He said the Internet was blazing with a controversy that the new U.S. president could be the anti-Christ, the great beast that the bible predicts will capture the world with his charisma and whose reign will only end after a fight to the finish with the messiah.
I asked my son if he thought it was true. He replied that he didn’t believe the rumors, but seeing the record numbers of people who braved the bitter cold to watch the historic event at the Capitol on that day—and the billions more watching on televisions around the world—he was not sure what to believe.
The world has gone crazy for Obama; his charm is beyond words. A mountain in Antigua may be named after him. He is every mother’s dream child. Millions worship daily at his portal. Some are even calling him The One (not “that one” as Sen. John McCain famously condescended). Yet, if charisma is all that is needed to be the anti-Christ, Obama will be in good company in a long list that includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Mohammed Ali, Nelson Mandela, and Harry Porter.
But the religious right-wing argues that it’s not about charisma alone. They say that he speaks with the beguiling empathy of the fallen angel, promising change on a messianic scale and hinting at the possibility that this change can only come about under a world government. Didn’t he say in Berlin that global citizenship is a requirement and not an option?
If the rhetoric of Obama as the anti-Christ was the fare of fringe blog spots and evangelical scaremongers on talk shows before November 4, the matter moved to the mainstream media after one of Obama’s first executive orders reversing the ban on funding international charities that perform or provide information about abortions and his approval of the first human trials of embryonic stem cells research.
The moves touched many a raw nerve and sparked a feeling among the right wing that their worst fears were about to come true—the resurgence of reason as the basis for public policy.
Obama seems not to wear religion on his sleeve. He’s certainly not as spirit-filled as Ronald Reagan, who scrapped the theory of evolution for that of creationism and yet despised the teaching of history in American schools, or George Bush, who smelled the Axis of Evil many thousand miles away but denied the reality of climate change.
Sure, as evangelicals, Obama’s support for abortion rights and same sex union makes us queasy—but if these are his mortal sins, they make him no more or less the anti-Christ than did Reagan’s love of shamans.
The conflict between those who seek to use science and reason to advance the common good on the one hand and religious demagogues on the other is centuries old.