He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.

He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.

And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.

And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead,

and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.

Here is wisdom: Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.

This has spawned vast amounts of speculation as to who “the Beast” will be: Among the foolish speculations was that it was the assassinated Anwar Sadat, who defied this prediction by refusing to rise from the dead; then speculation was that “the Beast” would be whoever headed the European Common Market once it had ten member countries, although this too is now out of the question since it morphed into the European Union with many more members than 10); and many more guesses have been made … all of which have failed utterly. I will set aside the fact that, while most believers generally speak of “the Beast of Revelation,” the text actually talks about two separate “Beasts.”

At any rate, in addition to the bilge and kerfluffle that have erupted over the years concerning the identity and nature of “the Beast,” another matter of speculation has been exactly what would be “the Mark of the Beast,” and central to that is that it will be required for commerce under “the Beast’s” rule. That standard UPC codes appear to contain three 6s in their sequencing has been a source of continuing talk among the “Armageddon-worshipping” Christians. Of course, this is not actually the case, but when you’re obsessing over Armageddon, appearances are more than enough. I’m not sure what barcodes on products have to do with “the Mark of the Beast” which supposedly will be placed on people, but that too appears not to be a concern.

At any rate, we finally arrive at the point of this blog post, which is that there is a fundamentalist Christian who believes she has figured out what “the Mark of the Beast” is, and her contention has spawned a lawsuit. Wired Threat Level reports on this bizarre development, which apparently is less unique than I had thought:

A 22-year veteran kindergarten teacher in the Texas Bible Belt could lose her job for refusing, on religious grounds, to give fingerprints under a state law requiring them.

The evangelical Christian, Pam McLaurin, is fighting a looming suspension, claiming that fingerprinting amounts to the “Mark of the Beast,” and hence is a violation of her First Amendment right to practice her religion. Her case is similar to a lawsuit by a group of Michigan farmers, some of them Amish, challenging rules requiring the tagging of livestock with RFID chips, saying the devices are also the devil’s mark. …

McLaurin’s lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency cites various passages of Revelation, the final book of The Bible:

He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand and on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.… Then a third angel followed them saying with a loud voice — if anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God.… He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Her attorney, Scott Skelton, said his client believes that the computerized fingerprinting, in which her fingerprints will be stored in a database, is the mark addressed in Revelation. The teacher does not believe that it is merely coincidence that Revelation says only those with the ‘mark on his forehead or on his hand’ will be able to buy or sell, since only those teachers who comply with fingerprinting requirements will keep their jobs, he said.

I wasn’t aware that anyone could opt to have their fingerprints on their foreheads instead of their fingertips, but hey … once again, those Armageddon-worshippers never let little things like facts get in the way of their paranoid thinking.

Despite the lawsuit, the school district still thinks highly of Ms McLaurin:

The Big Sandy Independent School District, where the woman teaches, is located about 100 miles northeast of Houston. Wayne Haglund, the school district’s lawyer, described McLaurin is a “valued member of the faculty and one of the best teachers we have.”

The problem with this “fingerprints are ‘the Mark of the Beast'” scenario, of course, is that it doesn’t work, in the face of what the Bible says about “the Mark,” which is that “no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast” (Rev 13:17). Clearly the implication is that “the Mark” — whatever it’s supposed to have been — will be optional. People may choose to get it — and then be able to buy and sell — or not get it, and not be allowed to buy and sell. Fingerprints, however, are not “optional.” Every human being has fingerprints. (Except maybe the men in black, at least, according to the movie.)

Is it really a good idea to allow someone this fact-deprived and rationality-challenged to teach children? I think not.

Hat tip: The Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds.

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