Saturday, August 09, 2008

Some say ad casts Obama as the antichrist

McCain spot may have themes on the apocalypse

Supporters of Barack Obama said the ad from the McCain campaign furthered rumors that Obama is the antichrist. Supporters of Barack Obama said the ad from the McCain campaign furthered rumors that Obama is the antichrist.

By Foon Rhee Globe Staff
August 9, 2008

Does John McCain's Web ad that mocks Barack Obama as "The One" have a darker design?

Outraged Christian supporters of Obama say it does - that it is intended to further Internet-fueled rumors that Obama is the antichrist. Deconstructing and analyzing the ad, they say the images and language play into apocalyptic themes, including those featured in the best-selling "Left Behind" series, fictionalized accounts of the end of the world.

McCain's campaign, which did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, has said that the ad was intended merely to poke fun at what they see as Obama's arrogance.

But the buzz over possible apocalyptic subtexts in the ad, which has been viewed nearly 1.1 million times since it was posted a week ago on YouTube, has become so loud that yesterday Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal reported on the controversy and the authors of "Left Behind" issued a statement about it.

Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, in the statement issued through their public relations firm, said they don't believe Obama is the antichrist mentioned in the biblical prophecies in the Book of Revelation. Their series of 16 novels has sold more than 63 million copies worldwide.

"I've gotten a lot of questions the last few weeks asking if Obama is the antichrist," Jenkins said in the statement. "I tell everyone that I don't think the antichrist will come out of politics, especially American politics."

LaHaye added: "I can see by the language he uses why people think he could be the antichrist, but from my reading of scripture, he doesn't meet the criteria. There is no indication in the Bible that the antichrist will be an American."

Those analyzing the ad point to the opening words - "It should be known that in 2008 the world shall be blessed. They will call him The One" - and a clip of Obama saying in a speech: "A nation healed, a world repaired. We are the ones that we've been waiting for."

In the "Left Behind" series, the antichrist is a charismatic young political leader who is founder of The One World religion and promises to heal the world.

"Short of 666, they used every single symbol of the antichrist in this ad," Eric Sapp, a Democratic operative who advises Democrats on reaching out to faith communities, told the Journal. "There are way too many things to just be coincidence."

LaHaye and other believers say the antichrist will come from Europe, maybe Romania and possibly a leader of the European Union.

But for the last few months, there have been viral e-mails that compare Obama to Nimrod, whom some evangelicals believe was the first evil king of world history and who is black in some accounts, said James Tabor, chairman of the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

While the Obama-as-antichrist accusation is on the fringes now and not seriously mentioned from the pulpit, Tabor said, "I think that could come."

After reviewing the video yesterday, Tabor, a specialist in ancient apocalyptic thought, said that while the ad's creators might have wanted to play with apocalyptic themes in a tongue-in-cheek way, it could have "serious consequences."

"Is anyone naive enough to believe and watch that and say, 'Oh no, I won't vote for him because he's the antichrist?' I'd have to say in our country, yeah," Tabor said.

And, he noted, another biblical prophecy is that the antichrist gets wounded, and a disturbed believer could try to fulfill that prophecy. A man has been charged in Florida for threatening to assassinate Obama, who requested and received Secret Service protection last year at the earliest point for any presidential candidate after his campaign received hate mail.

"This stuff is very, very dangerous," Tabor said. "It can be seen as playful, but too many times in history it has led to armies marching and people dying. The ad is really unfortunate."