Exploring the Antichrist Narrative

Keeping Landes’ concept of “semiotic arousal” in mind (in the way Brasher interprets its meaning), reading Amarasingam’s essay about “Baraknophobia” becomes an exercise in seeing America’s history as a series of events unfolding into whatever you want to read into them. Brasher says, “Once the apocalyptic lever is tripped in the human mind, almost any random event can become fodder for the widening maw of end-times significance” (164). So when we have in our minds how the narrative will develop, and there is a group of people in opposition to the current leader, anything that leader says or does is fair game for interpretation and incorporation into that narrative. For instance, Amarasingam discusses three points made on a popular video concerning Barak Obama (110). One of these points is that the Antichrist is prophesied to be a “stern-faced” king, and that Obama obviously fits this prophecy. I agree that Obama could benefit from learning a wider range of facial expressions; however, I fail to see how this becomes a red flag for the end-time. In fact, the other two points Amarasingam outlines stretch the validity of the argument even further into fallacy than does noticing how Obama scowls a lot.

Amarasingham says, “On the Internet we can be different people, experience things we could never hope to experience in real life, help in the creation and perfection of collaborative knowledge and engage in participatory media” (113). Just like Amarasingam did for his article, and David did in preparation for our blog prompt, I too typed “Obama” and “Antichrist” into Google to prepare for tomorrow’s class discussion. The fact that we three did the same exercise illustrates participation in the disseminating power of the Internet, as we simply typed some keywords and were given (in my case) about 1,300,000 results to sift through. Additionally, “the ease with which blogs, forums and Web sites are created has given rise to an alternative media” (114). The speed at which ideas are cultivated on the Internet is astonishing, and any idea is fair game for the Internet, whether or not the “evidence” for these ideas is valid. The first website* on my list when I did my search claims that Obama is not the Antichrist, and that many of the “facts” used to prove that he is are simply not found in Scripture. Amarasingam says, “Disparate threads . . . are seamlessly and effortlessly woven together into an elaborate tapestry of paranoia that is nearly impossible to disprove” (114).

We can see this in the “empire narrative” of identification markers for the Antichrist. Earlier I mentioned a video claiming there is a prophecy of the Antichrist that says he will be a stern-faced king. Obama is not a king—he is a president—but, through the concept of semiotic arousal, the word king simply means to point to a man in power; therefore, Obama still fits into this prophecy. This careful wordplay is seen all over the Internet. Furthermore, Amarasingam points to a video by Alex Jones, who claims that Obama is the “perfect Trojan horse” and that his humanitarian efforts are a cleverly disguised attempt to turn America into a “paramilitary, domestic security force” (109). These threads are picked up and placed wherever readers feel the need to put them. Most often, the right-wing/apocalyptic mentality is quoting Christian and Jewish scripture to point to how Obama is (clearly?) either the Antichrist or an agent of the Antichrist. This is the mode of divine apocalypse, which is the “discourse of religious fundamentalists” (xv).

Quinby also says, “Apocalyptic time presumes a unity by a moment of origin and a moment of end” (xvii). In order for the Christian apocalyptic discourse to work, the identification of the Antichrist is essential. Through Internet blogs and forums, this identification can be discussed. Knowing who the Antichrist is will put the rest of the Christian apocalyptic narrative into line and it will allow the faithful to be assured that Christ—the true Christ—is coming soon.


* http://www.gotquestions.org/Barack-Obama-antichrist.html

Heaven’s Gate

I must admit I was a bit startled to see the web address for Heaven’s Gate listed. It costs money to maintain a website, and with everybody dead, I wonder who has taken the job. Nothing seems to have been added or edited since March 26, 1997. I’m told the site crashed the day after the mass suicides were discovered because thousands of people were suddenly very curious and visited the site. It’s ironic that the desired outcome of the website wasn’t entirely fulfilled until after the group had “evacuated their bodies.”

The website itself is very typical of the era, with oddly clashing colors and highly pixelated graphics. The words “Red Alert” flash in red along the top of the site. Heaven’s Gate’s logo is HEAVEN written left to right, with GATE written top to bottom, the A from each word being shared between the two. A distracting background of stars follows you to every page. Below some preliminary information about the comet Hale-Bopp and the closing “window” there are several links to visit.

I was immediately drawn to the link titled “Our Position Against Suicide.” According to the website, the proper definition of suicide is to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered. They believed that those who are not a part of Heaven’s Gate were committing suicide because they are rejecting the Next Level. They also believed that their bodies were merely vehicles used in the learning process. Therefore, what the group did on the days of March 24 through 26 was not actually mass suicide, but rather the evacuation of their bodies. They did not believe that they were dying, per se, but meeting up with the spaceship that was flying in the tail of Hale-Bopp.

“Do’s Intro” is very informative and offers a mythology for connecting the Jesus narrative of conventional Christianity to the intergalactic narrative of Heaven’s Gate. Do claims that Jesus was an alien, and that anybody who recognized him for who he was would be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, two thousand years later, that alien came back in the incarnation of Do. He then goes on to explain how we have all been programmed to not accept the truth. I did find it amusing that Do concluded his intro with this observation: “It is clear to all of us, that to the Anti-Christ . . . we are, and will be seen as, their Anti-Christ.”

Brasher says, “As the boundaries between religion and other cultural creeds thin, the ability to adjudicate interpretation of their myths and symbols is diminished” (170). We see the syncretism of ideas very potently on the Heaven’s Gate website, as they mixed Christian lore with UFO lore to create a millennialist religion that pinned its hopes (literally) on the stars. In the time of Christ, information dissemination was very slow, as letters were written by hand, sent, delivered, and often copied painstakingly. In the time of Do, all he had to do was log onto his hosting site, type a message, and within moments, the message was available for the world.


Moore’s exploration of the “interspecies intimacies” raises some interesting questions. It is obvious in reading Revelation that the relationship between the beast and the whore is a satirical caricature of the imperial power of Rome. Even Moore admits that “bestiality has always been a convenient figure for political despotism” (230), so it makes sense to use these images to condemn the sovereignty of Rome. By using a wild beast, John invokes the savagery of the animal kingdom, yet cruelty is a human quality. The whore riding abreast the beast is savage and cruel, evil and lustful, and so the imagery makes sense in this context. However, what is not apparently clear is why John would then keep with the same trope to illustrate the proper sovereignty of God the Father by creating another interspecies relationship with the Lamb and the bride? The answer to this question takes us back to the Quadrapedal Christ, where the Lamb is both dominated and dominant. Indeed, More states that the Lamb is a “nonhegemonic symbol for a hegemonic entity” (234). Hegemony is the term used to describe the masculine dominance over feminine submission. By describing him in this way, Moore sees the Lamb as a domesticated animal, pure and innocent, thus the perfect sacrifice, yet at the same time He is the warrior sovereign, the dominant (masculine) bridegroom. The (feminine) bride, like the domesticated Lamb, is silent and docile, so now we can see the contrast to the beast-whore intimacy more clearly. The wild, undomesticated, fornicating beast has no place in the New Jerusalem.

I admit that Moore’s articles perpetually perplex me. He is not as clear to his point as he could be and I feel like he writes in circles and meanders on tangents. I don’t know how to answer the question of “ecotherology” because, honestly, I barely understood what I wrote above and I even feel that I probably was entirely off base with it.

Analysis of “Raping Rome”

Moore’s article explores the complexities of gendering Rome as female (pretending to be male) in its iconography, and how John uses the female gender of the goddess Roma to strip her of her divine status by calling her a prostitute. He points to Judith Butler, who argues that gender identity is a performance of learned behaviors that bear the illusion of natural manifestation. Moore uses a queer-reading approach to examine the cross-dressing goddess, both feminine in form with all the trappings of the masculine warrior. Rome then sees itself (and thus performs under this illusion) as the soft, opulent place of luxury (female) juxtaposed with its desire for violence and conquest (male). Also important is the concept of virtus, which is a female gendered noun to describe the height of masculinity, and is ascribed as a quality of the female Roma. Moore makes the distinction between masculinity and femininity by arguing “masculinity was the quality of being in control of, exercising dominion over, others and also oneself, while femininity was the quality of ceding control of oneself to others” (142).

With this statement, he can then examine how John treats Rome in his apocalypse by keeping with the stylized gendering of the city as female. John strips Roma of her armor and weapons, essentially “emasculating” her, and replacing those with jewels, purple, and a cup of wine. He then labels her the Mother of Whores. John hates Roma, according to Moore, because he secretly loves her for all her splendor; however, he treats her with such animosity because women are not the conquerors. Moore channels Butler again, who points out that those who perform their gender correctly are rarely punished. The Bride, for instance, is not punished, but praised for her submissiveness and purity. John punishes Roma by saying “they will loathe the whore, and they will ravage her and strip her naked, and they will devour her flesh and burn her with fire” (147). Moore argues that the gender binary and violence in John’s writing is a reassertion of the gender hierarchy mentioned above, that men are dominant and women fall into submission.

Moore mentions an androgynous nature of Christ in the Book of Revelation; I fail to see its relevance or its purpose. He implies that the work of scholars and translators in the past has been dishonest in translating mastios as a masculine chest, rather than as a female breast. However, a plain reading of Revelation gives no indication that John was in any way attempting to describe Christ with any kind of gender bias. While there have certainly been a number of people who have picked on John’s choice of words, it is equally likely that he simply chose the wrong word, or that the manuscripts that we have available today bear an error made by scribes. If we want to discount the possibility that anyone could have made such an error, I might point out that even today we might talk about a man beating his breasts (like an ape) without in any way meaning that his breasts had become feminine.

This article is absurd. Moore’s eisegetical approach to interpretation is damaging to John’s original intent when he sat down to write Revelation. Moore makes assumptions about John’s frame of mind and about the attitudes surrounding sexuality and gender in antiquity.

Communities of Resistance

Carter uses many examples from the Bible to support his idea that early Christian literature offered, and indeed demanded, an alternative lifestyle to that of Rome. Carter further argues that the Christian adherence to this very non-Roman life made it impossible for Rome to accept or even tolerate the early church.


He uses the Book of Revelation in its historical context to point to images and symbols of a fallen empire. Revelation speaks of the “fallen Babylon,” but John could just as easily be speaking about the anticipated (hopeful) fall of the Roman Empire. Since this document was written during a time of Roman oppression, Carter’s assessment of Revelation does make sense in that context. Even if that was no John’s intent, there is little doubt that the presence of Rome would have influenced the writing. The Christian community would be anxious to see Rome fall the way Babylon did for the Jews. They would want to see God favor the Christians over the Romans.


Carter’s interpretation of Paul’s letters leads us to understand that Paul’s aim was to establish a community of believers whose existence was in direct opposition to Roman rule. He cites Paul’s insistence that salvation comes through Christ alone, and his use of language that evokes images of Christ being the emperor to whom allegiance should be pledged. It’s interesting that he does this, because even though Carter is arguing this large opposition to Rome, Paul could not escape the imagery of Roman rule. What Paul tried to do, however, was to shift the attention away from the sovereignty of Rome, to the sovereignty of Christ. Paul emphasized that worshiping idols was akin to worshiping Satan, which made worshiping the emperors ungodly. He also wrote about Christ coming again, to compare the Kingdom of God, which has no end, to the Empire of Rome, which was surely to fall.


Carter finishes this section with an important question: How are Christian supposed to live? The attitudes that Christians need to have which Paul, Matthew, and John wrote about were in direct opposition to Roman thoughts about civil responsibility. Should they lie about their true allegiance? That would be counter to God’s will for them; they would be putting their soul in jeopardy, but they could also lose their life over it. Other options that Carter brings up are to fight, try to get laws changed, or to try to co-exist. None of these options work for the Christian, and for good reason. A small community of believers oppressed by a larger community of believers needs to stick to its morals in order to come out of the situations feeling like it won.


Carter argues that much of the early Christian writings were, at their base, propaganda against Rome. This might be a stretch, but—at the very least—there is evidence to support the idea that the Roman domination of the known world was on the mind of the early Christian church.