Glenn Beck’s Antichrist Theology/A Better Way to Talk

I heard Glenn Beck’s talk radio show a couple of weeks ago; when a woman called in to suggest that because President Obama appears to be raising the tax rate to around the same as what it was under President Clinton, is exercising some accountability mechanisms with banks and car manufacturers, and has approached the nations of the world with humility, that he is a prime candidate for the Antichrist.  Such absurd and offensive speculation has been around for nearly two thousand years; and, of course, there is a 100% failure record among those who would predict the time of the end of the world, along with the identity of the person who, dispensationalists allege, will lead us there.

The general principle – that those who make eschatological guesses tend to be socially bigoted and give the appearance of suffering from religious neurosis – combines with the specific example – that some people are so outraged by Obama’s election that they need to find a theological justification for their anger, and produces some of the most debased public conversation I’ve ever heard.  Glenn Beck’s response to this woman appeared to endorse her religious terror, with mysterious allusions to people he says he has met and talked to and heard things from that he isn’t ready to tell us about yet.

The sum: I don’t know what Glenn Beck actually believes about the Book of Revelation (for what it’s worth, I happen to think it’s an amazing book of metaphorical prose offering comfort to people being persecuted and naming the metaphysical core of the universe: that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, rather than a dimestore almanac of future events), but he’s certainly happy not to challenge his listeners when they suggest that President Obama is in league with Satan.  I know many of us feel like we say this every day: but we need a better conversation in this country.

In ‘Doctor Zhivago’, Boris Pasternak is at pains to develop the notion that human freedom is found in facing reality.  This is not a new idea, of course; we need only remember ‘the truth will set you free’ to be aware that it didn’t originate with Russian novelists…But Pasternak adapts an old Chinese proverb, and announces his prophecy – in his case, of resistance to the death-dealing ways of Stalinist Russia, but really it could stand for anywhere, anytime, by stating that the beginning of wisdom is ‘to call everything by its right name’.  He means that life is a journey through confusion to clarity.  That wisdom, and healing, and growing up derive from seeing things as they really are.

This does not mean of course that we understand all things – that would make us into God.  No, it just means that a key function of being human is the power – and responsibility – to discern – to distinguish between this thing and that, and that thing and this.  The psychologist Carl Jung knew this – he could tell the difference between organized religion and what we call God.  Desmond Tutu knows this – he can tell the difference between a religion of the superficial intellect and the spirit that gives rise to human revolution.  The Irish mystic John O’Donohue knew this – he understood the difference between the frightened functionaries of fundamentalism, and the vast riches of the mystic tradition to which they think they hold the keys. Our task is to learn the difference between form and content.  Our task is to learn the difference between what we believe, and how we believe it.  Our task is to call everything by its right name.  Our task is discernment.

Every day we are given the opportunity to find beauty in the face of other human beings.  I come from a religious tradition that sometimes left its members unable to encounter other people without seeing them as missionary targets.  We failed in discernment.  Of course, those who harbour anti-religious sentiment are also often incapable of having a conversation with believers in which they treat their opinions with respect.  They fail in discernment too.  Yet if human beings really are made in the image of God; or even if we are better understood in other ways, then perhaps we might find it in ourselves also to learn that every encounter between you and me, or me and anyone, or you and anyone should be an opportunity for God, or whatever you want to name the ground of all being, to speak to both of us.

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7 responses to “Glenn Beck’s Antichrist Theology/A Better Way to Talk

  1. It’d probably be worth mentioning that the word “antichrist” does not appear anywhere in the book of Revelation. It’s true, look it up. It’s used in 1 and 2 John to denote a wayward teacher/preacher figure – against (“anti”) the teachings of Christ.

    Revelation is certainly about the reality of evil in the word, but it is not about some personified figure/son of Satan character like the “Left Behind” folks would have us believe.

  2. garethihiggins

    Absolutely right – no mention of the word in ‘Revelation’; and, in much the same way as the book itself is often misrepresented as ‘Revelations’, this, to me, simply underlines the absurdity of most attempts at interpreting the words in it.

  3. Glenn Beck is a lying blowhard that doesn’t even believe the dreck he spews. He gives Mormons, most of which are wonderful and logically thinking people, a bad name.

    *****

    It’s amazing how most of what is considered ‘Modern Christianity’ has been completely fabricated. The ‘Trinity,’ for example, is completely absent from the Bible, yet it’s taken as blasphemy if one were to disagree with that particular doctrine. And those that believe in the utter infallibility of the Bible are simply living in willful ignorance.

  4. Thank you for this article. It made my day and renewed my faith that perhaps meaningful, respectful, God-honoring dialogue can really happen.

  5. Kim Mitchell

    I really appreciate what you had to say in this article about needing to have discernment and allowing any conversation or interaction between people be a chance to let God speak to both of us.
    It sounds like we come from similar religious backgrounds and have made or are making similar discoveries about what it means to be Christian and our responsibilities to God and each other. (based on your book and the few other things I’ve read from you) I also appreciate what you say about those who have attempted to name the anti-Christ or predict the end of the world.
    So, may I ask how you’ve come to the conclusion that Revelations is “not a dime store almanac for future events”? Please do not read any sarcasm or condescension into my question – I really want to know. I grew up with movies like A Distant Thunder and seminars from traveling “experts” with tribulation maps and have heard these people claim that the New Age movement and Care Bears were all signs of the “end times” – yeah, really, Care Bears. I came away for the movies scared – even though, as it was explained to me, I was fairly sure I wouldn’t be “left behind”. I spent time thinking the Devil might be able to fool me if he was so innocent looking as Care Bears.
    I have since come to my own conclusion – in a very small nut shell – that I don’t have to waste anytime worrying about when all that stuff is supposed to happen and that my responsibility is to be found loving God with all I am and my neighbor as myself regardless of my position on the time line of this world. And, in regard to what the Revelations are meant to reveal – in an even smaller nut shell – I’ve come to feel all those dream-like metaphors will be understood when they need to be.

  6. Pingback: The Trick is Not Minding « god is not elsewhere / some conversation about movies, art, politics and spirituality with gareth higgins

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