Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Is Donald Trump the Antichrist? (No, Really)

Donald Trump is many things to many people, most of them rotten to the core. Thinking people rightly see him as a threat to Democracy and basic decency. But you don't have to go to college or be highly educated to see the threat present in his ascent. I see an electorate that is underwhelmed and even discouraged by the major party candidates, but when it comes time to cast ballots, each voter's true beliefs and real colors will win out in the end. I can only hope that the American people will follow good sense and vote as though the nature of our republic depended on it.

The Donald has, by now, most assuredly not left a neutral impression on anyone. He has been running a reckless, undisciplined campaign and yet somehow has always lived to fight another day. Our mistake may be in viewing Trump as, deep down, perfectly reasonable and a rational human being. Surely he must be having us on, we say to ourselves. The final joke may be on us.

A supremely disorganized and thin-skinned politician, there may not be any method to Trump’s madness. Could it be possible that he fits the diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder, at minimum? 

In a recent interview printed in the July 2016 issue of The Sun Magazine, psychiatrist Gary Greenberg discusses the possibility that Trump is mentally ill.

I'm not sure it's useful to think of Donald Trump as crazy. Many have said he has narcissistic personality disorder, but psychiatric disorders diagnoses can distract us from more troubling realities. The reality of Donald Trump is much more disquieting than a diagnosis of mental illness would suggest. He's a menace, an amoral clown, a mean, power-hungry bully--and apparently a perfect fit for these times. He doesn't even sound crazy to me. He sounds like a horrible human being.

Christians have long advanced the idea of the Antichrist, Satan incarnate. Usually this belief is framed in the context of the inevitable but impossible-to-predict Second Coming of Christ. As it is taught, the Antichrist will rise first. Then and only then will Jesus return in triumph to right the wrongs that came before. In reality, there have been Antichrists in every generation, individuals who epitomized pure evil. Antichrists have occurred in every generation and will continue to occur until a person of great rebellion arises.

It is dangerous, however, to label certain individuals Antichrists and try to predict Christ's coming based on those assumptions. Early church leaders mentioned the Antichrist openly, not necessarily to help us recognize him, but to urge us to ready ourselves for anything that might threaten our faith. If our faith is strong, we don't need to be afraid of what lies ahead. God is in control, and he will be victorious over the Antichrist. Yet, we need to take care to guard ourselves against the persuasive tactics undertaken by the Evil One. 

The New Testament book of 2 Thessalonians devotes some time to a discussion of the final stage of the End Times. The authorship of this book is shared between three First Century A.D. early Christian missionaries. Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote the text. It is very much a collaborative effort, directed at the Thessalonian church, which is located in modern day Greece, not far from Turkey. 

Don't be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don't believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don't be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed--the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. 
He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.

Civilization has at least a veneer of decency through law enforcement, education, science, and reason. Although we are horrified by criminal acts, we have yet to see the real horror of complete lawlessness. This will happen when the restraining forces are removed. The closest example that might apply here is the terrifying aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. One could also cite the beginning stages of a particularly destructive riot, before control has been reestablished by police. We have recently been asked to imagine a radically different reality that challenges the bonds of supposed decency that hold together our civilization and every civilization that has ever existed.

To return to the inquiry with which I began, I ask again whether or not Donald Trump is the Antichrist. I'm perfectly serious. He may not be THE Antichrist, but he might be our latest Antichrist, designed to put the fear of hell into even the most fervent non-believer. We are taught in Scripture that no man will know the day and the hour, and many believers have waited impatiently for Jesus' return for centuries. There was a time where I shared their frustration, believing that times were surely bad enough now that the Second Coming must be imminent. And yet, what we were wishing and praying for did not occur. We might well be waiting the whole of our lives, or perhaps not. 

Whether we are people of faith or not, we need to be wary of Trump. As mentioned above, he is an ungodly man not above using any single tactic to ensnare and fool those who will not accept the truth. I have been dismayed at the number of Christian conservatives who prefer the literal devil they know rather than Hillary Clinton. Numerous biblical passages, addressed in their proper context, reveal that these religious leaders should recognize Trump is, at minimum, a false prophet leading people astray.

I pray that the eyes of those who have cast their lot with Trump will have their eyes opened. God is neither a Republican or a Democrat. He challenges every single one of us to live the fullest and fairest life we can. Jesus made relatively few political statements, and seemed to focus mainly on matters of theology and right living. The closest he came to committing himself to anything resembling political policy was when he was asked whether it was acceptable to pay taxes to the Roman Empire. His reply was typically brilliant and skillful, but non-committal. It was executed with the deftness of an attorney, a professional well-versed and familiar with man's laws, not God's laws.

People of faith might serve a greater purpose if they followed Jesus' lead. Quakers, in particular, are often fixated with political causes and activism. Nothing is intrinsically wrong with this stance, but sometimes it impedes and obscures what should be our greatest priority. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus is returning soon. As we are taught, he will come like a thief in the night. And before he does, let's prepare ourselves for what is to follow.         

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