Last week The Eleison Group sent out an email arguing that the McCain campaign's web video "The One" is "rife with image after image equating Senator Obama to the anti-Christ, and especially to Nicolae Carpathia, the anti-Christ in the popular Left Behind series."
"... this was not some YouTube video put together in someone's basement," the Democratic consulting group wrote. "It was a professionally and carefully produced ad that had a much more sinister subtext that millions of Americans will pick up on."
Now Beliefnet's Steven Waldman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, is examining the charge. The ad opens with religious-tinged language: An announcer says, "It should be known, in 2008, the world will be blessed. They will call him: The One." The announcer adds: "...he has anointed himself ready to carry the burden of The One."
At one point, the announcer asks, "Can you see the light?" The spot then cuts to a clip of Obama saying, "A light will shine down from somewhere. It will light upon you. You will experience an epiphany. And you will say to yourself, 'I have to vote for Barack.'"
As Waldman points out, McCain's supporters characterizes the ad as simply the latest iteration of critics' characterization of Obama as presumptuous – and, indeed, that's a theme that the McCain campaign has hammered in the last few months.
But progressive evangelical Brian McLaren and others say that the spot is designed to provoke fears of Obama as antichrist. The Eleison Group, in laying out its evidence, writes that "In The Left Behind series, the false religion set up by Nicolae Carpathia (the anti-christ) is called THE ONE World Religion." They also write that "[v]iewers will notice how similar the very odd pictures that appear in the middle of the McCain ad are to the cover art and fonts of the Left Behind series."
According to the memo, 70 million Left Behind books have been sold, and Carpathia, the book's antichrist, "began his political career as a young junior Senator who, with Satan's help, then embarked on a meteoric political rise by preaching unity, hope, and peace in the midst of world-wide calamity following the Rapture."
Waldman writes that "the 'question' of whether Sen. Obama is the antichrist has been widely discussed in certain Christian circles, beginning long before the ad was launched." He cites a story by Hal Lindsey's on wnd.com, a conservative Web site, suggesting that while Obama may not himself be the antichrist, he sure seems like him:
Obama is correct in saying that the world is ready for someone like him – a messiah-like figure, charismatic and glib and seemingly holding all the answers to all the world's questions.Waldman also points to the blog "Barack Obama the Antichrist?" and cites emails that have been circulating in Christian circles, such as this 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."
And the Bible says that such a leader will soon make his appearance on the scene. It won't be Barack Obama, but Obama's world tour provided a foretaste of the reception he can expect to receive.
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. 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.
Waldman writes that "he's not totally persuaded that the language and imagery in the ad was designed to specifically play off the Left Behind books," but he "believe it's likely that the McCain camp knew that an ad mocking Sen. Obama for having a Messianic complex would have explosive meaning and that they were aware of how much traction the Obama-as-antichrist idea had in some Christian circles."
He concludes: "My guess is that the McCain camp viewed the ad as a three-fer: some viewers would view it as a playful poke at Sen. Obama's ego, showing Sen. McCain to have a sense of humor and Sen. Obama to be too full of himself. Other, more religious voters, would be downright offended by Obama's Messianic complex, since, antichrist 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 antichrist."