Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

Much attention has been given the “celebrity” ad showing Obama alongside the paragons of ditzyness (Britney Speers and Paris Hilton). But some are arguing that it’s a second ad that will go down in the record books as an all time low – in part because it stokes fears that Obama is, literally, the anti-Christ.Here’s the web-based ad:Called “the One,” the ad implies that Obama has a Messiah complex. It begins with an announcer intoning, “And: It should be known that in 2008 the world will be blessed. They will call him: The One.” The ad then goes to snippets of Obama saying grandiose things – “A nation healed! A world repaired! We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” – and then declares: “And he has anointed himself ready to carry the burden of The One. To quote Barack, ‘I have become a symbol of America returning to our best traditions.'” It shows a movie clip of Moses (a.ka. Charleton Heston) parting the red seas, with an Obama presidential seal rising from the waves. The announcer intones: “and the world shall receive his blessings.”McCain supporters argue that it’s a playful ad that pokes at Obama’s sense of grandiosity. But liberal religious leaders see something far more ominous. The ads “seem to target Evangelical Christians in profoundly disturbing ways, using language and imagery that would have a special effect on Evangelicals… inspiring anxiety of the most primal spiritual form: fear of the Anti-christ,” wrote Brian McLaren, a leading progressive evangelical. That’s a strong charge. After all, the anti-christ is a profoundly evil character of the New Testament: generally thought to be a human, possessed by the devil or demonic spirit, he would be hailed as a savior by the masses and then rule the earth in ignominy, just prior to Jesus’s return. Let’s look at the evidence about the McCain ad.The first thing to understand is that long before this ad aired, the “question” of whether Obama is the anti-Christ, has been widely discussed in certain Christian circles in the last year.Hal Lindsey, author of the bestselling The Late Great Planet Earth, compared Obama’s positive reception overseas to what the anti-Christ can expect. “He will probably also stand in some European capital, addressing the people of the world and telling them that he is the one that they have been waiting for,” Lindsey wrote on the popular conservative website wnd.com. “And he can expect as wildly enthusiastic a greeting as Obama got in Berlin. The Bible calls that leader the Antichrist. And it seems apparent that the world is now ready to make his acquaintance.”Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the apocalyptic Left Behind series, reports that he’s gotten “a lot” of questions from concerned Christians wondering whether Obama is the anti-Christ. (Jenkins says no). The conservative website RedState.com sells t-shirts with horns popping out of an O and the headline “The Anti-Christ.” And a bumper sticker pairing Obama with the anti-Christ in the Left Behind series, Nicholas Carpathia.

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Talk radio host Brian Sussman asked on KFSO , “As I was watching that speech, I could have sworn he was running for Antichrist.” For those wanting to review the signs of Obama’s demonic tendencies, the website barackobmaantichrist.blogspot.com details the evidence. A reader posts on Yahoo Answers!” the question, “Is Barack obama the anti-Christ?” to which a reader responded, in thoughtful tones, “I am not 100% convinced it is him, but I think it is very likely. “Most important, emails have been making the rounds in Christian circles for months. A typical one:

“According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is: The anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40’s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal….the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything ..”

So that’s the environment into which the McCain ad was launched. Was the ad designed to fuel this sentiment?At a minimum, it clearly intended to show that Obama himself has a Messianic complex, a notion that has become a standard refrain in the conservative commentariat. McCain campaign manager refers now to Obama as “The One.” Rush Limbaugh calls him Lord Obama. Jonah Goldberg asks on the National Review Online whether Obama is the “Messiah in our Midst?” They have partly based these barbs on the rapturous reception that Obama has received from some of his supporters. That’s fair game. Some have offered giddy praise inviting parody. (Oprah comes to mind). However, the McCain campaign’s ad went much further, taking Obama’s words grotesquely out of context.For instance, the ad claimed that Obama said, “I have become a symbol of America returning to our best traditions.” This line supposedly came from a private meeting with Democrats, but witnesses have subsequently said that Obama’s actual words were: “It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign — that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions” There apparently was no transcript so neither side can prove it but, significantly, this latter version fits what Obama has said repeatedly in the past. After getting a rousing welcome from students in Virginia, he said, “This crowd is not about me. It’s about you. I’ve been a receptacle for your hopes and dreams.” Early in his campaign, he commented on how so many people had flocked to his campaign. “I do think that I’ve become a receptacle for a lot of other people’s issues that they need to work out.” He’s repeatedly described himself as a “flawed vessel” and said that the race “wasn’t about me.”Suggesting that a candidate thinks he’s God is a rather strong charge but some religious leaders argue that the McCain ad went even farther. The Eleison Group, a Democratic consultant operation specializing in reaching religious voters, published a detailed memo attempting show how the McCain ad uses language and imagery that seems suspiciously similar to that from the Left Behind series, which sold 70 million copies. (Click here for the full memo)The comparisons with Left Behind, and the general buzz about whether Obama is the anti-Christ prompted the authors of the Left Behind series to weigh in. “I can see by the language [Obama] uses why people think he could be the antichrist,” wrote Tim LaHaye, “but from my reading of scripture, he doesn’t meet the criteria,” adding that “perhaps this is overblown.” Significantly, though, co-author Jerry Jenkins told Beliefnet that questions from concerned Christians to him about whether Obama is the anti-Christ have tripled in the last two weeks, during the period when the ad started running. In that sense, whether the ad was designed to stoke fears of Obama as the anti-Christ or not, it has had that effect.So, the upshot: I’m not totally persuaded that the language and imagery in the ad was designed to specifically play off the Left Behind books. The bright yellow clouds seem vaguely similar to a Left Behind cover but mostly they just seem like the sort of standard clip-art one would use to evoke a deity.However, I do believe it’s likely that the McCain camp knew that an ad mocking Obama for having a Messianic complex would have explosive meaning and that they were aware of how much traction the Obama-as-anti-Christ idea had in some Christian circles. Time magazine’s Amy Sullivan reported that the ad was created by media guru Fred Davis who, she says, is “a close friend of former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed.” My guess is that the McCain camp viewed the ad as a three-fer: some viewers would view it as a playful poke at Obama’s ego, showing McCain to have a sense of humor and Obama to be too full of himself. Other, more religious voters, would be downright offended by Obama’s Messianic complex, since, anti-christ aside, it’s offensive for anyone to think he’s God-like. And still other voters would view it as validation or reinforcement of the messages they’ve heard elsewhere that Obama is the anti-Christ.Reprinted from Political Perceptions, a political analysis area of The Wall Street Journal Online.

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