Smile Politely

The Antichrist

One of my all-time favorite Seinfeld lines is from the episode called The Nap. Elaine says, “Hey, Kramer, listen, you’ve seen The Omen right? What exactly was that kid?” And Kramer replies, “Who, Damien? Nothing, just a mischievous, rambunctious kid.”

When I was a mischievous, rambunctious kid, the idea of the antichrist scared the hell out of me thanks to the above-referenced movie which was released in 1976. Then, four years later, Ronald Reagan was elected president and I remember someone telling me, “Ronald Reagan has six letters in both his first and last names. If his middle name also has six letters, then all three of his names make 666.” So, being a curious young lad, I looked up some info on Ronald Reagan and found out that his middle name was Wilson. I was terrified. Reagan was the antichrist! I hid under my bed for hours, convinced that, now that I knew his true identity, something evil was going to happen to me.

But of course, Ronald Reagan turned out not to be the antichrist. He was a conservative Republican, which does seem to be a form of evil, and he did some stupid if not evil things (e.g. Iran-Contra among others), but he wasn’t the antichrist.

So sometime between 1976 and the present day, I grew up (somewhat) and learned that not everything in the Bible should be taken literally.

But that is not the case with many Christians. Just last Saturday I was at a church service in Chicago and heard a sermon on the book of Revelation. The speaker had a bizarre stockpile of antichrist ammunition as he explained that the European Union represented the Beast and that the antichrist would emerge as the leader of this organization and bring about peace in the Middle East. I’m afraid I didn’t stick around to hear how his story ended. I had more important things to do such as my laundry.

But antichrist speculation is a booming market amongst conservative Christians and it fuels a billion-dollar book and movie industry. One of the most popular is the Left Behind series which, in spite of its bad writing and poor acting, gives conservative Christians the thrills and chills that they have missed since doing away with Halloween.

I’ve never really understood what conservative Christians have against Halloween. It is a Christian holiday, after all — All Hallow’s Eve, the day before All Saints Day. Yes, it is true that Halloween has some roots in pagan festivities, but so do Christmas and Easter. Some conservative Christians even teach their children that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are real. Yeah, nothing scary or weird about old men and big rabbits sneaking into your house in the middle of the night.

Conservative Christians obviously love to be scared by the antichrist because of the way they devour the insane books and movies on the subject. Yet, every year when Halloween rolls around, many of them plan alternative parties for children in their churches to avoid the whole trick-or-treat business. They believe that real demons prowl around the earth on Halloween night. Or maybe they just think that trick-or-treating could possibly turn their children into (gasp!) liberals.

For example, this year New Horizon United Methodist Church in Champaign is hosting Great October Days (or G.O.D) on October 31st from 6 to 8 p.m. (the same time that has been set as official trick-or-treating time by the City of Champaign). New Horizon describes Great October Days on their website as “an alternative to traditional Trick-or-Treating” and “a fun, game-filled, candy-filled event for New Horizon children and their friends.”

That all sounds very safe and nice and I don’t knock it one bit. There are some real potential dangers on Halloween, but those dangers come from real people — e.g. child predators and nuts who leave threatening notes in restrooms — not from demons and antichrists.

I predict Halloween will come and go peacefully this year. The folks who enjoy it for what it is will go trick-or-treating and have fun. And the conservative Christians who fear it will go to their churches and also have fun.

For me the really scary day will be next Tuesday, November 4th. I hope, at least on election day, people will set aside their superstitions, mythologies and wacky prophecies and open their minds long enough to vote with a little bit of rationality.

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