We The Antichrist

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

I grew up on movies about the "end times." I used to eat popcorn to Gary Busey running from possessed government agents trying to capture Christians led by Franco Macalousso a.k.a. "The Antichrist" in the Tribulation. In this movie, agents would capture Christians, put an technological device over their faces, and introduce them to the Antichrist in a computer generated world, like where Neo and Trinity pick out their weapons in The Matrix. In this world, Christians would be faced with the dilemma of picking between a "promised oasis of never ending pleasure" offered by the Antichrist or sticking to their convictions of faith and be killed instantly. This made for great television. 

I remember being taught that this Antichrist would show up one day in America, or in Israel, and appear charming, but secretly be Satan in disguise plotting to convert Christians into his army of darkness. Every time a new president was elected, I would hear from hyper-Christians, often from my church, that he was the Antichrist and we must not trust him. Over and over again a new president would be elected, and they would say the same thing. I finally started to believe that these people were just being hypocondriadic based off of similar experiences that I had growing up – juggling a fear based mentality produced by Revelation pastors and the writers of "end times" movies. Especially in the 90's, many evangelicals had their own version of "end times" movies from Omega Code to Left Behind. It was a popular topic to teach on in this decade.

The reason why I am using apocalyptic terminology is because today feels like what some people would describe as the "end times."

I will not deny that there could be a point in time when this figure known as "Satan" arrives wearing a human mask, but I cannot give a hard yes or a hard no. All I know is that focussing on the coming of Antichrist keeps us from seeing the Antichrist in our midst today.

Over the past few days I have been reflecting on the horrific events that took place in Charlottesville, VA, and I can confidently say that I have seen the Antichrist. Although, I have not seen the Antichrist as a rising politician,

or a charming bachelor,

or a controversial religious leader,

or in any specific individual at all,

but I have seen the Antichrist in a system, a principality, a power, and a structure of hate, prejudice, and supremacy in the distorted minds of children of God. These systems were created out of fear, ignorance, time, prejudice, rivalry, jealously, entitlement, by confused, broken, distorted, poisoned, and psychologically unstable people. 

Genesis says that we are all family made in the likeness of our divine father (who is love) and this means the ugliness that we have seen has come from our very own family members who are acting contrary to their Creator. (And many of us want to give those family members a good punch in the face.)

What I realized terrified me, and made me thankful:

We all have the capability of producing this much hate, violence, destruction, and division in our own lives. We may just not believe in it, act on it, take stands on it, or join alt-right groups, but the potential is there. On the flip side, we all have the love of the father deep down living inside of us. Many of us ignore it, deny it, reject it, replace it, but Trinity has made us in it's likeness and this means we were born for love and not for hate.

The message and actions of the Alt. Rights, Neo-Nazis, and the KKKs, are anti-christ, anti-human, and anti-love. These actions were done in the name of God and in the name of America. This is not "we the people," but "we the antichrist." The phrase "We the people," the first words in our constitution, is an inclusive invitation for the rights and equality of all people who reside within our borders. These words still hold this weight and truth today, but they are abused for evil when violence and racism is done in the name of America. 

This is not a democratic or a republican problem. This is not a left or a right problem, but an anti-human problem. Most rights or republicans would never condone such actions that took place this past weekend. Lefts and rights need to come together now more than ever. 

We need to stop looking for the Antichrist as an individual, and realize that we all have the potential to be anti-christ through our thoughts, words, and deeds. 

We need to realize that, as humans, we are all in this thing called life together. We are all children of the living God. We are all family by divine blood. We are as beautiful as the most peaceful family member, and as ugly as the most violent family member. When we respond with hate, vengeance, and aggression, we are not responding christologically. 

Should Christians meet out in the streets with homemade sticks that have metal attached at the ends to fight others over hateful speech? I don't believe in this, but you better believe if I saw another human being beaten, I would use strong force (especially the moves I have learned in my 10 classes of Kickboxing I got from Groupon) to rescue that person in need. I have no problem with the many people who were defending others in the streets that were experiencing terror. There is a difference in saving our family members from terror, and agreeing to a deathly brawl that Jesus refuted us from doing. Jesus told Peter to lay down his sword. 

As Christians and Americans, we must fight white supremacy and ALL hate groups with peace and love; not vengeance and hate. People are not our enemy. Actions, systems, principalities, powers, and structures that support violence and death are the enemy. Genesis 9:6 says, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man."

One of my favorite authors and pastors Brian Zahnd tweeted, "Antichrist is not a B-movie 'Left Behind' villain." and "Antichrist marched in #Charlottesville last night."

While we should join the streets with the message of Christ and rescue those in trouble, we must not respond in vengeance or in death to the oppressor. How can this make us any better? The oppressor is in bondage as much as those being oppressed, if not more. When we take a stand for life for all humans, we stand for life of the oppressor as well. 

To be "America First" means we are anti-christ. To engage in hate speech towards marginalized people, oppressors, or government officials creates a world of separation. I can't help but think "We The People" actually means "We The Antichrist" when we respond with hate and violence. America (the people) must not return violence for violence. America must not return cursing for cursing. America must not return death for death. This makes us anti-christ. I am not saying that America (the nation) is anti-christ or anti-Christian, but the words and actions of many people are and the world is watching us.

To be for all people, means we defend those in need, pray for those oppressing, open our borders, and build bridges for all to stand together in love. We don't stand with white supremacists because white supremacy is an evil system. We stand for those who identify as white supremacists in prayer and hopes to find ways to remove the blindness from their eyes. This is hard work and not our natural inclination. Just like Dr. King encouraged us, through violence we may murder the white supremacist (human), but we won't murder the racism. Too murder racism means we fight for the acceptance of all people. To bring heaven and earth, we must fight violence and hate with love through the power of the Spirit.

Many wise pastors and authors encouraged all of us in Church leadership to begin our Sunday morning services in repentance and humility as a response to this weekend. We must not draw a line the sand and point fingers or throw rocks at those on the other side. We must remove the log out of our own eye before we begin constructing this world of love and peace that we all desperately desire. As Christians and Americans, we must erase the line completely and fight for the oneness in Christ together. To be a Kingdom activist means we are bridge builders, not builders of empires or castles. We must build bridges that leads everyone to the oneness of the Divine. "We the people" means we are "people first," not "America first." This is the stand I choose to take as a Christian and an American.  

  

Will RetherfordComment