August 08, 2008
Is Obama the Anti-Christ?

How low can McCain the maverick, the crusader against corruption, go? Truth is, we don’t yet know. What we do know is that, as expected, the Republicans continue to follow the Rove playbook.

Stephen Waldman at BeliefNet points us to a memo from the Eleison Group about the McCain campaign’s ad calling Obama “The One”. Turns out, surprise, there’s a coded message intended for a subset of the population.

Those who keep up on Fred Clark’s wonderful Left Behind summaries are familiar with Nicolae Carpathia, the engaging, dangerous, shallow Anti-Christ. So are the Republican political ad-makers. So they’ve produced an ad that will tweak the fears that drive the premillennial dispensationalists.

From the title of the ad (that immediately reminds anyone familiar with the Left Behind series of the name of the false church set up by the anti-Christ) to the quotes (with no respect to context) and images that the McCain camp chose to use, which basically allude to every symbol of the anti-Christ possible short of flashing 666 on the screen, this ad is an attempt to stir up already circulating falsehoods about Obama and add more fuel to the fire.

The memo makes many interesting points. For instance, the ad was produced in a format that allows distribution over the internet that McCain is so fond of. Perhaps it’s a sign that Republicans have given up their historical fondness for secrecy and are now down with the idea of information distribution. Or perhaps the point is to help the PMD folks circulate the lies to their fellow believers; they’re aware, after all, that the rest of society, including many evangelicals, considers them wackos and heretics. They’re used to being ridiculed, and though they claim not to like it, they actually need that sense of separateness to fuel their views of superiority.

Lest we dismiss the effort as aimed at a trivial population,

…here are some facts on how predominant and wide-spread the Premillenialist (also known as Darbyist or dispensationalist) views are… A Time Magazine poll that came out after the 9/11 attacks found that 1 in 5 Americans believe the world will end in their lifetime; 1 in 4 felt 9/11 was predicted in Revelation; and 1 in 3 Americans who support Israel said they do so because they believe Israel must reconquer the Promised Land for Christ to return. 

The Left Behind series has sold nearly 70 MILLION books (plus a 40-book children’s series, graphic novels, books on tape, movies, etc).  Another recent poll found that 3 of 4 Americans believed that the Left Behind series accurately depicted the events described in the Book of Revelation, although less than half believed that was an accurate description of how the world would end.

So how do we know that Obama is the Anti-Christ?

Oh, and you do realize that he doesn’t write those speeches that everyone (read stupid people, celebrities, and straight-line liberal/marxist/socialist whackjobs, and naive/historically uneducated young people) is so moved by? Those are created by people called “speechwriters,” who are professionally trained and tested political writers of moving prose. Barack does not have the command of history of global politics to attempt to pull off his speeches’ content himself, that much you can be guaranteed.

Ipso facto. Where those guarantees come from is left, well, unsaid. Fortunately we still have the honest Republicans to fall back on. They write their own.

In fairness, Mr. Petersen, whose word cloud leads with “American Idol”, is not

a fan of McCain, especially with his pandering to the global warming activists, ideas for amnesty, and a litany of dealing with “the other side” when there is no need to, [but] he sure is a better choice than the Obama-man: Nicolae Carpathia.

Not only does Obama employ speechwriters (horrors!). Worse, he’s made some noises that give premillennial dispensationalists the willies: he mentions peace.

We’ve noted earlier (see “Cursed are the Peacemakers”) how Nicolae’s pacifism and his dedication to peacemaking marked him as morally suspect from the authors’ point of view. This idea is simply a given for Tim LaHaye and his premillennial dispensationalist colleagues, and they treat it as such, presenting this audacious bit of up-is-downism with a disarming matter-of-factness. The Antichrist is diabolically evil, they say, and so of course he’s a man of peace, what else might one expect?

This might seem to contrast with the message of the Prince of Peace, but ’tis not so according to the authorities behind Left Behind.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the most popular “Bible prophecy scholars” — from Hal Lindsay to Tim LaHaye — moved away from the idea that the Antichrist would be making false promises of peace and began to suggest that this ultimate personification of evil would be an actual peacemaker. This happened, in part, due to their reinterpretation of PMD through the lens of America’s so-called “culture wars.” LaHaye came to PMD carrying with him all the baggage and presuppositions of his John Birch Society, McCarthyist Cold-War paranoia. Lindsay came to it in full-blown panic over Vietnam and the ’60s. Neither of them was capable of imagining such a thing as a false peacemaker because they did not believe there was such a thing as a genuine peacemaker.

To LaHaye and Lindsay, all peacemakers were, by definition, false. All proponents of peace, from their point of view, were duplicitous fools — not peacemakers, but peace-niks. At best they might merely be cowardly, dovish dupes, but at worst they are subversive fifth-column agents of the enemy. The PMD teaching that the Antichrist himself will one day rise from the ranks of such peaceniks simply confirms what they already believed to be true: that anyone advocating peace should be presumed guilty.

So the biblical warnings not to be deceived by false promises of peace have evolved into the belief that any promise of peace — or any effort to achieve peace, or any policy that includes peace as its ultimate stated goal — is itself false and, in fact, Satanic.

Of course, in the story, Carpathia appears after the Rapture. I’m still vague on why the Left Behind crowd cares what happens on earth then, other than, as Fred Clark loves to point out, the joy they take in imaging the tortures those left behind will suffer. But logic and history and chronology and psychology — hell, fact — are not popular with them.

If the McCain camp was trying to spoof Obama as Messiah, they missed a number of more obvious images and did a very poor job with this ad. If they were trying to draw parallels to Obama as anti-Christ, they nailed it. Considering that this ad cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce and was made by marketing professionals who McCain is paying millions of dollars for their expertise, which option of these two options do you think is more likely to be THE ONE?
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Posted by Chuck Dupree at August 08, 2008 03:44 AM
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I have seen comments regarding "the One" scattered on message boards all over the internet, especially on the Washington Post boards. And I fleetingly thought thought that this might be a reference to the anti-Christ (I lived in the South for almost 40 years and had some fleeting exposure to the concept of the "anti-Christ over the years) but haven't given it the thought that you and others have.

But it seems to me that many of the Christian groups WANT the Anti-Christ to appear. I don't see why Rove and others would unleash this concept unless they wanted Obama to win. Unless my southern education regarding Christianity is flawed. I have to admit I ignored those who tried to get me to join their cults and certainly paid little attention to their attempts at giving me lessons in the fundamentalist creeds.

Posted by: Buck on August 8, 2008 8:01 AM

The full memo from the Eleison Group, complete with very compelling imagery, can be found here :

http://www.eleisongroup.com/

Posted by: Alice on August 8, 2008 9:51 AM

Rove et.al. unleash this concept because they figure it'll help McCain. It's basically a simple equation: Obama = Anti-Christ = bad. Therefore you shouldn't vote for him. Unless you're anti-Christ.

There is among the Left Behinders a good deal of yearning for the Rapture, and for the troubles that follow it. They've decided to feel persecuted, which in their case means they're not allowed to tell everyone else what to do. So they can't wait to be called up, at which point they expect to sit in the clouds with the Father and the Son enjoying the scene as those left behind suffer unspeakable tortures. These are the true Bush believers.

They do have a gripe, which is that normal folks consider them moronic at best and dangerous at worst. Thus they feel put upon. But one day God will help them get revenge. Then we'll see.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on August 8, 2008 10:35 AM

i am just hoping that their leaders repeat the gaffe popular among millenialist demagogues in the past: to name a specific date. come on, please, help me somebody, have mercy, LET THEM NAME A SPECIFIC DATE. then when it passes and nothing happens, they can all crawl back under their slimy rocks for a few years, like they did the last few times this happened.

one of the scariest statements i've ever heard actually came not from a right wing millenialist but rather from a liberal new ager, a highly educated and very intelligent person, who said "it's okay if we destroy the planet - the ascended masters will just give us another one."

fear of death entertwined with an unconscious death wish drives politics as much as it drives every other human endeavor. at some point we may figure out how to govern ourselves from knowledge rather than fear, but i despair of this happening in my lifetime. governing from hope, i believe, is just as bad a governing from fear - neither one involves looking at the way things really are with open eyes.

Posted by: r@d@r on August 8, 2008 11:50 AM

Too many connections to name them all…

Fictionally, in keeping with the "ascended masters" theme, I loved Iain M. Banks's novel "Feersum Endjinn", the only novel I've ever read in which you don't really know what's going on until the last sentence, which is four words long, a total of seventeen letters.

The thing about naming a date is that the Publicans are too smart to do that, and their target audience too, well, slow. They're busy hating. That's how they follow the example of the New Testament.

Gibbon talks about the first millennialists, who, believing that the world was fated to end a thousand years after Jesus supposedly lived, and accepting the calculations as to his year of birth which cannot be correct even if He really lived (e.g., Herod died in 4 BCE), gave all their property to the church as the year 1000 approached. How much of it do you think the Pope returned? Correct, none.

People, especially believers, don't learn. It's against their religion.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on August 10, 2008 4:37 AM
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