Newsweek considers Antichrist talk

NEWSWEEK CONSIDERS ANTICHRIST TALK…. When bizarre, fringe publications speculate openly about who may or may not be the Antichrist, it’s easy to dismiss. When Newsweek publishes a 600-word piece on those who wonder about Obama being the Antichrist, one really has to wonder what on earth the editors were thinking.

On Nov. 5, Todd Strandberg was at his desk, fielding E-mails from around the world. As the editor and founder of RaptureReady.com, his job is to track current events and link them to biblical prophecy in hopes of maintaining his status as “the eBay of prophecy,” the best source online for predictions and calculations concerning the end of the world. Already Barack Obama had drawn the attention of apocalypse watchers after an anonymous e-mail circulated among conservative Christians in October implying that he was the Antichrist. Former “Saturday Night Live” ingenue Victoria Jackson fueled the fire when, according to news reports, she wrote on her Web site that Obama “bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ.” Now Strandberg was receiving up-to-the-minute news from his constituents in Illinois. One of the winning lottery numbers in the president-elect’s home state was 666 — which, as everyone knows, is the sign of the Beast (also known as the Antichrist). “It is very eerie, and I take it for a sign as to who he really is,” wrote one of Strandberg’s correspondents.

First, from a theological perspective, the whole thing about “666” being a “mark of the beast” is inherently suspect, and dismissed as nonsense by most scholars. Second, and more importantly, what is the purpose of Newsweek running a story about those who wonder if Obama is the Antichrist?

Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University’s law school, says he does not believe Obama is the Antichrist, but he can see how others might. Obama’s own use of religious rhetoric belies his liberal positions on abortion and traditional marriage, Staver says, positions that “religious conservatives believe will threaten their freedom.” The people who believe Obama is the Antichrist are perhaps jumping to conclusions, but they’re not nuts: “They are expressing a concern and a fear that is widely shared,” Staver says.

Um, Newsweek? “Widely shared” fears can most definitely be “nuts.”

Strandberg says Obama probably isn’t the Antichrist, but he’s watching the president-elect carefully. On his Web site, he has something called the Rapture Index, a calculation based on signs and prophecy of the proximity of the end. According to Strandberg, any number over 160 means “fasten your seat belts.” Obama’s win pushed the index to 161.

Keep in mind, this isn’t just some bizarre online-only piece — Newsweek decided this was worthy of publication in the print edition of its weekly news magazine.

I can appreciate the fact that there are a handful of very odd people in the world, some of whom believe the Book of Revelation foretold Obama’s election. Strange people can be led to believe strange things. That’s not a reason for Newsweek to publish articles about their inanity.