Let's pretend that a new movie is being cast, one where the ignorant peasants have been whipped into a frenzy. These ignorant peasants, pitchforks and torches in hand, are storming the castle of a scientific genius to destroy his new invention that they don't understand and therefore scares them. And let's further pretend that it's actually the op-ed editors of the New York Times who are casting the movie.
I can hear them now.
"Hmmm. Where to get a bunch of ignorant peasants?"
"Round up a bunch of evangelicals."
For some liberals, ignorant unenlightened peasants, aka evangelicals, are a scary sight when it comes to our political democracy. As the old saying goes, it's as frightening as the inmates taking over the asylum.
I can even almost hear a few saying, "Maybe what we need is a 'common sense' test before people go into the voting booth to weed out these wackos."
Exhibit A of this mentality is a recent op-ed in the New York Times ominously -- and incredulously -- titled "Why the Antichrist Matters in Politics."
Boy, is that a juicy title. Catnip for a whole slew of liberals and others for sure, which I'm guessing is exactly why the editors used it or allowed it to be used.
I came upon this liberal catnip while downloading the most emailed articles using my New York Times iPhone app before I was about to board a flight at BWI to take me to Kentucky to speak at three evangelical colleges. My topic? An evangelical approach to overcoming global warming. Talk about ironic. A NYTimes-iPhone-app-using-evangelical seeing this op-ed while going to talk to other evangelicals about global warming.)
"Why the Antichrist Matters in Politics" was the #1 most emailed/shared article. (Those editors sure know what they're doing.) I saw it and thought to myself, "Uh-oh. This doesn't sound good." It exceeded my expectations in the "uh-oh" department.
The "Antichrist" op-ed was written by Matthew Avery Sutton, a history professor at Washington State University who has a forthcoming book provisionally titled "American Evangelicals and the Politics of Apocalypse," being published by the bastion of academic liberalism, Harvard. So I guess Dr. Sutton must know what he's talking about.
As I begin to read his "Antichrist" piece, I hear Sauron's theme music from Howard Shore's "Lord of the Rings" score. Better turn off the iPod on my iPhone and pay attention.
At the end of the first paragraph, Dr. Sutton intones: "apocalyptic fears helped drive the antigovernment movements of the 1930s and '40s and could help define the 2012 presidential campaign as well."
Fear. Yea, make sure to use that word a lot. And of course there's no greater boogey-man word for liberals to associate with evangelicals than "apocalyptic." So when you put "evangelicals" and "apocalyptic" together what's the translation? Ignorant peasant wackos who have the vote.
Dr. Sutton does his historian thing by recounting the rise of the "fundamentalist movement" (translation: those stupid people who can't face reality) and its belief in the "Antichrist." These wackos believe that "after the so-called rapture of true saints to heaven, [the Antichrist] would lead humanity through a great tribulation culminating in the second coming and Armageddon."
Oh boy. Fundamentalist. Antichrist. Rapture. Great Tribulation. Second Coming. Armageddon.
Dr. Sutton and the NYTimes sure have those liberal juices flowing now.
He continues: "For some evangelicals, President Obama is troubling. The specious theories about his place of birth, his internationalist tendencies, his measured support for Israel and his Nobel Peace Prize fit their long-held expectations about the Antichrist."
Ok, now we've moved from those (stupid, wacko) fundamentalists to "some evangelicals." Ah, so I guess they're the same thing? This equation certainly makes them a much bigger group to be scared of.
And not only that, these fundamentalists/evangelicals are starting to think that President Obama could actually be "the Antichrist."
Now remember, I'm reading this at BWI before I go to Kentucky, i.e., Bible-belt coal-country, to talk to evangelicals about overcoming global warming. And I've turned off the Sauron theme music -- but now it's like someone just turned it back on.
Did this NYTimes op-ed by Dr. Sutton really just say that some evangelicals are starting to think that President Obama could be the Antichrist? Are you frickin' kidding me? Nope, not kidding. And yep, he did -- right there in the NYTimes.
And he's gonna do it again: "Not since Roosevelt have we had a president of charisma and global popularity, who so perfectly fits the evangelicals' Antichrist mold."
So now it's not just "some" evangelicals. We're all in there. But silly me, I left my pitchfork and torch at home.
Dr. Sutton continues: "While Depression-era fundamentalists represented only a small voice among the anti-Roosevelt forces of the 1930s, evangelicals have grown ever savvier and now constitute one of the largest interest groups in the Republican Party."
Now the NYTimes and Dr. Sutton have many liberals good and scared, I'm sure. Those zombie-esque, brain-dead, cult-like evangelicals could elect the next president.
Dr. Sutton concludes: "Barring the rapture [ha, ha, ha, rapture humor for liberals], Mrs. Bachmann or Mr. Perry could well ride the apocalyptic anti-statism of conservative Christians into the Oval Office."
Forget about the fact that we're still recovering from the worst economic times since the Great Depression and the economy is the number one concern of voters. Forget that many voters just might think President Obama should have done a better job on this score. And forget that those who are driving the anti-statism, libertarian bus are Tea-Party types funded by the Koch brothers and others of their ilk. Forget all that. It's those wacko evangelicals.
Honestly, what was the real point of this piece being published in the NYTimes? To scare liberals into the voting booth to defeat the ignorant apocalyptic-hypnotized evangelical peasant hordes? To have an easy scapegoat for liberals in the event that President Obama loses?
Talk about fear mongering and scapegoating.
Is there no thought given by the NYTimes and Dr. Sutton to not feeding into stereotypes and pushing folks further apart?
With steam coming out of my ears I boarded my flight to Kentucky to speak to my fellow evangelicals about how Christians are called to join the Risen LORD (oops, apocalyptic thinking, sorry) in overcoming global warming. I'm happy to report I encountered no pitch-forks or torches. I did find young people open to my message, and some who are ready to make a difference on overcoming global warming.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.