(Editor’s Note: The following is the latest newsletter of Canadian Catholic novelist Michael O’Brien best known for his apocalyptic novel Father Elijah.)
All Saints Day, 1 November 2008
From just north of the border, we Canadians, like other people throughout the world, are observing and praying for the coming federal election in the United States of America. I would prefer to keep private my counsel about political choices, because it is not my country. However, I am receiving letters from American subscribers and visitors to my studio website asking me some rather surprising questions about Barack Obama, related to one of my novels.
During the past year I have read a number of his pronouncements, and saw the smoke and mirrors beneath the rhetoric, but couldn’t understand why everyone south of the border (the other south of the border, the 49th parallel) was getting so excited about him, both pro and con. Then a few weeks ago a German friend called me immediately after Obama’s speech in Berlin, to say that the presidential candidate had mesmerized the crowds, and that a commentator on German television had said: “We have just heard the next President of the United States…and the future President of the World.” My friend felt that Obama bore an uncanny resemblance to the fictional character of the President in my novel Father Elijah. I have received several other letters saying the same thing and asking what I thought about it.
From my own reading of Obama’s declarations and stated positions, I knew he was an ultra-liberal, a social revolutionary with visionary pretensions. But the Antichrist? No, not possible, I thought. I felt that he was too shallow a man to be the Son of Perdition, the Man of Sin, the Beast of the Book of Revelation. And I still think so. Obama is a crowd-pleaser with just the right ethos of idealistic crusader. That the crusade and the banners under which it marches are evil does not automatically prove that he is the Antichrist.
But now that I have seen the video of the Berlin speech I think there is more here than meets the eye. He is indeed a powerful manipulator of crowds, even as he appears ever so humble and wholesomely charming. I doubt that he is the long-prophesied ruler of the world, but I also believe that he is a carrier of a deadly moral virus, indeed a kind of anti-apostle spreading concepts and agendas that are not only anti-Christ but anti-human as well. In this sense he is of the spirit of Antichrist (perhaps without knowing it), and probably is one of several key figures in the world who (knowingly or unknowingly) will be instrumental in ushering in the time of great trial for the Church under its last and worst persecution, amidst the numerous other tribulations prophesied in the books of Daniel and Revelation, and letters of St Paul, St. John, and St. Peter.
Of course the mystique that has grown up around him is endlessly reinforced by the liberal media, which presents him to us as a high-minded humanist, a kind of secular messiah (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 675). Yet when all the rhetoric is boiled down to its substance, the man is advocating unlimited state-sanctioned murder, and compounds it by indulging in habitual falsehood. He is well accustomed to playing loose with the truth whenever it is expedient for him to do so; or else he is the victim of the largest memory lapses in recorded history; or perhaps he is just not careful about how he expresses things–a blurring or selectivity regarding facts for the purpose of aggrandizing his public image. There is a controversy currently raging in the (admittedly unreliable) forum of the internet, prompted by an African-American talk show host in Los Angeles who listed 39 significant details that Barack Obama claimed were facts about himself, but on further investigation were proved to be simply untrue. There has been some wild-fire debunking of the debunking, and then more counter-debunking, but it remains obvious that forthrightness and clarity are not major concerns in the Obama camp.
What are we to make of a man who has appeared out of semi-obscurity and become, nearly overnight, so very much an idol of the popular imagination? That he intends to become the most effective advocate of murder of the unborn ever seen in America should give us pause. Murder and lies are as old as the lands east of Eden, of course, but when they are charmingly packaged, proposed as reasonable and just policies (with a smile, a resonant voice, and an appealing flash of the eyes), one begins to wonder just what is afoot in the modern age. It brings to mind a passage from the first Act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
“That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain…”
The line is from a scene where prince Hamlet has just encountered the ghost of his father, who informs his son that he was poisoned by his own brother Claudius (the “smiling, damned villain”), who after murdering him, seized the king’s crown and his queen.
Barack Obama is an image-maker, creating his own myth as he goes along. This would be a sad defect in any human being, but it takes on ominous proportions in a person who may become, after November 4th, one of the most powerful figures in the world. How is it possible that such a tragic turn of events may come about, if indeed a majority of Americans choose to believe the smile and the myth? Why is it that so many people have come to believe that a mirage is reality, even destiny? Do pro-Obama voters hanker for a world figure who would heal old divisions between races and religions, thus heralding a new age for mankind? During this time of near intolerable tensions, does he appear to be the one who can reconcile Islam and Christianity, Africa and America, occident and orient, black and white, rich and poor? Do they see his racial origins as a symbolic victory over the history of racial oppression? Do they see in him the good-hearted “under-dog”, the gutsy street fighter who agitates for the rights of the “little guy,” whose meteoric rise to a position of maximum influence represents themselves enthroned at last in the high seat of power? Is this why they ignore his every grave fault and hungrily consume his vague idealist platitudes as if these were a kind of new gospel for the third millennium? Our hero. Our visionary. Our Great Friend and spokesman in the forum of the world?
Clearly, contemporary man needs heroes. But why not choose a genuine one, why not look a little deeper and work a little harder to find a man of courage and principle, and if it helps in the historical healing process, why not a very different kind of black man, say a person like Alan Keyes, a scholar, former ambassador, experienced in different levels of government, and (it might be added) an African-American married to a woman from India. Moreover, he is a devout Catholic who believes in moral absolutes and has amply proved that he will stand firm to defend them regardless of the cost to his own career. He knows that kings and presidents cannot usurp the natural law, the moral order of the universe, without bringing down judgment upon their nations. But it need not be Keyes. It might be any number of other men and women of clear thought and clear principle. Surely there are “Ten Just Men” still out there somewhere in America. So why Obama? And why does he rise and rise as his mouth smiles and smiles, exuding sincerity as he speaks lies and death?
And why, most horribly, most shamefully, are so many Christians of malformed or unformed conscience supporting him? Is it because they have never been clearly instructed in the truth, never understood the foundation upon which the moral cosmos is built? Is morality for them merely another system of abstract “values” in a crowded playing field of such systems, from which one may pick and choose? In the case of Catholics, for example, have they been blinded by a diet of theological nuances and deadly little loopholes offered to them by the committees of national episcopal conferences – committees that have absolutely no authority over Catholics, yet which are widely revered as a kind of alternative Magisterium? Have they been deadened by a habitual dismissing or dissembling of the solid teaching given to them by the universal Church under Peter? Have they grown accustomed to listening to opinion shapers who tell them that certain excellent apostolic Bishops in America who teach the truth without compromise are merely hidebound reactionaries, moralistic extremists, contemporary manifestations of those old boogymen who still haunt the American psyche – the Chillingworths and Dimmesdales and the judges in The Scarlet Letter? And so it goes, this over-reaction to Puritanism played out over centuries, an over-reaction that breeds tragedies a thousand times worse than Salem’s. Lies compounding on lies, and it all floats on an ocean of spilled innocent blood. And who can gaze at that ocean (or be splashed by it) without coming to a radical choice: One either turns away into a deeper state of denial, or one turns heart and mind toward the splendor of Truth, and changes one’s life accordingly.
Is this why many of our Catholic people have become impulse-driven impressionists? Of course, the blindness is not due to the failure of pastors alone. The Ministry of Disinformation (by which I mean most modern media) has played a major role. There is also the erosion of truth in the education systems, combined with the gradual confusion and weakening of conscience through our addiction to the “soma” drugs supplied by the entertainment industry. Other factors may be the war in Iraq, or Republican economics, or the Bush administration, or the structure of Capitalism itself, or any number of prudential questions in the sociopolitical order, all of which are presently tangled nests of moral dilemma. But why do they not see that these questions are secondary to the fundamental issue of life itself? Why would they replace one reigning oligarchy with another kind of oligarchy – moreover, one that would kill vast numbers of its own citizens?
“I call on heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live….” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
May God bless and guide you,
in Jesus our Saviour,
with prayers and fasting,
PS: For those interested in a concise examination of the moral parameters of voting in the forthcoming election, I urge you to read an excellent article by Dr. Mark Miravalle, professor of Theology at Franciscan University, Steubenville, available at the following link: http://www.motherofallpeoples.com/index.php?option=com_conte…