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Who does he think he is? The Messiah? That's the message a recent McCain TV ad, which likens Obama to Charleton Heston's Moses, seems to project. Viewed over one million times on YouTube, the video finally landed on a CNN television report, intended to "de-bunk the rumour" but giving it de-facto international coverage in the process.
McCain's campaign aides have described the video as merely "poking fun at Obama's tendency to get carried away with audacious statements". In fact, its content eerily echoes the "question" that has been raised in a minority of right-wing Christian circles: is Obama the Antichrist?
Some claim they see clear similarities between the figure described in the book of Revelation - a charismatic, crowd-pleasing leader with an evil heart who rallies the world around a false message of peace - and the Democratic candidate. According to Eric Sapp, a Democratic consultant on faith issues, the video clip is largely inspired by the bestselling Christian fiction series Left Behind, which recounts the rise of a young and brilliant politician who, after portraying himself as a pacifist, leads the world into chaos and war.
It's unclear whether this McCain ad voluntarily refers to the myth of an Antichrist as Obama, or even whether such a campaign can affect the vote of Christian Americans. One thing is for sure: the controversy has created a buzz on the web, complete with marketing accessories - T-shirts, mugs, you name it - portraying the ‘satanic Democrat'.
This time, Obama portrayed as a Marxist saint
"This type of video and rumour could eventually do some damage"
Brian Kirby is the Pastor of Emmanuel International Church, a moderate Evangelical congregation based in Rueil Malmaison, in the outskirts of Paris. Originally from North Carolina, he moved to France six years ago.
The Antichrist is a character from the Book of Revelations, the last chapter of the New Testament. Some believe that the events described in the book took place in a distant past, thousands of years B.C., but most Americans think that the book predicts the future, foretelling events that have yet to come.
Grossly put, the Antichrist is described as a key political figure, very charismatic, who rapidly rises to power. He promises peace and rallies the world around a common false religion, only to plunge it into war and chaos. This is a simplified version that interprets the complex imagery of the Bible, but it's the one that stands out in many Christians' imaginations. Americans also usually consider that the Antichrist will rise somewhere in the Middle East, although the Bible never explicitly says that the Antichrist is of Muslim descent.
In recent years there has been a concerted effort amongst Republicans to associate their party with Christianity, in particular with right-wing Christians. This has become true to such an extent that most people don't even believe that you can be an Evangelical Christian and vote Democrat, which is precisely my case.
Americans tend, much more than Europeans I think, to vote for a candidate based on their emotions, on how they feel about him, more than on what they think of his political ideas and of specific policies. So this type of video and rumor could eventually do some damage. Even if there were Evangelicals who were thinking of maybe voting Obama, any doubt on his Christianity would immediately change their minds.
I think that comparing Obama to the Antichrist is a gross exaggeration, a farce. It's like the people who insist on Obama's Muslim origins although he has been very open about his personal spiritual journey, his conversion to Christianity and his baptism. When I go back to North Carolina, I'm faced with people who tell me "I could never vote for a Muslim". It's dangerous rhetoric."
John McCain's video
Front cover of the first book of the best-selling series "Left Behind"