Katherine Albrecht is on a mission from God.
The influential consumer advocate has written a new book warning her
fellow Christians that radio frequency identification may evolve to
become the "mark of the beast" — meaning the technology is a sign that
the end-times are drawing near.
"My goal as a Christian (is) to sound the alarm," said Albrecht, in a conversation over tea at a high-end grocery store.
Albrecht has been a leading opponent of RFID, which is fast becoming
a part of passports and payment cards, and is widely expected to
replace bar-code labels on consumer goods. RFID chips contain unique
identification codes, and can be read at varying distances with special
Albrecht hopes her new book, The Spychips Threat: Why Christians Should Resist RFID and Electronic Surveillance,
will be embraced by the millions of Americans (59 percent of them,
according to a 2002 Time/CNN poll) who share her belief that the Book
of Revelation in the Bible forecasts events that are yet to come.
The Spychips Threat is in fact a Christianized version of its
secular predecessor, Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government
Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID, which came out last fall.
Both books are published by the Christian publishing powerhouse Thomas Nelson.
Both lay out the same totalitarian scenarios, based on documented plans
by Philips, Procter and Gamble, Wal-Mart and other companies, along
with the federal government, to track consumer goods and people
Absent from the Christian version is the original foreword by the science fiction author and blogger
Bruce Sterling. In its place, Albrecht and co-author Liz McIntyre have
written an introduction that says that RFID chips, particularly the VeriChip
subcutaneous implant designed for humans, bear an uncanny resemblance
to "the mark" described in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.
If the VeriChip becomes a common payment device similar to the "contactless" payment system in the Exxon Mobil Speedpass,
all who wish to buy and sell goods will be compelled "to receive a mark
on their right hand or on their foreheads," as it says in Revelation,
the Spychips Threat authors contend.
Another passage in Revelation describes a vision in which "a foul
and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and
those who worshiped his image." Albrecht and McIntyre write,
""Interestingly, an implanted RFID device like the VeriChip could
potentially cause such a tormenting sore if it is subjected to a strong
source of electromagnetic radiation," such as a directed energy weapon.
But fear not, says Boston University professor Richard Landes,
who specializes in the history of apocalyptic thought. New technologies
often trigger alarm among millenarians — those who believe Christ is
returning to Earth to set up a theocratic kingdom, but only after
nonbelievers die most unpleasantly in a battle with the anti-Christ.
Y2K, bar codes and Social Security numbers all
warnings, said Landes, who was co-founder and director of the Center
for Millennial Studies at BU, which studied contemporary cult
activities and end-times literature prior to 2000.
"Even the introduction of the Gutenberg press caused waves of apocalyptic thinking," said Landes.
Albrecht does not believe those who said bar code labels and Social
Security numbers were "the mark of the beast" were completely wrong.
Rather, those technologies were precursors to RFID, and steps toward
totalitarianism, she said. "All of these technologies are of concern,"
said Albrecht. "I’d like to think I’d be speaking out against them,
too, if I was around at the time they were introduced."
Albrecht’s entry into the Christian book marketplace has not
marginalized her voice in the media or with the RFID industry. Last
week, Albrecht and her Spychips co-author, Liz McIntyre, made
appearances on ABC-TV, The Osgood Files on the CBS Radio Network, and
on the late night radio program, Coast to Coast AM. McIntyre was also
quoted in a Financial Times article last month.