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Is Dubya Damien Thorn?

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Apparently, it isn't just Democrats who think George W. Bush is the Antichrist. A minority of religious conservatives are taking a second look at the 43rd president of the United States to gauge where the man who recently conquered Babylon fits into their parochial view of biblical prophecy.

Such talk, oddly enough, is limited to only a few extremist sites on the Internet. After all, as governor of Texas, George Bush proclaimed June 10 "Jesus Day" three years ago. That's a whole lot of pandering for the votes of the righteous. It's hard to believe that a politician so devoted to parading his religion before men would reveal himself to be a wolf in sheep's clothing, right?

That's why the most fire-breathing preachers on AM radio will think twice before endangering their tax-exempt status by denouncing the current president of the United States as the Beast of End Times prophecy -- even if the shoe fits.

So it's up to a few disgruntled preachers and a handful of increasingly alarmed millenarian zealots to offer an alternative explanation for the remarkable political success of George W. Bush. By every conventional barometer, the president should be dead in the water politically by now.

Any other leader presiding over such a high unemployment rate, a series of wars in Islamic countries, stagnating economic indicators and a ballooning federal deficit spurred on by injudicious tax cuts would find his popularity in the low single digits.

Having said this, it still takes a supernatural act of imagination to envision a scenario in which one of the Democrats in the field of declared candidates can beat Bush next year. Given a contest between, say, Rev. Al Sharpton and the Son of Perdition for our precious electoral votes, it doesn't take a prophet to guess the outcome -- Sharpton: 0; The Antichrist: 666.

So it was amusing -- and a little frightening -- to watch the president strutting around St. Petersburg and Evian over the weekend as if he were the king of the world. The only man with a bigger smile than Bush at the G8 Summit was Tony "The False Prophet" Blair, a golden-tongued devil who has put his powers of erudition at his ally's service.

If someone had cued the spooky music from "The Omen" during the exchanges of insincere smiles and perfunctory handshakes, the world would've known immediately what the deal was.

There, in the heart of what Donald Rumsfeld contemptuously refers to as "Old Europe," Bush and Blair exerted Damien-like power over the political leaders of Europe and Japan. I half expected a crazed Gregory Peck to leap out of the wings, ceremonial daggers held high, to plunge into the heart of the Beast.

But alas, the force of Bush's amiable personality forced French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to pursue banal chitchat, lest more divisions between the allies emerge. At that moment, Bush happily consolidated his control over the entire world.

In theological circles where the Book of Revelation is considered, at best, a prequel to the enormously popular "Left Behind" series, it is widely believed that the Antichrist will be a Jewish male. It's amazing that Jews are at the center of every paranoid fantasy that's ever been hatched. Even as the world is ending they can't catch a break.

The Antichrist's various attributes are believed to include glibness, a European intellectual pedigree and an aversion to all religions in which he isn't worshipped as God Almighty.

Now, this may be a bit of a stretch for those emotionally invested in the 19th-century heresy concocted by John Nelson Darby, which serves as the basis for this apocalyptic theology, but what if the so-called Antichrist turns out to be a malaprop-spouting Methodist from Texas? What a diabolical twist that would be, huh?

Coincidences aside, George Bush doesn't have the necessities to be the kind of Antichrist we deserve. Still, "Antichrist" is a tag that nicely fits several members of his inner circle (paging Karl Rove and John Ashcroft). In any case, quibbling over the identity of the Beast will be the least of our problems if the administration succeeds in stripping us of our civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.

Tony Norman can be reached at tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631.

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