Election Day Antichrist Hunting

I was fascinated with all things Antichrist growing up. Whether the 1972 film “A Thief in the Night” or Salem Kirban’s novel “666,” I couldn’t get enough about the end times and this villain of villains.

I was terrified to realize that Ronald Wilson Reagan had three sets of six-letter words to his name. When Pope John Paul II was shot, I pondered if this would be the survived injury that I saw my Bible as predicting the Antichrist would miraculously recover from. The one thing I was sure of was that the Antichrist would be revealed soon, what with living in the end times and all.

Imagine my great disappointment upon eventually learning that the Antichrist of the biblical book of Revelation likely was code for the Roman emperor Nero, not someone on the evening news. Thankfully biblical scholars are not often listened to, so the game of Antichrist-hunting continues to provide hours of unabated entertainment among Christian fundamentalists and others worldwide.

The idea of the ultimate evil one tricking the world into worshiping him is forever appealing, particularly when knowing that in the end he is to be defeated and cast “alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

The idea of decoding the 666 secret and identifying his helper, “the false prophet that wrought miracles before him,” heightens the intrigue. One popular theory is that bar codes have a symbol for six at the beginning, middle and end, so the prophecy is fulfilled that we cannot buy or sell without this mark; perhaps we all will be tattooed with a barcode. Again, how crushing that the author of Revelation was signaling to Christians of his time that their persecutor Nero would be defeated, not us about bar codes.

An Internet search of “antichrist Hillary Clinton” turns up about 480,000 results, while one for “antichrist Donald Trump” turns up around 494,000. If there were any doubt that one can prove almost anything by stringing together small excerpts from any book a couple of inches thick — whether the Bible, the collected works of Shakespeare or the Quran — check out these websites.

You might as well squander time on Sudoku or Pokémon hunts as try to align micro-clues from scattered Bible verses with each wannabe leader crossing the headlines.

A more useful if devilish deduction is actually consistent with the idea of the Antichrist (i.e., contrary to the teachings of Christ) and requires far less tea-leaf reading. Asked the most important commandment, Jesus said loving God, then immediately added loving your neighbor. Asked who is a neighbor, Jesus used a parable involving the much-despised Samaritans to say it is likely the person you least find likable.

You could hear a thousand modern sermons and never guess it, but Jesus said nothing in the Bible about getting politically involved, abortion, homosexuality, protecting the environment or universal health care. Instead, the much harder assignment is loving your neighbor.

The essence of the Antichrist would thus be someone who teaches us to hate our neighbor. One who identifies a group (e.g. Samaritans) as despicable and scapegoats them. The genocidal hall of fame — with members like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot — is full of leaders constantly on a purge, forever seeking an elusive purity in ethnicity, belief or both.

Proceed with your Antichrist quest this election season. Just don’t waste time decoding names. Instead ask yourself which candidate(s) spend the most time telling us whom to hate and why, encouraging collective punishment of those impure in ethnicity or belief. Then cast them alive into a ballot box of fire, lest you too be culpable.

[This column originally appeared in the Waco Tribune-Herald on October 16, 2016.]

A Christian-Muslim Wedding Ceremony

 A few years back I performed a wedding ceremony for a couple with whom we are friends, with a Christian bride and Muslim groom. I was sadly surprised I could not find multiple sample ceremonies to work from. So here’s what I put together, in the hope someone out there finds it of use. Feel free to use and adapt as you see fit. And may your marriage last forever.

Marriage of BRIDE [Christian] & GROOM [Muslim]

          BRIDE and GROOM, you have come here today to seek the blessing of God, family, and friends as you join in this marriage of two faiths.

          First we hear these words from a translation of the Qur’an, referring to “People of the Book,” a group which includes Christians:

          This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues[–] if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).

          Also these words from the Qur’an:

          Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think.

          And these:

          Interact with your wives in a good manner for if you feel dislike for them, it may well be that you dislike something in which Allah places much good.

          And finally these:

          Whoever marries has completed half of his faith. So let him beware of Allah regarding the other half.

          Now we hear these words from the Bible:

          But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no one separate.

          And these:

          If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

            If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

          GROOM, you have taken BRIDE to be your wife.  Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

          [The Husband answers: I do.]

          BRIIDE, you have taken GROOM to be your husband. Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

         [The Wife answers: I do.]

         BRIDE and GROOM will now exchange rings, as gifts that will remind them of their love and commitment to each other.

          By the power vested in me by the State of Texas, I declare you husband and wife.  You may kiss the bride.

          Now, may the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you and your marriage. For we ask the Lord to not only bless your marriage, but also to keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.


Trump Criticizes Christ; Goes Up in Polls

Proving he is the hugest thing ever to hit the American political scene, Donald Trump’s poll numbers actually went up this month after his recent criticisms of Jesus Christ. Trump bragged that by contrast, even the Beatles fell in popularity when, 50 years ago, John Lennon asserted that Christianity was in decline and the group was “more popular than Jesus.”

Trump’s controversial comments came in a wide-ranging interview for Decision Magazine with Franklin Graham, son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham. In the article, Franklin describes the 2016 presidential race as “the most important election of our time” and Donald Trump as “The Chosen One.” Franklin invited Trump to “open up for our readers about your views on Jesus.”

After clarification from Franklin that he was referring to “Jesus Christ — the one in the Bible,” Trump said, “OK, that guy. I admit it. I’ve got some reservations about him. For one thing, he allowed himself to be captured. In my book, that’s not what a hero does. They don’t turn the other cheek — you know, choke. I wish he had punched the Romans in the face. Knocked the crap out of Judas. Judas was a very bad dude. Had it coming.”

The transcript reflects Franklin Graham breaking into a coughing spell at this point, while Trump continues to propound on what Jesus had done wrong. “He praised the Samaritans — people who wouldn’t have been around if not for open borders. He said the meek were blessed. Did you get that? The meek are blessed. The other religions — I mean — they’re laughing at us.”

When Franklin resumed his composure, he pushed back, questioning if Trump meant what he said. “Oh, I know more than the generals about ISIS, and more than Jesus about living right,” Trump assured him.

Trump went on to list other areas of disagreement:

“Blessed are the peacemakers? It’s very weak. I’m going to make America so unmeek you’ll get tired of it.”

“Blessed are you when you are persecuted? I guess he couldn’t afford lawyers to stand up for his rights. Or maybe Roman laws were like ours: too much protection to people who tells lies about you.”

“Praying in private and secretly giving to the poor? I mean, what’s the point if the cameras don’t catch it? If it’s not on TV, it didn’t happen. Just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Asked if he could name one thing Jesus did right, Trump cited the ability to express memorable things in a tweetable 140 characters or less: “The Golden Rule, you know, that ‘Treat others like they treat you’ — Jesus said that in less than 40 characters and everyone in the world knows about it. It’s great, really great. Walking on water, that’s another thing I admire. Believe me, I really do.”

Franklin pegged religious freedom as “the No. 1 issue” and Trump as “100 percent right on it.” He compared this to Hillary Clinton being a Methodist, “which in the end is only nine letters away from Muslim.”

Trump noted with pride that he does “very well with the Jews, a lot of them are voting for me and are my close friends. They count my money. I trust them.”

Franklin wrapped up by admitting he resented Trump for making Christians choose between “political power and the Prince of Peace” but that Trump was right: Jesus spent “too much time with the needy — if Jesus focused more on flattering the political elite like I do, Herod and Pilate would have been his buddies.”

Trump nodded his hair in agreement.


[Originally appeared in September 27, 2016 Waco Tribune-Herald at 4A.]

My (Pitiful) Trump Endorsement

In response to Sammy McLarty’s Sept. 4 pro-Trump column in the Tribune-Herald, I also start with a quote:

“In religion and politics, people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” — Mark Twain

Behold how many areas of agreement McLarty and I have (with minor exceptions noted):

• Like the Founding Fathers, Trump will be independent of “the Establishment — the ruling class” (except the Founding Fathers feared mob rule as much as a king and, on the downside, excluded over half the population from voting).

• Trump “will not be bound by shady alliances/allegiances or beholden to special interests” (except for his ties to the most dangerous of our totalitarian enemies, Vladimir Putin, and his support from American nationalists who wish to overthrow our system of civil rights and due process for all). Trump surely will disregard the interests of big business (other than those of himself, his family and his cronies).

• Trump speaks “plainly, no matter whose sacred cow or favored groups are offended” (and only in one out of two speeches does he show disdain for women, “the blacks,” “the Mexicans” or some combination thereof).

• He will deal with “uncontrolled immigration” (by doing the same things President Obama is now doing: stopping entry at the border, prioritizing deportation of immigrants who commit crimes, increasing spending on the U.S. Border Patrol and keeping the net immigration of Mexican nationals at zero or lower).

• He will stop “unfair trade causing billions in trade imbalance” and “globalization at the expense of working Americans” (by devoting less time to his businesses that have relied on illegal immigrants, imports of cheap clothing from China and cheating small businesses out of the money he owes them that they would use to make payroll).

• He will stand up to big news media (except he embraced as a campaign adviser Roger Ailes, who headed the hugest U.S. news network — Fox — and was deposed over blocking career advancement of females not returning his sexual advances).

• Trump will end “juvenile” collegiate angst about “safe spaces, safe speech and safe thought” (except he wants to change the First Amendment to make it easier to sue journalists who criticize him; a couple of his followers have the habit of whining to the Trib when one of my columns ribbing Trump invades their safe space).

• Trump honors his supporters’ “madder’n hell” view of the world (except that their griping is odd given they live in the wealthiest nation in human history and claim to be oppressed whenever it is suggested others might be given the opportunities they were).

• The alternative is a return of “Bill and Hillary back in the White House” (and who among us could bear the economically prosperous, pre-9/11 world of the 1990s?).

• “Someone so opposed by so many must be doing something right” (except that opposition by those who traditionally support the GOP nominee could be a sign that Trump truly is a danger).

• In short, Trump will bring a political revolution, an earthquake of change in Washington (though the middle class tends to get screwed in revolutions and earthquakes create great destruction).

Frustration over the lack of “trickle down” to the middle class of the prosperity experienced by the 1 percent is understandable. We merely disagree over whether a huckster, influence-buying, small-business-busting billionaire is the solution.

This column originally appeared in the Waco Tribune-Herald  on Friday, September 9, 2016.

Bears in the Woods v. the Custodians

In lieu of a petition to the Waco City Council

Hidden deep among the cottonwood and cedar trees along the Brazos river, a meeting was being held of the Venerated Council of Sovereign North American Black Bears. While the business at hand was quite important, we use only first names to protect identities.

Bruiser: Order! Order! Come to order! What is our business today?

Joy: I have an idea for reducing poverty among the bear populations.

Joe: I have an idea for preserving the bear middle class!

Ted: I have an idea for attracting bees that produce more honey.

Bruiser: All great ideas. But we have one agenda item left from the last council meeting.

Joy: Surely it could not be more pressing than stopping the cycle of poverty!

Bruiser: Oh, much more important. It is an idea to save us 294,000 jars of honey a year.

Ted: Fantastic!

Joe: Too good to be true!

Bruiser: All we have to do is contract out the custodial work.

Ted: This is better than Pooh’s Spring Cleaning Mystery!

Joy: It’s a no brainer. We’d have to have fluff in our ears not to know that.

Bruiser: We get to pay someone else to pay the custodial bears for us.

Joe: They do it for free?

Bruiser: No, they take the smaller amount of honey we give them and they take some of it out for their trouble, but they let the custodial bears have the drops that are left.

Joy: I bet the custodial bears will be happy not to have to worry about having insurance cards to carry around anymore.

Ted: And no more having to count vacation days.

Joe: And no more having to find a place in a tree to store retirement statements.

Bruiser: This is the best idea we have ever had! We can use the honey we save to spread around to bring new businesses to the forest. When they open, they might create jobs that provide more honey to our fellow bears!

Joy: The problem with giving the custodial bears honey is that they will just use it up.

Ted: But what if the custodial bears get angry?

Joe: They claim to be working too hard to show up for our meetings, but I think that just proves that we should contract them out. They don’t care about us.

Bruiser: I’m sure one of those custodial bears will suggest contracting out this Venerated Council of Sovereign North American Black Bears. But that won’t happen — the other bears rely on us to protect their quality of life.

Joy: To attract new jobs with honey saved by cutting ones we already have.

Ted: Exactly! Even the custodial bears will be grateful once they realize that their losing honey, insurance, leave and retirement benefits might just maybe someday help create a job for another bear that provides all those things.

Joe: Let’s promise to use most of the honey we save for programs to stop bear poverty. That way even the do-gooder bears can’t complain.

Bruiser: It’s unanimous then. A round of tea and honey for everyone!

Joy: You have forgotten, Brother Bruiser, that we end all our meetings with a reading of a randomly picked verse from our Beloved Bear Bible.

Joe: (Flipping open the Beloved Bear Bible, putting his claw down) Here it is, “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least paid of these bears, you refused to help me.”

Ted: Not sure what it means, but I like it.

Joy: As Pooh remarked, “They say nothing is impossible, but I did it today.”

This column originally appeared in the August 13, 2016 Waco Tribune-HeraldUse of the names of Baylor mascots in the story above does not constitute the endorsement by real bears of the actions described.

Trump apologizes! For all of it!

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump stunned the electorate last night with an extended apology. He did so without the sort of “mistakes were made” equivocation so often heard from establishment politicians. His confession was direct and full of humility.

“America, I ask you to forgive me,” he began, “for what I have done and what I have left undone. I humbly repent and promise to do better.” The apologyathon at his New York press conference was preceded by setting the social media world aflame by tweeting simply “I have sinned. #repenting.”

At the press event, Trump acknowledged a litany of what he labeled “offenses against God and man.”

“Forgive me, Capt. Khan, for insulting the honor of your sacrifice and your religion.

“Forgive me, Sen. Cruz, for alleging your father plotted with assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

“Forgive me, Sen. McCain, for calling you a loser for being a prisoner of war.

“Forgive me, Megyn Kelly, for using your gender to attack you for a tough question.

“Forgive me, Judge Curiel, for assuming your Latino heritage justified recusal.

“Forgive me, small-business colleagues, for cheating you out of money I owed you.

“Forgive me, Trump University graduates, for selling you a worthless degree.

“Forgive me, female reporters, for saying it doesn’t matter what you write as long as you’ve ‘got a young and beautiful piece of a–.’

“Forgive me, female soldiers, for saying sexual assaults were an expected result of letting women in the military.

“Forgive me, New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, for mocking your disability.

“Forgive me, women of American and Eastern Europe, for treating you like property.

“Forgive me, President Obama, for lying about where you were born and suggesting you like it when terrorists attack us.

“Forgive me, African-Americans and Jews, for saying I didn’t want ‘black guys counting my money,’ instead only ‘little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.’

“Forgive me, women of childbirth age, for saying that if you get an abortion, ‘There has to be some form of punishment.’

“Forgive me, Hillary Clinton, for claiming that you made a deal with the devil and are the devil.

“Forgive me, Ivanka, for describing you by saying, ‘What a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father …’ and saying that if you weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating you.

“Forgive me, Mexican immigrants, for suggesting you are nearly all rapists and other kinds of criminals.

“Forgive me, Muslims in New Jersey, for suggesting you cheered the 9/11 attacks.

“Forgive me, Rosie O’Donnell, for saying you were a fat pig and disgusting animal.

“Forgive me, citizens of Ukraine, for falsely claiming Putin did not invade you.

“Forgive me, Republican primary colleagues, for calling you low-energy, ugly to look at, little, fat, big-eared, embarrassing and disgusting.

“Forgive me, Univision, Washington Post and Huffington Post, for revoking your press access simply because I could not take criticism.

“Finally, forgive me, God and good citizens, for never having ever asked for forgiveness before in my life.”

The apologies caused an immediate spike in the polls, with Trump taking a 15-point lead. In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan declared: “This, this is the Donald Trump we have all waited for, that we knew was in there, waiting to come out. God bless America, and God bless Donald Trump.”

Within minutes of Trump’s pronouncement, Hillary Clinton tweeted: “It’s satire. #duh.”

This column originally appeared in the August 4, 2016 Waco-Tribune Herald, where David is a member of the Board of Contributors.

Trump Debate Transcript Leaked!

“The system is rigged!”

That’s the one thing that The Donald, The Bernie and the me agree on. How else could I have obtained this leaked Sept. 26 transcript of the first presidential debate? From it we learn exactly what Trump (DT), Hillary Clinton (HC) and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (GJ) will say. Apparently the only detail to be filled in is which reporters will ask the scripted questions — just as you suspected.

Media: Welcome to Dayton, Ohio, and the first general election debate of the 2016 presidential election.

DT: I’m Donald Trump! Spasibo!

HC: And I’m not. Not at all.

GJ: I’m . . . I’m . . . oh my god, I’m in a presidential debate . . . I . . .

Media: How will we solve the $20 trillion national debt?

DT: Chapter 13 and I don’t mean the Two Corinthians.

HC: I propose we tax bigotry.

GJ: When they go low, we’ll get high. And tax it.

Media: What’s your position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal?

DT: Trump University is offering a course on trade wars. Get out your credit cards.

HC: Is this microphone working? (tapping mike) I believe I’m out of time, I . . .

GJ: Legal pot brownies. Legal pot Dr. Pepper floats. Legal pot Cheetos. Legal—

Media: Who would your first Supreme Court nominee be?

DT: Judge Roy Bean? Believe me — a law and order guy. Maybe Judge Reinhold? I loved “Beverly Hills Cop.” Huge fan.

HC: Someone not named Donald Trump. Michelle Obama?

GJ: Ummm . . . Bob Marley? Timothy Leary? It’s great to be invited to this —

Media: Should abortion rights be protected or eliminated?

DT: I’d jail the women . . . no, I support the right to . . . wait . . . I mean . . . I am personally committed to never having an abortion. The pigs who —

HC: I’m still not Donald Trump. Have we seen Donald’s tax returns yet?

GJ: Freedom from government regulation is the cornerstone of our constitutional —

Media: Does money have too much influence in politics?

DT: Why do you hate freedom?

HC: As you saw in the Priorities USA Action Super Pac ad, I’m getting money out of politics.

GJ: Did you know “Federal Reserve” is Latin for “Feed the Illuminati”?

Media: Who’s had the most influence on your life?

DT: The Benjamins. My favorite president.

HC: Certainly not Donald Trump. Never been mistaken for each other, by the way.

GJ: Umm . . . Ross Ulbricht? Okay, maybe not. Satoshi Nakamoto? Okay, Willy Wonka?

Media: What’s your solution for the war in Syria?

DT: I’ve got a secret plan. Huge, with the greatest ally ever. Pobeda za nami!

HC: Dictators, whether Bashar al-Assad or Donald Trump, respond only to strength. I . . .

GJ: Is Syria on our mail route? If not, we shouldn’t be there. We can’t afford endless—

Media: How will you deal with climate change?

DT: It’s bull****, that whole thing. I’ll fire Mother Nature for bleeding out her whatever. I’ll teach that pig to —

HC: It will be a cold day in hell before I am mistaken for Donald Trump.

GJ: Only with free markets can we solve a problem as great as —

Media: Any final words for the voters?

DT: There’s something going on. That’s all I’ll say. We need to look into it. Dobro pozhalovatʹ.

HC: God Bless America and vote for someone other than Donald Trump. Those emails I sent about Donald being on the DNC payroll, ignore those. Thought they had been deleted.

GJ: Oh no! I wasted my one chance to tell America how —

Media: And so it ends. See you Oct. 4 in Farmville, Virginia!


[Originally appeared July 31, 2016 at 7A in Waco Tribune-Herald, where David is a member of the Board of Contributors]