Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crushing on the Antichrist - a history of heartbreak

Christians just love the Antichrist. Oh they would deny it if you asked them of course – they are supposed to be saving themselves for Jesus and all – but you can tell from the way they are constantly seeking the big AC with a sense of breathless excitement that they want nothing more than to marry the Antichrist and have like a million of his babies. The main Antichrist crush of the moment seems to be Obama of course. Despite all the warnings from the good folks at Snopes that Obama might not be the Man of Lawlessness (aka the man of our dreams!!) that those emails promise (internet dating profiles always seem to disappoint!) that has not diminished the hopes one bit. The fun folks over at Rapture Ready are positively dizzy with excitement that Obama might finally fulfill our hopes, dreams and prophecies and start persecuting us already! However I’m hesitant to get my hopes up about this, after all we’ve had our hearts broken before! Just look at these 6 (see what I did there?) guys who showed such promise but ultimately just failed to deliver:

Nero Caesar
The early Christians (and modern Preterists) regarded Nero as THE Antichrist. This view is certainly not popular among modern fundamentalist Christians, but a fair academic case can be made that the Antichrist described in the book of Revelations was in fact none other than Nero himself – the famed number of the Beast certainly works as a code name for Nero. He certainly showed a lot of promise too, he persecuted the crap out of the Church in cruel and inventive ways for one thing and no one doubted that he was a whole new class of evil – he did sleep with his mom and then tried to have her killed in a Bond villain-esque way (which didn’t work so he just had her stabbed) after all! The problem is that despite all the promise he showed, he never made the big commitment to our dreams of Armageddon and Apocalypse.
Odds that he’s our guy: Nonexistent. Seriously, he’s been dead for around 2000 years. I think it’s fair to say that he left us and he’s not coming back.

The Pope
It would be impossible to talk about the Antichrist without mentioning the great white hope himself – the Pope. To this day many Christians (especially Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists and Jack Chick) still hold a candle in their hearts that any day now, the Pope will actually live up to their dreams. For one thing the office of the papacy sure seems to fulfill a lot of the prophetic descriptions. I mean come on, a woman sitting on many waters who rides a beast with 7 heads and 10 horns and fornicates with the kings of the earth? Could it be any more obvious?? In days of yore the papacy certainly behaved in a remarkably Antichrist-like way and persecuted the Protestants (as well as the Jews, Muslims and pagans) quite viciously. Also, the current Pope bears a creepy resemblance to the Emperor from Star Wars. That may be a total coincidence but it sure is creepy.
Odds that he’s our guy: Medium to low. One can’t really rule out the Pope completely since there will probably always be a Pope and you never know what the future may hold. Yet you can’t blame me for being a wee bit skeptical about this. After all the Catholic Church is nowhere near what it used to be, especially when it comes to political influence and the legal right to burn heretics at the stake. The Pope is pretty much our Mr Big (yes that was totally a Sex and the City reference). He is always around and shows so much promise but he just never seems to come through. Seriously, it’s been centuries and we are currently on Pope #265. How long before we realize that he is just not interested in us in that way?

Now if ever there was a great candidate for the post of Antichrist its Mr. Adolph Hitler. He just seems to pass the Biblical checklist for the Antichrist with flying colors! He will rise from obscurity (a “little horn” Daniel 7:8) – check. He will speak boastfully (Daniel 7:8; Rev 13:5) – check. He will change the laws, to gain an advantage for his new kingdom and era (Dan 7:25) – check. His whole focus and attention will be on his military and he will conquer lands and distribute them (Daniel 11:39-44) – check. He will survive an assassination attempt (Rev. 13:3; 17:8) – check. He will brutally persecute the Jews (Daniel 7:25; Rev 13:7) – check. It just goes on and on. I’m pretty sure that it would have been very easy for anyone in Europe during World War 2 to believe that the Four Horsemen were out and about and that the Apocalypse had begun.
Odds that he’s our guy: Nonexistent. He may have been the perfect candidate but for one fatal flaw – a serious case of being deceased.

King Juan Carlos of Spain
The late prophecy teacher Charles Taylor was a big proponent of the idea that Juan Carlos is the Antichrist in his book "The Antichrist King: Juan Carlos" and many antichrist watchers seem to agree. They certainly make a strong case: For one thing Spain was the 11th nation to join the EU and according to prophecy the Antichrist will be the leader of the 11th nation to join the Roman Empire (Daniel 7:23-25). As we all know, the EU is like totally the new Roman Empire. With some numerological tweaking various renderings of his name (in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, German and Russian) apparently add up to 666. The Antichrist is also supposed to play a big role in Middle East peace talks and Juan Carlos has been playing either an indirect or a direct role in the Middle East peace process for some time. The 1991 Madrid Conference for instance kicked off multi-lateral talks among Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and representatives of Palestine. Most damningly of all he allegedly has a yacht called The Dragon, which is obviously a reference to Satan, who is depicted as a dragon in Revelations 13: 2, 11-14.
Odds that he’s our guy: Low. Maybe it’s just me but the guy just seems a little underwhelming. I admit to not being as clued up on international politics as I should be but I just don’t see the 71 year old king of Spain as that much of a threat. Time will tell I guess. I just think we can do better.

Ronald Reagan
During the 80’s a lot of people seemed to believe that beloved US president Reagan was none other than the Beast of Revelations. Of course they based this conclusion on some pretty solid evidence: His first, middle and last name each had 6 letters for one thing. James Brady, press secretary to Ronald Reagan, was shot in the head during an attempt on the president's life. Hearing that Brady's wound was certain to be fatal, a Whitehouse staffer mistakenly informed the press that Brady had died. The major television networks announced the death of James Brady and the story traveled throughout the world at electronic speeds. Miraculously, Brady survived his surgery and the press revealed that the man they had been memorializing was still alive – exactly as Revelations 13 predicted!! Revelations also talks of the Beast having feet like a bear and the Reagan family coat of arms has a bear on it AND the state animal of California – his home and powerbase – is a bear!
Odds that he’s our guy: Nonexistent. While the proof may have been overwhelming that he was our man there are a couple of obstacles. First and foremost is the fact that he’s dead. Really with an obstacle like that do I even need to mention the Alzheimer’s or the fact that he left office without starting Armageddon?

Mikhail Gorbachev
During those heady Cold War days, that ravishing Russian Mikhail Gorbachev set Christian hearts aflutter and made the hope burn high that the Antichrist has finally come among us. He was a commie after all and we all know that those people are like totally evil incarnate right? After all, those Russians were all atheists meaning that they didn't believe in Jesus so in other words they were "anti-Christ"! He also had a mark on his forehead and the Bible does say in Revelation that the Antichrist will require everyone to "receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand." (Revelation 14:9). I mean that’s some solid evidence right there, you have the word “mark” and “forehead” right there in a sentence AND on the person of Mr Gorbachev. Since he ran the USSR (the biggest country in the world) he would also totally be able to run a one world government!
Odds that he’s our guy: Very Low. For one thing he is no longer in power and is happily retired from politics. Instead of bringing about the nuclear war that so many Christians had hot sweaty dreams about he instead brought about the collapse of the mighty “Evil Empire”. In short he dashed all our apocalyptic hopes in a mean-spirited, cruel way. Call me crazy but I don’t think this guy deserves a second chance with our hearts.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Human Communion

  • interchange or sharing of thoughts or emotions; intimate communication
  • the act of sharing, or holding in common; participation.

In case you never heard of him, I would like to introduce you to Matt. Matt's big claim to fame is that he traveled the world and videotaped himself doing a really goofy little dance everywhere he went. That's pretty much it. Oftentimes the locals would join him and did their own goofy little dances with him. He danced alone, he danced with adults and children, he danced with Gothic Lolita's in Japan and with primitive tribesman in Papua New Guinea. He even did his dance underwater and in zero gravity. Now as far as I can tell Matt isn't doing anything we would deem important. He's not doing it to raise funds or awareness. He's not distributing food or vaccines. He just dances. Yet this seemingly pointless silliness had a profound impact on me. Everytime I watch this video I find myself really moved, it makes me smile and it brings a lump to my throat.

I'm not sure why this little video moves me so. There is seemingly nothing profound about it and yet it stirs me in a way that only certain pieces of worship music used to. Yet this is in no way worship music as Matt is not a Christian or even religious, he is an agnostic and a humanist. Now growing up in the church I was taught to fear humanism and run from it where ever I found it. Yet it seems to me that this particular humanist has remembered something that many Christians seem to have forgotten. It is easy to become so caught up in all the darkness and misery of our world that we forget about all the beauty and joy around us. We lament how lost people are and forget how worth saving they are. I'm not suggesting that we put humanity on a pedestal, but isn't it worth remembering that at its heart, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God thought this world and its people were worth loving?

I love this video because it reminds me that humanity is a family. Despite all the differences that polarize us, we still have a lot in common. There is common ground, even if it is only the fact that we love to act silly when you point a camera at us.

Then again, maybe the lesson here is that a little silliness is a good thing. Maybe if you make a little time to be joyfully goofy you will have a lot less time to be fearful, hateful or spiteful.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Persecution Envy

During the holiday season I once again became aware of the fact that there is a dreadful disease plaguing the psyche of the Contemporary Western Christian (Just to clarify, these would be the Christians of the western nations, not the Christian cowboys of the Wild West. Though they would be included I guess…). This disease is called “Persecution Envy” and it causes severe loss of credibility as well as serious bouts of mocking laughter and sarcastic comments among non-Christians. For too long this disease has gone undiagnosed and untreated in the Contemporary Western Christian Community (CWCC) and I believe that it is high time that someone breaks the silence before this disease does any more unnecessary damage to the CWCC.

Persecution Envy (not to be confused with Jihad Envy) is a mutant strain of Christian Reality Denial Disease (CRDD). It causes some of the most fortunate, prosperous and free (aka blessed) people in the world to imagine that they are being discriminated against, persecuted and oppressed. Basically it causes the CWCC to view any and every disagreement, parody or insult as nothing less than the persecution of Christianity. Symptoms include (but are not limited to): constant whining in the media regarding the war on Christianity/Christmas/truth/conservative values/heterosexuality; the complete inability to see criticism as constructive; the constant need to feel victimized; the urge to feel offended by everything and the puzzling habit of dismissing valid criticism with Matt 5:10. Since the CWCC is not actually oppressed or persecuted in any way (quite the opposite actually), those afflicted with Persecution Envy will be forced to go to ridiculous lengths to find things to feel oppressed by. A perfect example would be the recently released “Top Ten Instances of Christian Bashing in America, 2008” by the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC). Of particular interest is number 3 – please note that this would be the 3rd worst instance of “Christian bashing” in 2008:

INSTANCE #3: Barack Obama Defames Christianity
According to research into President Elect Obama's own statements about faith, and an examination of Obama's position on moral issues, CADC has determined that by any biblical and historic Christian standard, Barack Obama is not a Christian, although he claims he is a “devout Christian.”

Yes, apparently the very fact that Barack Obama exists and calls himself a Christian not only counts as “Christian bashing”, it actually qualifies as one of the very worst attacks on Christianity in the year 2008! I’m sorry but are they freaking kidding??!! Honestly, this takes grasping at straws to a whole new level! Alas one of the symptoms of Persecution Envy is complete blindness to how good you have it in actual fact and how utterly ridiculous it is to pretend otherwise.

To date the only known treatment for Persecution Envy is a brutal regimen of uncomfortable truth and disillusioning questions:

Are you free to do business? Are you free to take part in your country’s political system? Are you free to share your opinion in the press? Are your children welcomed in public schools? Are you able to work? Are you free to go to the church of your choice? Are you able to freely purchase and read a Bible? Do you have free access to Christian radio and television broadcasts? If you answered “yes” to these questions then you are most certainly not being persecuted. If you answered no you may want to consider moving.

Does your government ever raid your church? Are you forced by law to meet in secret? Are you in any danger of being shipped off to a concentration/internment/”re-education” camp for your religious beliefs? Are you forbidden to vote or run for office due to your religious beliefs? Are you legally forbidden from raising complaints about government policies? If you answered “no” to these questions then you are definitely not being persecuted.

Comedians making fun of Christianity or aspects thereof may be guilty of bad taste but they are certainly not guilty of persecuting you. Placing an atheist sign next to a nativity scene may be a dick move but it doesn’t count as oppression of the Christian faith. Matt 5:10 only applies in cases where people are persecuted, insulted and mocked for doing good. It does not apply to cases where Christians are insulted (or prosecuted) due to fraud, blatant dishonesty, unfair censorship and general douchebaggery (See 1 Pet 2:19-20). As long as you have the freedom to disagree, people expressing opinions contrary to yours regarding religion, abortion, birth control and homosexuality are not guilty of persecuting you either.

It’s really not hard to tell those suffering from Persecution Envy from those who suffer from Actual Persecution – those suffering from Actual Persecution tend to be marked by a complete lack of whining over trivialities. Freedom of expression is something they long for, not something they wish didn’t exist. For some reason those who actually have their life and livelihood threatened due to their religious convictions hardly ever complain about people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Imagine that!

I have to admit I am baffled by this disease and its cause completely eludes me. It is a complete mystery why a group as favored, prosperous and powerful as the CWCC would pretend to be victims of oppression just so they can feel justified in complaining about the most inane things. Why they would use their vast wealth and influence to fight bulletin boards and television programs instead of using it to help those suffering from Actual Persecution remains an enigma.