Is Donald Trump the Antichrist?
A quaint sort of question in these days of general Biblical illiteracy. But I am reading Denis de Rougemont’s Talk of the Devil, written in 1945, and I am up to the section called “Is Hitler the Antichrist.” De Rougemont recalls the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth having said the following in a talk at the beginning of the war.
That man, whom I do not need to name . . . is certainly not the Antichrist. For he has no power over our eternal salvation. The real Antichrist will not reveal himself until, at the end of time, he appears as our pitiless accuser . . . . But the man whom you have in mind is only a little fellow, a first forerunner of the Antichrist.
Such subtle dialectic is very far from the minds of our American Evangelicals, who voted in overwhelming numbers for the man (one would prefer not to name him, either), because they thought they will get some good from him.
I think here of my father’s Christian culture. Not a demanding benchmark, to be sure. A standard of simple parts and no pretensions, derived from a sturdy strain of Pietism and non-conformity. My father believed that a Christian should take a drunk off the street and put a shirt on him and go with him to the coffee shop and buy him a donut. He believed that a Christian should not boast or put himself forward at the expense of others. He particularly hated “two-faced” people, liars and hypocrites. He thought ordinary human weaknesses were best left to God to judge. His own besetting weakness he took to be a quick temper, which he worked in humility to soften—with patchy success it must be said. He thought that if you did good works it should be in secret.
It is hard to believe people like my father would now have voted for that boastful, vain, vindictive man. Trump would stick in their craw like the wad of tallowy gristle one used to encounter in cheap joints of beef, that you can neither swallow nor spit out.
But is he the Antichrist? Or “only a little fellow, the first forerunner”?
What Barth surely knew and expected his auditors would know, is that the Biblical Antichrist is not always conceived of as a single person. Sometimes they are many—Antichrists. In other places it seems to mean a calamitous spiritual condition, a collapse of hope in the end times.
I see it like this. Evangelicals will discover they have been lied to. Women will still have control of their bodies. The stranger will still be knocking at the door. The sin of our Evangelicals, however, will not be that they failed to see the hollowness in the little fellow who lied to them, but that they failed to see the hollowness in themselves. A Christianity in name only, stranded from the creeds and confessions of the Church, ignorant of history, abandoned to the worship of power and to a handful of empty shibboleths. The despair and rage that must surely follow an awakening to this reality is Antichrist.