Thursday, January 14, 2021

Donald Trump as 'Antichrist ' Cartoon

A crucial part of Donald Trump’s faithful base are folks of the Evangelical creed.  No matter how morally suspect he may appear, they support him because he supports their peculiar brand of Christianity. What is that brand? To tell the truth, it’s a little scary. There’s a vivid preoccupation with the return of Christ and the end of the world—a firm and righteous sense of an impending climax of history. 


Novels and movies and preachers are into it, and of course, politics.  According to the evangelical endtime scenario, true believers expect to be raptured away to Heaven while a triumphant Christ sends Antichrist and his minions packing.  Meanwhile the old Earth and all its unbelieving inhabitants will be burnt to a crisp.   To my mind, this sounds like a great script for a horror movie. Trump’s evangelical supporters, like Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, are devotees of a cruel, undemocratic deity.  


Curious bedfellows, Trump and the Evangelicals.  A strange rapport.  Trump presents himself as supporting religious freedom, which includes being pro-Israel in a big way and opposing women’s reproductive rights in an equally big way.  Evangelicals adore Trump because of his packing the judicial system with conservative judges.  But what does conservative mean here?


I doubt the majority of Americans are inclined to conserve the values of stone age theocracy.  The great Evangelical hope is to establish “biblical justice” in the United States, a country whose concept of justice is rooted in the European Enlightenment, also known as democracy.  In short,  the rule of the people, not the rule of anybody’s particular God.


The evangelical spirit is wrapped in the expectation of a big showdown.  History must climax in a convulsive apocalypse, literally, “uncovering,” an idea with a grip on the collective imagination for millennia. This great climax is always pictured in combative terms. There has to be a final battle between the perfectly good and the abominably bad—between the all-luminous Christ and the pure evil Antichrist.


This terrifying fantasy of things to come has obstacles. For the great climax to occur, the Jewish people must fully repossess their ancient homeland; bad news, of course, for the Palestinians who live there.  Palestinians aren’t in God’s plan for Evangelical dominion. And neither are Jews.


I keep asking myself, do people really believe this stuff?  In the end, the outcome for Jews is not good.  All the Jews that don’t convert, and of course, all the Palestinians, indeed, the entire non-evangelical world—all are doomed to perish in the grandiose final battle imagined by believers. What a cruel, unsociable faith!


Religious believers in this horrific endtime idea are key to Trump’s fanatical base, a man whose character is a swamp of gross irreligiosity. It’s hard to imagine a more narcissistic fiction in the history of the religious imagination-- the horrible hope and homicidal implications of evangelical eschatology.


Thoughtful evangelicals might reflect on the following.  Central to endtime prophecy is the figure of an Antichrist.  Evangelical breakthrough expects a cosmic showdown. The idea of a final conflict has a long tangled history in mythology, politics, and psychopathy, as I discovered researching my book, The Millennium Myth: Love and Death and the End of Time.


So what about the figure of the Antichrist?  In the final conflict, an actual man who is the Antichrist will appear in the fray of world affairs. A highly histrionic fellow, his evil genius is to create an image of the Christ, with the aim of using and exploiting credulous believers for his own private purposes, which are relentlessly selfish.  


Speculations on the nature of the Antichrist legend vary, and have been described in fascinating detail by historians, see Norman Cohn’s Pursuit of the Millennium.  The Antichrist persona feeds on the paranoia that lies nervously coiled just below our surface mental life. The core feature of the Antichrist is malign deceptiveness.  Two elements come into play, the first is indifference to truth itself, any kind of truth, factual, rational or spiritual. The second is to rely on falsification as a weapon to attack and demean the opponent; the Antichrist never gives up, never concedes, never admits failure. 


Who does that remind you of? A perfect illustration of Trumpian perversity is calling Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, an “idiot.”   Dr. Fauci and his wife and family have received death threats and have to be protected by the secret service when they go out for a walk.  The perversity of threatening the head healer of the nation with death is a mystery to me. 


Actually, it is just the kind of nastiness that our mythical Antichrist would revel in.  But when we look closely we find something more subtle than brute murder.  One can try to destroy a person with lies, a form of subtle murder we might expect Antichrist to specialize in, suitable to a born sneak and a shameless coward.


Saint Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians provides the first written portrait of the Antichrist stemming from the Christian tradition—an imaginal construct that continues to haunt the collective imagination.  A roster of candidates in history have at various times been declared the Antichrist, beginning with the Roman emperor, Nero.   Paul begins by warning the church in Thessalonica, “Never let anyone deceive you in any way” (2:3).  Con artists are a constant in the dealings of humankind.  Paul’s advice is good.  It speaks to Evangelicals today.  


And so does this. When the final confrontation is launched, it will be in plain view. “There will be a great revolt,” writes Paul, and describes our super bad guy as “the wicked One, the lost One, the Enemy, who raises himself above every so-called god or object of worship to enthrone himself in God’s sanctuary and flaunts the claim that he is God.” 


Now we’re in familiar territory. The Antichrist is an egomaniac, a malevolent narcissist with a knack for producing “all kinds of counterfeit miracles and signs and wonders, and every wicked deception aimed at those who are on the way to destruction because they would not accept the love of the truth and so be saved.” 


This can have strange effects.  When folks prefer lies to love, something strange can happen, according to St. Paul. “God sends on them a power that deludes people so that they believe what is false.” (Thess. 2). Who does that remind you of?


I don’t believe in the paranoid Antichrist fantasy.  But the likeness to Donald Trump’s character is spot on.  Antichrist is a great liar and so is Donald Trump, as the New York Times, the Washington Post and many other fact-checking agencies have documented in fulsome detail.  Antichrist , like Trump, is exclusively about himself.  The only possible bond with Antichrist is the bond of total submission based on fear (i.e., Republicans fawning on tyrannical Trump.)


Besides the key similarity of deceptiveness, the Antichrist is anti all the Christian virtues. These are simple and easily understood.  For example, love, mercy, kindness, compassion, humility; empathy for the suffering (humans and all animals); sympathy for the poor, for the homeless and the refugee; for children; for the sick; for the stranger; for the ill of mind and soul; for women and people of all colors and all ways of loving; and for the air and water and land of our miraculous planet.


 Now, could anyone in their wildest imaginings associate the name of Donald Trump with these common human qualities? His actions that knowingly blighted the lives of so many children are odious enough to warrant taking him for an American Antichrist.  


Evangelicals need to see Trump the way he actually is—an Antichrist cartoon.  The man is a proven pathological liar.  In all ways, the antithesis of Christian or any virtues. But Trump is great in one thing.   Did ever a man walk on this earth with a more fanatically driven need to imagine that every burp and fart that emanates from him is the most memorable event in the history of the world?








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