A lot of people have been discussing John McCain’s “The One” ad over the last week or so, dismissing it as a subtle pandering to evangelical beliefs about the Antichrist’s emergence in “the last days.” Of course, if you do just a tiny bit of searching on the web, you can find much more blatant comparisons drawn between Obama and the ominous figure of the Antichrist.
One of the most recent pop-cultural renditions of the Antichrist was the amazingly successful Left Behind book series written by Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. In that story, Nicolae Carpathia is a politician and humanitarian who transcends race, politics, and religion to unite the planet, triumphantly ushering in world peace. He is a much-beloved celebrity — warm, charming, intelligent, handsome. He’s good in front of a camera and more than capable as a tactician behind the scenes. As a testament to that fact, 172 nations hand their weapons over to him as precursor to a one-world government, which Carpathia will control. He is a seductive and charismatic leader, and it is just such seductiveness and charisma that allows him to plot against the United States and the world without most people being the wiser.
Nicolae is the consummate political bigman. Single-minded. Anticipatory. Teflon. Even after making an unsuccessful attempt on a sitting American president’s life, Carparthia summons the shaken leader to his office, grasps his hands earnestly, and says all the right things. He is mesmerizingly good with people — too good.
By the time a few Christian renegades put all the pieces together about Nicolae, he has already lulled much of the planet into a daze, made everyone renounce the name of Jesus Christ, deemed the Bible hate speech, unleashed biological weapons as a pestilence to decimate his religio-political rivals, and sparked the military equivalent of World War III — the beginning of the end of earth.
Left Behind’s recasting of the Book of Revelations stands on the assumption that most people get fooled, believe the hype, and won’t be able to see the devil’s henchman coming.
Eventually, the recently born-again Christians left behind (after the rapture) realize who Carparthia is, but it already appears too late to stop him. And they come off as crazy when they try to explain their belief to other people — crazy and paranoid.
Given Obama’s celebrity appeal, especially internationally (think of his rock-star-esque visit to Germany last month that brought 200,000 Germans out to greet him), it is easy to see why some people might want to link him to such powerfully millenialist provocations. Nicolae Carpathia would have been called The One, too.
In some ways, those people are getting to this theory late. I first remember folks talking about Barack Obama as the Antichrist way back in 2004, right after the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I was switching back and forth between CNN and FOX News, which I always do, and found myself totally impressed by how consistently the FOX commentators had negative things to say about the performances of the Democrats who took the stage. Even if God’s very voice had been bellowing out of a burning bush positioned at the podium that night, the commentators probably would have found a way to spin it negatively. “Oh, Jehovah doesn’t have nearly the focus and self-confidence he seemed to display during Moses’ day.” “There are some who say that these many centuries have taken a toll on the Almighty, his burning branches less magical than they used to be, his commandments out of touch with modern life, his rhetoric not nearly as persuasive.” “It just doesn’t seem like he wants to be the ruler of all anymore.”
Indeed, there were very few positive accolades to go around that night on FOX — except when Barack Obama hit the stage. All of a sudden, there was a conspicuous shift in tone, a ready recognition of his greatness, charisma, and statesmanship. For some of the folks I spoke to after that convention, this was an immediate red flag. FOX isn’t supposed to like Democrats, and their positive accolades about Obama seemed to de-legitimize him a bit, to cast a faint shadow on his luster that night. If he were really that much of a viable political threat, the argument goes, Republican-friendly FOX would hardly fawn over him so unabashedly.
Of course, that has all changed by 2008. FOX no longer seems smitten by Obama’s difference from the rest of his political party. They paint him as just another hyper-liberal with hyper-liberal ideas. But back in 2004, they seemed to really love this guy, which only made a lot of folks on the political left that much more anxious about what Obama really represented.