Thursday, January 5, 2017

6.0 Sympathy for the Devil

When I was working for the Obama campaign in Manassas, Virginia back in the fall of 2008, there were two common themes I heard from staunch opponents. The most common was the fact that Obama was a socialist, that he would turn private businesses over to government control. The other, much less common but perhaps more disturbing, was that Obama was the Antichrist!

I recall sending out a pair of volunteers to do some canvassing. They had arrived late, so I was shocked to see they were the among the first to return. I suspected something had gone terribly wrong. That became obvious when they were close enough for me to see their faces. Both appeared disturbed, and one had obviously been crying and was still on the verge of tears. When I asked them what went wrong, they explained that they hadn’t been canvassing long before they met a lady who answered the door and immediately started attacking them when they told her they were with the Obama campaign.

ObamaAntichrist.jpg“How dare you support the Antichrist?!” she had screamed at them, “How dare you come to my door trying to get me to vote for that demon?” This confrontation had shaken them so badly, they could no longer continue. Apparently, the lady's pastor had been preaching this vile bit of dogma from the pulpit for a while and had most of his congregation convinced. It wasn’t all that surprising to me to see the same label applied to Hillary Clinton eight years later. I suppose it’s simply just a title passed on from one Democratic presidential candidate to the next.

What does strike me as ironic about all of this is that this title of Antichrist was never, to my knowledge, applied to the Republican candidate, despite the fact that, according to my understanding of scripture, he seems to fit the bill much more than either Obama or Clinton ever did. Now, before I go on to discuss scripture, I need to establish a couple of things. First, I’m no longer a Christian. I was for much of my early life, worshiping with Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Baptists.

At fourteen, I joined the Mormon church, was baptized, I even planned on going on a mission. All of that, along with my connections to Christianity, as a whole, was derailed by some personal and philosophical issues, most relevant of those being my discovery of the fact that church attendees of African descent were not offered full membership until 1978. For a denomination that claimed to be a perfect extension of the Christian church as established by Peter after the execution of Jesus, that choice was obviously less than perfect.

The second thing you need to know is that I was very devout. The thirst for knowledge I have today was compounded by that devoutness. I studied plenty of scripture and had numerous in-depth conversations with church elders, particularly on the always fascinating topic of the End of Times. Now that I have established some credentials, let’s discuss Armageddon!

It’s important to understand that that the term antichrist, like pseudochrist, is used throughout the new testament, and generally refers to false prophets of any kind. It’s not until we get to Revelations where we see references about one individual Antichrist. However, that term is never used. Antichrist is often conflated with the notorious Beast of Revelations, where he is considered a false prophet (pseudochristos). Technically, Revelations reveals two beasts, one from the sea and one from the earth. It’s the second one, the Beast from the Earth, that’s most consistently connected with the Antichrist as it’s the one that is labeled as a false prophet. Its purpose is to get the rest of humanity to worship the Beast from the Sea.

I’m not going to dive into a bunch of scripture, here. Scripture is open to much interpretation, and that’s not what this post is about. However, one thing I have heard consistently is that this false prophet will easily gain the trust of many who consider themselves faithful. Now, I think we can agree that neither Obama or Clinton ever got the endorsement of those claiming to be the most devout Christians, the ones so invested in their Christianity that they believe it should be the state religion, the so-called evangelicals. But you know who did? Don Presidente, himself!

I can’t be the only one who finds it bizarre that a man of such poor moral character—a bigot, a materialist, a philanderer, a misogynist, a self-professed serial sexual abuser—was able to get the endorsement of the very same people that continuously faulted liberals and progressives as godless and immoral. I mean, we’re talking about a man who is guilty of almost all seven of the Deadly Sins—lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy and pride! Sloth is the only one not on the list, but come on. You can’t possibly be guilty of sloth when you’re too busy committing all the rest of the sins!

I'm left to wonder how the irony escapes these people who claim to be so moral and devout, so certain about what it means to be Christian and worship Abrahams’ god.

I have some ideas. The main one has to do the greed, a sin most share with The Hate Pumpkin. Many of the alleged Men of God that endorsed this foulest of beasts for president are promoters of prosperity gospel, the idea that God wants us to become rich. All we need is enough faith. We show that faith by helping to keep the 
preachers' coffers full! Eventually, what we give will come back to us, manifold. The vast majority of the time, though, the only wealth actually gained is by the people preaching at the pulpit. The rest of us dump all of our disposable income only to see it go to the preachers' cars, mansions, even planes that they “need” to continue spreading the word of God.

Sure, we see the occasional success story, exploited to keep us believing, keep us donating. But it’s little more than buying holy lottery tickets. At least the money we can win from playing the lottery is guaranteed!

The other reason has to do with the fact that the religious right has basically become a one cause cult—abortion. The other battles have either been lost (LGBTQ rights), or minimized due to a lack of plausibility (Evolution). Sure, they’re still interested in recreating the U.S. as a theocracy, but most of their energy, of late, has been focused on ending reproductive rights. They took it on faith that Don Presidente will be on their side. They certainly can’t take him at his word, since his words on the matter have been all over the place.

And let’s not forget Mike Pence. While Don Presidente had problems establishing his Jesus loving credentials—we’re talking about a man who didn’t even know how to pronounce Second Corinthians—Pence’s Christian Right creds were never in doubt. As a matter of fact, it would make more sense, if you insist on conflating politics with apocalyptic religious beliefs, that Pence himself is one of the Beasts. His endorsement and promotion of his boss fits him snugly into the role of The Beast of the Earth. Granted, if the Orange Beast gets (gods forbid!) two terms, he will most likely will be campaigning for Pence’s elevation to POTUS. Would that make Don Presidente The Beast of the Earth?

Again, I’m no longer a Christian. I now see Revelations as the words of some mad prophet, no different than what we got from the likes of Nostradamus or Aleister Crowley. They all spoke, to some degree, in metaphors. Metaphors can be hard to decipher, especially if you only see things in their most literal sense. I’m not trying to ascribe Antichrist status on anyone. My point is that it’s unfair to label anyone as The Antichrist, especially with no actual evidence to support such a blatantly flawed accusation.

Part of the reason we find ourselves where we are in American history is because all of this labeling has gone too far. Too many of us find it easier to stifle debate by slapping those we disagree with labels rather than have to consider we could be wrong. “I don’t have to listen to what that person is saying. They’re just another libtard/rethuglican/insert insulting label of choice.” Or we attack those they support with those labels, or worse. 

If we can't put a stop to this, we will keep being pitted against one another by those who really pull the strings. We will continue to be too distracted fighting each other to notice when there are real abuses of power being perpetrated. We will be too disunited to fight the real threats to democracy.

In the end, it’s not the mythical Devil of The Bible we have to fear. In the end, what will truly destroy us is a devil of our own design. As Oscar Wilde once wrote, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”

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