Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Familiar Anti Christ Rumors

When logic and good sense fail you can always call up the bogeyman. The Republican Party has been working this theme ever since Obama began his run for president. It's one of their dog whistles.

There have been posters of Obama with a Hitler moustache. Obama, the first black president, is "the Other", "Not like us", "Obama isn't an American", "Obama isn't a Christian." (He's both Christian and American born, and having risen from working class roots he's more like us than the patricians running for the Republican nomination, but truth is as irrelevant as logic and good sense.)

Last week someone in the audience shouted that Obama is The Anti-Christ. Which raises the End Times rumors, another useful dog whistle. When Republicans don't want to deal with real problems––joblessness, climate change, financial insecurity, extreme wealth disparity––they call up scapegoats. They blame immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, socialists, communists, Christians of other denominations, unions, children, old people. Satan. The bogeyman. They call the president of another race and political party The AntiChrist (as reported in this NYTimes piece.) They can't handle the present time, so they bring up the End Times.

Is this craziness catching? Is it religion or science fiction? L. Ron Hubbard advised other science fiction writers decades ago that the best way to get rich was to found a religion (as reported in this Wall Street Journal article from 1997) and there have been a lot of strange new "Christian" sects and factions in the past few decades. Many emerged as a way to make money, and fell when the money disappeared, often with the religious leader. But the ride will last as long as the money lasts. (This LATimes article from 1987 will recall the charlatans of that time, Swaggart, Bakker, Robertson and Roberts. Oral Roberts tried to extort $8 million from his followers, saying God would kill him if the money wasn't given to his ministry.)

One of the loopier religious loops out there is the Prosperity Gospel, which preaches worldly riches. (This article from BeliefNet discusses the flaws in this fringe of Christianity.) It appeals mostly to people worried about their security in a time of financial crisis. "If God loves you He will make you rich." The pastor might as well say "rich like me" because the pastors pushing the prosperity gospel are always very prosperous themselves. Big cars, expensive suits, private jets, fancy homes unlike the spartan parsonages most conventional churches provide. These pastors are living proof of their gospel and look prosperous indeed, prosperous out of the pockets of the flock. Michele Bachmann's biggest religious backer, Mac Hammond, has had his own run-in with the IRS which only makes him more beloved by his mesmerized parishioners. Imagined persecution is good for money-raising.

But why preach earthly prosperity when the world is going to hell around you? Why is God making you rich if He's about to take it all away? This is what thinking rational people, even Christians, call a contradiction.

Because the prosperity gospel's flip side is always Armageddon. These demagogues have a private line to the holy truth, a bit like stock touts have an inside line on the next winner. If you've ever heard Michele Bachmann's cooing, bedroom voiced prayer about the End Times, you have to wonder what planet her secret messages are coming from. "God loves the poor––Send me money." It is always tied to a demand for money, for her campaign or the very special pastor who prays for it on radio and TV. Those pantsuits and hairstyles her husband art directs are not cheap.

Why do we take any of these people seriously? Money from heaven in one breath and the rain of fire in the next. I suppose it's good television just as creepy movies about demon possession and secret messages in Da Vinci paintings are good television. Whipping up end times fears gets people talking, and fear gets them into the fold. The prospect of these GOP choices puts the fear of God into me.

If he wasn't being sarcastic in the Gospels, Jesus favored the poor and condemned the rich; so why do these "fundamentalist" "Christians" turn the Gospels on their head?

And again, why if "the end-times are near" are these so-called "Prosperity Christians" piling up money they can't take with them? All the GOP candidates cater to the notion that "Jesus Preferred Rich People", either outright or in code. Creating a false picture of Jesus may be the worst kind of blasphemy.

Actually, to give Bachmann proper credit, many leading Republicans worship a goddess rather than a God, and her name is Ayn Rand. You want values? Hers are definitely HOT. It's all about getting what you want, whatever cost to the people around you. If you want the Anti Christ it won't be a centrist liberal like Obama, it'll be someone toting a copy of Atlas Shrugged, with a cross and a flag on his or her lapel.

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