Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Myth of the Antichrist

The "Antichrist" is a myth confected by misreading and
misinterpreting scriptures. There is no such person - now
or ever- but there likely is a "spirit of Antichrist" based
in hate, discord and division.

In the recent federal raid on a Christian Militia enclave in Michigan, a dozen or so members of a cult called the “Hutaree” were arrested and charged with attempted domestic terrorism in planning an attack on law enforcement officers. The basis for this was the cult's belief that the law, as well as civil government, were part of the System of the Antichrist – and these characters were “fighting on Jesus’ side” to thwart the "Son of Satan".

Of course, this is all horse manure. The Antichrist, with a passage or two (or three) taken out of context in the scripture, is a Christianoid myth that rivals that of the Abominable Snowman or Bigfoot. It is fodder for the weak-minded, to launch a spurious basis to attack and denigrate what they don’t understand. It’s also a facile way to demonize people – as many of the nutty tea baggers have with President Obama (actually many believe firmly he’s as much the Antichrist as an “illegal alien” with no legit birth certificate).

Where did the myth of a personal Antichrist originate? Some allude to Revelation, and mention of the “beast”. Even so, as a former Jesuit theology professor noted (from a theology course I took at Loyola University in 1964) this declares no personal entity. It could as well refer to a beastly spirit, or pervasive hate that offends, defeats and detracts from the love that the actual rabbi, Yeshua, sought to convey. Hence, against Yeshua (presumed to the “the Christ”) and so “Anti’ Christ – in the same way that anti-matter is the opposite of matter.

But the myth didn’t really acquire jet burners until 1988 and the publication of Hal Lindsey’s ‘The Late, Great Planet Earth’ – which set the stage long before the “Left Behind” series to reel in already weakened brains. Lindsey was so exacting in terms of his biblical forecasts and interpretations, he was led to go out on a long limb (another cautionary warning against taking biblical passages too literally!).

Lindsey built his interpretation on the identification of Israel with the “fig tree” and the coming of the Beast within one generation of its emergence (birth of a state). Since that birth occurred in 1948, and Lindsey designated one generation = 40 years (biblically) he reckoned that the Antichrist would make his first public appearance in 1988, and the Tribulation (the horrific 7-year period for his reign) would commence then. Everyone in the AC’s dominion would have to be marked with the magic letters ‘666’ which Lindsey surmised would be like an electronic code – similar to the product UPC codes triggered at checkout in a supermarket – to get prices. Without this special numerical code, no one would be able to buy or trade, or work – and hence couldn’t’ survive.

This tableaux also fit in with Lindsey’s other interpretations, including for the “ten heads” in Revelation – since at the time, the European Union featured ten members. Thus, the Antichrist was to arise directly out of what was the original Roman Empire, and also be in charge of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem (atop one of Islam’s holiest sites). The price for this was for the "Son of Satan" to be worshipped by the Jews.

According to Lindsey’s timeline, this meant the consummation of the world would arrive within seven years of 1988, or 1995. In other words, the Rapture would have to take place before the Tribulation (1987 or early 1988) and Christ would march into the world for his “Second coming” by late 1995.

Of course, none of that happened! There was no Antichrist, no Tribulation, no Rapture, and the European Union now sports more than twenty members.

Lindsey himself has now been long forgotten, but hey – a good fiction idea like the Antichrist never dies – so Tim LaHaye and friends since picked it up and integrated it into their Left Behind bunkum – or what I call “His Dark Materials” series for the slow of wit and lesser imagination. (They need garish scenes painted in over the top colors and hues to get scared enough to read it)

But changing the novelistic basis doesn’t make it a reality.

The fact is there is no Antichrist, just as there is no Abominable Snowman. Each is an artifact of a defective brain which, if not leashed in by reason and skepticism, tends to go haywire in inventing things and projecting reality onto them. (Look at the latest palsied efforts to prove the Shroud of Turin as real, despite the fact we’ve known for some time it’s a clever Middle Ages fake – probably devised by Leonardo da Vinci).

What do the references refer to then, if not a terrible (“evil”) person who will align with Satan and some say is his “son”? (Despite the fact that discarnate entities can’t reproduce – although in the heyday of Dark Ages demoniality, they were alleged to occasionally find a willing human- hence the equally enchanting myths of the succubi and incubi.)

I return again to my Jesuit prof, whose specialty area was, in fact, the Book of Revelation. As he put it, the Antichrist is not a person at all but a spirit counter to that which Christ taught (e.g. in the Beatitudes) - one that pervades the world and reduces it to a subhuman level by division, distrust, and violence. In other words, it precisely embodies exactly the opposite of what Christ advocated.

In this interpretation, people need to look inside themselves to determine if a spirit of Antichrist is present and wreaking havoc and hatred. For sure, any group that plans to kill others isn’t acting out of Christly love but a spirit opposed to it: Antichrist.

The Hutaree group is thus much more aligned with that spirit, than the one they call “Jesus”. No “Jesus” I ever learned about would condone the slaughter of law officers, especially at a funeral procession! Of course, there are some who might defend them by asserting what they had planned was “killing” and not “murder’. If so, they too need look no further than their own hearts to locate the Antichrist.

1 comment:

janidebar said...

Glad again you exposed this nonsense for what it is. There is no antichrist just as there is no Satan or Hell, or Heaven. All of them were invented by flawed human brains to try to scare others and control them.

It's no wonder that most Hindus regard American christians as children who have to be told boogeyman stories to keep them under control. When Hindus were first exposed to the christian origin stories of Adam and Eve, they laughed uproariously, that any people could be so simple and stupid to believe in such fairy tales.

The same goes for the antichrist foolishness.