Sunday, April 13, 2014

Obama, the antichrist

Many American right wing nut jobs will claim that Obama is the antichrist. It sounds ridiculous but I would suggest a rational argument can be made to justify the title. Before you decide to disown me please allow me to explain.

In what is now the Holy Week, churches throughout the world are centring on the Passion, the final hours around Jesus' crucifixion. According to John's gospel, Jesus was taken before Pilate and questioned. Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews because the Jewish leaders were accusing him of claiming that title. Jesus confirmed that he was a king but not of this world. If he were, then he could command an army to defend him.

Outside the specific context of his trial and execution this has massive implications for us who claim to be Christians. First of all it means we are citizens of a spiritual kingdom and, as Christians, have no nationhood as its understood in an earthly sense. Secondly it forbids us to assault those who do not claim Christ as their Lord either physically or verbally. There is no precedent in the New Testament for us to do so and, in fact, we are encouraged to practice respect and restraint. Unfortunately the church throughout the centuries has severely tainted its reputation by blatantly disregarding the words of its king and continues to do so.

If we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom then when we talk of a Christian nation, surely we are talking of one that consists of all Christians throughout the world. America's constitution clearly separates church and state so, of all the nations in the world it has least justification in claiming its country to be Christian. But that is where these nut jobs are coming from.

They would claim their authority in Jesus and the Bible. So when Jesus' claim to kingship and their claim to be Christians are put together they must be citizens of his kingdom. Now if America is a Christian nation its king must be Christ. They don't have a king but the nearest equivalent is the President. Antichrist means 'in place of Christ' and following this logic Obama fits the bill perfectly. Unfortunately the only alternative is for Jesus to become President but Jesus has already turned that down.

The issue, it would appear, is their claim of a Christian nation. As soon as they relinquish that claim the antichrist goes away. The same logic labels the Pope as the antichrist and our own Queen is in its targets. Its all rather silly but logical.

Many will celebrate Easter as an affirmation of Jesus as their personal saviour. Others will complain that its been hijacked by the Easter bunny. Worst of all some might complain that its been hijacked by pagans which would be highly ironic. There is no mandate for the people of this nation to celebrate a Christian Easter because this is not a Christian nation and never has been. Jesus denied us that right on Good Friday over 2000 years ago.

But Jesus is neither our national saviour or personal saviour. According to the New Testament he is the saviour of the world. The Jewish state was fittingly dissolved in AD70, the last dividing wall of God's new era. Ironically America is the champion of the modern Israeli state, an unholy alliance between the "one nation under God" and the special nation many Christians see as strategic to Christ's coming, the two horns of another antichrist.

Jesus leads us to a better place where there is no flag waving, no discrimination, no judging by the world's standards, where we defend the faith by turning the other cheek and bring down empires by exposing their lies. Jesus is no respecter of nations. The world's great faiths share a father Abraham who, according to the book of Hebrews, "lived in tents" but looked forward to "the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God". It goes on to say that, "if [he] had been thinking of the country [he] left, [he] would have had opportunity to return. Instead, [he was] looking for a better country - a heavenly one, (my emphasis)."

And the great news is that God's kingdom is here in our hearts - its not pie in the sky when you die. If, on Good Friday, we relinquish our hold on this world, on Easter Sunday we can wake up in a new united kingdom.