One of America’s most prominent Hispanic evangelical leaders is telling congregants to believe in “divine immunity” rather than take a COVID-19 vaccine, which he alleges can “alter your DNA.” Pastor Guillermo Maldonado, founder of Miami-based King Jesus International Ministry (KJIM), also warns that a “satanic global agenda” is attempting to bring Christians under governmental control.
Maldonado, who has gained prominence through his Pentecostal televangelism ministry and books, is a key ally and supporter of Donald Trump. In January, the president launched an “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition at KJIM’s headquarters.
The megachurch, which is associated with the New Apostolic Reformation movement, has nine other locations throughout the country. Maldonado, who has more than 800,000 Facebook followers, broadcasts services in both English and Spanish. He emphasizes divine healing and incorporates elements of the prosperity gospel.
Maldonado: ‘Believe in the blood of Jesus’
Last Sunday, in a sermon streamed on Facebook Live, Maldonado told worshipers, “Do not [take] the [COVID-19] vaccine. Believe in the blood of Jesus. Believe in divine immunity.” God warned him, he said, about a “satanic global agenda” intent on creating one worldwide religion. “They want to stop President Trump because he’s against that agenda,” Maldonado preached, referring to the “new world order” conspiracy theory.
About the coronavirus vaccine, which is expected to soon roll out across the United States, Maldonado told listeners, “They’re going to demand for you to have a vaccine in your passport and seal it. Otherwise, you will not able to travel. Because they’re preparing the way in the vaccine. [The vaccines] are made to alter your DNA.”
The charge about altering DNA has been repeatedly debunked by scientists. As coronavirus cases continue to surge, hitting Black and Latino communities especially hard, medical experts also are contending against misinformation, often spread through social media.
When pandemic-related shutdowns began in the spring, Maldonado initially downplayed the virus, calling fear of COVID a “demonic spirit.” He asked, “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not.” But the pastor eventually followed local health orders, postponing KJIM’s in-person events until July.
Some Pastors Link Vaccine With Mark of the Beast
Although Maldonado didn’t directly tie the COVID-19 vaccine to the mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13:18, he raised questions in listeners’ minds about it, according to one religion professor. Lloyd Barba, who specializes in Latino Christian communities, says, “Christians are supposed to do all they can to resist the mark of the beast and by extension should also resist any harbingers of it. That’s exactly what this vaccine symbolizes for Maldonado.”
For this target audience, Barba explains, a celebrity pastor like Maldonado can have a powerful influence. “When a preacher with his stature mixes conspiracy theory with end-time speculation and claims to have heard directly from God on social-political matters,” says Barba, “it becomes exceedingly difficult for the faithful in the pews to discern between what is Scripture, social commentary, political fantasy, and outright conspiracy. In fact, the parsing out of those elements is discouraged.”
Jack Hibbs, a California pastor who supports Trump, recently said in a sermon that the COVID-19 vaccine is a form of social control that will “condition” people into accepting the mark of the beast. “Don’t be tricked into thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, the vaccine’s come in, and that’s the mark of the beast,’” Hibbs said. “It’s not the mark of the beast. It’s conditioning you for it.”
This summer, rapper, worship leader, and presidential candidate Kanye West said any vaccination developed for the coronavirus would be “the mark of the beast” and that he’s “extremely cautious” because children could be paralyzed. “They want to put chips inside of us,” West warned. “They want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven.”