One of the more unexpected developments of Donald Trump’s presidency was his metamorphosis into an evangelical hero. American Christians didn’t just like his policies, they venerated him as a near supernatural being—the last hope against Antichrist.
Such a response, to any political leader, is unusual. Historically, from the Roman Empire to contemporary America, Christians have viewed heads of state with apocalyptic hostility. The pattern began at the end of the First Century with John of Patmos’s book of Revelation, its every monster is a thinly disguised version of Nero, Domitian, or some other louche and sadistic Emperor.
But in Revelation, Babylon is clearly, deliberately Rome. When, for example, John sees the Whore of Babylon seated on a beast with seven heads, an angel explains that the seven heads represent seven mountains. The allegory for Rome’s seven hills is so obvious one wonders why John bothered. Perhaps because half the joy in prophecy lies in the decoding.
By the early fourth century, though, after Rome had converted to Christianity, the identification of its rulers as Antichrist became untenable. Christianity had won, so there was no longer a clear villain.
From this basic description, it’s remarkable how many of Antichrist’s boxes Trump seems to tick. Before 2016, Trump was famously irreligious. His lifestyle recalls the best stories of Roman decadence. Like Nimrod, he built a golden tower in Manhattan, itself a modern-day Babylon. As every fact-checker would attest, Trump speaks lies at a pace close to what’s expected of Antichrist—30,573, by the Washington Post’s count.
Trump’s Jewish son-in-law would normally have raised anti-Semitic apocalyptic hackles, especially because this same son-in-law owned a building whose address happens to be 666 5thAvenue (5 is a symbol of fallen humanity because of its association with bodily senses, and 666 is . . . well, you know). The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is typically viewed as a precondition for the restoration of the Temple, again an important item on Antichrist’s resumé. And, of course, as President, Trump presided over a plague.
Yet none of these associations stuck. Trump proved to be a Teflon Antichrist. But how? His willingness to nominate conservative justices contextualizes the question but doesn’t explain the cult-like devotion he inspired.
Is comparing Trump to the antichrist a valid comparison?