Romania sure gets a bad press in American popular fiction. Vampires, orphans, war crimes, vampires. The horror writer Dan Simmons once managed to work all three together in one of his books, with added vampire content (this is not a recommendation). But Romania might now be best known among American readers as the home of the Antichrist. Yes, that's right. Just when you thought Romania's PR couldn't get any better. The Left Behind series of books is immensely popular in the US. Tens of millions of copies have been sold here. Basically, it's a series of disaster thrillers where the disaster is a fringe Protestant interpretation of prophecies regarding the Christian Apocalypse. The story begins with all the good Christians vanishing -- the Rapture -- and the people left behind (get it?) scrambling in their wake. It's religious fiction with a viewpoint from deep within the paranoid tradition of the American psyche. About the only concession these books make to modern ecumenical sensibilities is including Old Red Socks the Pope in the general disappearances. (This is a big step forward, believe it or not. Remember where Ian Paisley got his doctorate.) I'm not sure if there's a parallel European genre to this type of fiction. Holy Blood, Holy Grail? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Kind of sort of? Gentle European readers, you tell me. The authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, aren't exactly subtle. I'm an extremely lapsed Methodist myself, but I am familiar with Protestant traditions even more paranoid and esoteric than theirs, so when I skimmed these books I kept on expecting the obvious Jesus guy also to be a minion of the Devil -- those false prophets, don't you know -- and his followers cast into the Lake of Fire to burn forever and ever, mwahahahaha! No such luck. Anyway, the real Antichrist in the series is a fellow named Nicolae Carpathia. See what I mean about subtle? At the beginning of the first book, he's an obscure politician from the lower house of the Romanian parliament, I dunno, maybe from Brasov, but due to his extraordinary, nay, vampiric charm... well, you know. Fred Clark at Slacktivist is doing a page by page commentary of the Left Behind series, all of which is worth reading, and the rest of his blog is pretty good too. But this comment in particular caught my eye:
That word -- "peacemaker" -- practically screams Antichrist. For LaHaye and Jenkins' intended readers, it wouldn't be any clearer if Carpathia had the number "666" tattooed on his forehead and went by the nickname "Horny Beast."It so happens I have a book called Gorbachev! Has the real Antichrist come?, by one Robert W. Faid, published by Victory House Publishers of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1988. You know I'm going to give you a sample.
Gorbachev is anxious to present himself to the world as a man of peace, to be trusted and accepted by the Western World. Such a treaty would establish him as the leading global statesman of the age. He would be hailed by the entire world community as a 'man of peace'. I expect such treaties to be signed before the end of the current administration and to result in what will be a monumental victory for Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. The irony of all this is that Gorbachev, the man who is very probably the antichrist, could conceivably win the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Ronald Reagan who will retire from office with dignity and respect for it. What irony will this be, for if Gorbachev is truly the man John saw astride a white horse with a bow and a crown, he will, as told to us in Revelation 6:3, "go forth conquering and to conquer."In our reality, Gorbachev couldn't even put down the Lithuanians, and ended up making TV commercials for Pizza Hut. He did have that freaky birthmark though. At least thinkers within Orthodox Christianity have wrought a more interesting picture of the Antichrist. Here's an excerpt from Vladimir Solovyov's last work, War, Progress, and the End of History:
At that time, there was among the few believing spiritualists a remarkable person -- many called him a superman -- who was equally far from both, intellect and childlike heart. He was still young, but owing to his great genius, by the age of thirty-three he had already become famous as a great thinker, writer, and public thinker. Conscious of the great power of spirit in himself, he was always a confirmed spiritualist, and his clear intellect always showed him the truth of what one should believe in: the good, God, and the Messiah. In these he believed, but he loved only himself. He believed in God, but in the depths of his soul he involuntarily and unconsciously preferred himself. He believed in Good, but the All-Seeing Eye of the Eternal knew that this man would bow down before the power of Evil as soon as it would offer him a bribe -- not by deception of the senses and the lower passions, not even by the superior bait of power, but by his own immeasurable self-love. This self-love was neither an unconscious instinct nor an insane ambition. Apart from his exceptional genius, beauty, and nobility of character, the reserve, disinterestedness, and active sympathy with those in need which he evinced to such a great extent seemed abundantly to justify the immense self-love of this great spiritualist, ascetic, and philanthropist. Did he deserve blame because, being as he was so generously supplied by the gifts of God, he saw in them a sign of Heaven's special benevolence towards him, and thought himself only second to God himself? In a word, he considered himself to be what Christ in reality was. But this conception of his higher value showed itself in practice not in the exercise of his moral duty to God and the world but in seizing his privilege and advantage at the expense of others, and of Christ in particular.Then a mysterious stranger advises him to become a best-selling author. Around the world, "cheap editions with portraits of the author were sold in millions of copies", and soon this fellow reaches the highest political office of them all... Honest. I'm just saying.