Through the looking glass

Fred Clark’s years-long systematic analysis of Left Behind on the Slacktivist blog is a thing of beauty. He painstakingly documents the book’s literary sins, but even more interesting is his intelligent and insightful commentary on the theology that underlies the story.

In today’s entry, he discusses a speech given by The Antichrist at the UN. (In Left Behind, The Antichrist is a charismatic Romanian who becomes the leader of the UN – and by extension the ruler of the planet – within a week of entering the world political scene. And you thought Obama was a golden child, eh?) The interesting part isn’t the shockingly dull account of how The Antichrist impressed everyone by knowing their first names and remembering UN history. It’s the fact that what The Antichrist is talking about – using the diplomatic leverage of the UN’s top members to calm down a world that’s veering into chaos – is portrayed as obviously, intuitively evil.

A healthy skepticism of those who feel they can solve the world’s problems is natural. If someone says they’re going to end humanity’s wars, take it with a pound of salt. Cautious understanding of mankind’s limitations and shared failings is a good thing, and it can keep you from getting sucked into doomed utopian schemes. All the worst disasters – The Soviet Union, the Invasion of Iraq, a live action version of The Tick – start with good intentions and crumble on the rocky shores of human nature.

But in the Through The Looking Glass world fundamentalist evangelical culture, healthy skepticism has been replaced by smug omniscience. Like move-watchers who read the spoilers, they believe they already know how everything will end. They already know that the evil destroyer of the world will pose as a man of peace – and that he’ll fool everyone. This results in a sort of dysfunctional spot-the-Antichrist game: Is a leader charismatic? Is he well-liked? Does he does he talk too much about peace, instead of being all tough? Most importantly, does he come from a group or hold opinions we already distrust? Ho there! Potential Antichrist! Time to oppose his plans!

They’ve ignored, of course, Christ’s own words that no one knows when “The End” will come, and that it’s pointless to try to speculate to predict. They ignore the fact that ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ was one of the things Christ actually said. They ignore the fact that even in a book like Left Behind, The Antichrist’s ideas are popular because they’re good ideas, at least at this point in the story.

It’s like watching a murder mystery and deciding that anyone who serves tea is a killer – because butlers serve tea, and butlers are killers. If these people were just watching movies, it wouldn’t be distressing, just silly. The scary part is that they have influence in our country, and their prejudices are now our nation’s prejudices.

The sad irony is that scripture also says that the Antichrist, whoever he or she is, will deceive the elect – in other words, the Christians that happily decide they’ve got it all figured out. If the Antichrist really were around, their eagerness to go to war rather than ‘trust false peace’ would make the perfect foundation for his nefarious plans.

Get your war on, indeed.

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