The Common Good

Must-Read du Jour: Why the Antichrist Matters in U.S. Politics (NYT)

Signorelli-Antichrist_and_the_devil

Today's Must-Read du Jour comes from an op-ed by Matthew Avery Sutton in the New York Times.

Sutton, an associate professor of history at Washington State University, and author of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America writes:

The world in 2011 resembles the world of the 1930s in many respects. International turmoil and a prolonged economic downturn have fueled distrust of government, as has the rise of a new libertarianism represented in the explosive growth of the Tea Party.

For some evangelicals, President Obama is troubling. The specious theories about his place of birth, his internationalist tendencies, his measured support for Israel and his Nobel Peace Prize fit their long-held expectations about the Antichrist. So does his commitment to expanding the reach of government in areas like health care.

In 2008, the campaign of Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, presciently tapped into evangelicals' apocalyptic fears by producing an ad, "The One," that sarcastically heralded Mr. Obama as a messiah. Mr. McCain was onto something. Not since Roosevelt have we had a president of charisma and global popularity, who so perfectly fits the evangelicals' Antichrist mold.

While Depression-era fundamentalists represented only a small voice among the anti-Roosevelt forces of the 1930s, evangelicals have grown ever savvier and now constitute one of the largest interest groups in the Republican Party. In the past, relatively responsible leaders like Mr. Graham, who worked with Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon, and even Mr. Falwell, who reined in evangelical excess in exchange for access to the Reagan White House, channeled their evangelical energy.

Not now. A leadership vacuum exists on the evangelical right that some Republicans - Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and even Ron Paul - are exploiting. How tightly their strident anti-statism will connect with evangelical apocalypticism remains to be seen.

The left is in disarray while libertarianism is on the ascent. A new generation of evangelicals - well-versed in organizing but lacking moderating influences - is lining up behind hard-right anti-statists. While few of the faithful truly think that the president is the Antichrist, millions of voters, like their Depression-era predecessors, fear that the time is short. The sentiment that Mr. Obama is preparing the United States, as Roosevelt did, for the Antichrist's global coalition is likely to grow.

Read Sutton's complete op-ed HERE

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