Marcus Lamb, founder of the large Christian network Daystar, died Tuesday after contracting the coronavirus. Lamb’s network during the pandemic has made the virus a huge focus, calling it a satanic attack that should not be treated with vaccines.
Daystar is the second-largest Christian network in the world, according to CBN News, a competitor, reaching 2 billion people worldwide. Its brand is a fluid, modern, charismatic faith, more about general good-vs.-evil, miraculous healings and religious freedom than any specific denominational theology.
But during the pandemic, Lamb and his network went in big with anti-vaccine conspiracies, hosting daily interviews with skeptics who talked about dangerous, hidden forces pushing vaccines and stealing Christians’ freedoms. “What if the most dangerous thing your child could face in life is the very thing you’re told by your doctor is safe?” is the headline of “A Hidden Crisis,” about coronavirus vaccines.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a spiritual attack from the enemy,” Lamb’s son, Jonathan, said on the network earlier this month about his father’s COVID-19 bout, Relevant magazine reported Tuesday. Talking about the alternative, unfounded treatments his parents promoted, Jonathan Lamb said, “there’s no doubt that the enemy is not happy about that. And he’s doing everything he can to take down my dad.”
Daystar spokesman Arnold Torres declined to comment Tuesday on Lamb’s career or about his views of his illness before he died, or whether he was vaccinated.
“The family asks that their privacy be respected as they grieve this difficult loss. Please continue to lift them up in prayer,” Torres wrote in an email.
A brief statement said Daystar was launched in 1998 and grew to more than 100 television stations around the world. “[Lamb] will always be remembered for his fierce love of God, people, and his family.”
His wife, Joni, on their daily Ministry Show Tuesday, said her husband was diagnosed with COVID-19, “got the COVID pneumonia” and also had diabetes.
“We were trying to treat the COVID and pneumonia with the different protocols we use, including the ones we talk about on Daystar. We used those — I myself used them and had breezed through COVID,” she said on the show. His blood sugar spiked and he needed oxygen, she said. “He 100% believed in everything we talk about here on Daystar, things that help so many people around the world with early protocol treatments for COVID. We still stand by those obviously.”
White evangelical Christians resist coronavirus vaccines at higher rates than other religious groups in the United States, a phenomenon experts say is bound up in politics, skepticism about government and in their consumption of alternative media and unfounded conspiracy theories about vaccine dangers.
Lamb, whose network is headquartered in Dallas, was praised by prominent evangelicals Tuesday, who didn’t mention his anti-vaccine activism. Among them were Jentezen Franklin, a Georgia pastor who was on Donald Trump’s faith advisory board, and Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and president of the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. Lamb appeared in a 2020 photo with Trump and a group of prominent Christians at an Evangelicals for Trump rally.
“For all those who put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have that assurance of being with God for eternity in heaven. Marcus is now in the presence of His Lord and Savior. He had preached about heaven, taught about heaven, and now he is experiencing heaven,” tweeted Graham.
He was also followed by ministry watchdog groups, including the Trinity Foundation, which noted investigations by Inside Edition and NPR alleging questionable uses of donor money at Daystar.
NPR in 2014 alleged that Daystar gave away a fraction of what it said it did. Lamb in 2020 returned $3.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program money after an Inside Edition investigation found his ministry purchased a jet two weeks after getting a PPP loan meant to help employees struggling during the pandemic.
Pete Evans, president of the Dallas-based Trinity, said he suspected Lamb’s network focused on COVID conspiracies out of “fear of something new” and perhaps a fealty to Trump.
Daystar’s role in the Christian scene, Evans said, “is a give-to-get theology” with an urgent feel, especially to give money or to act. “It’s always like: There’s an anointing in the air, God is speaking to me right now.”