When I heard a passionate televangelist use the word “antichrist”, my first thought was: “Whoa, calm down, bro. You’re a little too angry for an invisible boogieman.”
I think the contrast between the vibrant approach of Protestant preachers and the priests at my home church, who normally deliver their homilies in a more reserved and measured fashion, certainly affected my perception of the word… let alone that I have no recollection of any of my local priests saying the word in or outside of the Liturgy.
“The resurrection was the ultimate victory, right?!
If I believe Christ has competitors, does it mean I don’t believe in the power of His resurrection? Are these Protestants just trying to make people scared?”
That’s the best I could surmise as a young, practicing Catholic. I actually thought it was a word that 20th century zealots created to be combative towards those who are not a part of their church or movement.
But… it appears that John used it before televangelists.
Realizing that there was a big gap between my understandings of the word’s etymology and meaning, I looked in the dictionary of my “Fireside New American Bible” to learn the actual definition:
“(The antichrist) refers to the ruling spirit of error, the enemy of the Gospel, and the opponent of Christ who will precede His Second Coming and the end of the world” (11).
Ok, well… that actually isn’t such a far-fetched idea… Or at least doesn’t seem as incredible as saying there is a boogieman or Bigfoot.
I think you can be a rational believer and affirm that there are legitimate enemies to Christ and the Gospel. There are real competitors to pursuing the fullness of life that is promised to us by subscribing to all that the faith demands and cooperating with grace.
John’s first letter, though written to a different audience, remains germane to the ‘religion’ conversation today. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, the fastest growing group in the United States is those who claim no religious affiliation. Today, the greatest competitor to the full message of the Gospel is not just a warped version of it, but in fact, an apathy that asserts it is arcane and obsolete. I’d be remiss to not mention that the recent revelation of the Church’s heinous secrets may have also played a part in the decline of membership, but that wouldn’t explain why mainline Protestants suffered an even greater decline.
The question remains:
What do we do?
We encounter each person right where they are and love them, scars and all.
Live the Gospel.
Proclaim Christ with your life.
Radiate the joy of Truth.
During the week, Matthew Juliano is a mentor for individuals who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. He has started a Youtube Series that explains and raises awareness about the work he does, which can be found HERE. On the weekends, he is a drummer for Full Armor Band. You can find more content by Matt and his band at www.fullarmorband.com.