With a seminar title like that, one is likely to draw a crowd - and it did. The full title of the presentation was "Is Obama the Antichrist? The Rise of American Fundamentalist Anti-Liberalism" by Dr. Matthew A. Sutton, Professor of History at Washington State University. Sutton is spending the year at University College Dublin as a Fulbright Scholar, and a part of his duties is to give seminars around Europe. He spoke at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies and was introduced by Dr. Jan Stievermann who is part of the collaborative efforts of the HCA with the Pepperdine program in Heidelberg.
Matt started the seminar by answering the question re Obama - "No." He went on to add that he believes today's fundamentalists/evangelicals see Obama as a sign, or precursor to the soon-to-come antichrist. Matt gave a very thorough and engaging summary of the rise of fundamentalism, from the publication of The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth to the changing nature of the relationship of fundamentalists with government. Fundamentalists have always espoused a small government that does not interfere with their lives, and early on were very much committed to that principle, to the point of being considered un-American because of their lack of support for the First World War. This changed by the time of the Second World War, and as they became more involved in both the political and cultural scenes, their zenith was the election of Ronald Reagan as President. Reagan was a person who understood their theology, who apparently agreed with their world-view, and who certainly spoke their apocalyptic language, e.g. Russia being the evil empire. Although they considered W their man in the White House, he did not live up to their expectations. Naturally the election of Obama, who many fundamentalists believe is a foreign-born Muslim, signals another step toward the rapture, the end of the world battles, the Reign of Jesus, etc. Paradoxically, they long for the return of Jesus but seem intent on crushing the very person who they believe is a sign of the coming tribulation. Similarly, they are Zionists not because of their fondness of the Jews but because the re-gathering of the Jews in Israel fulfills the prophecies for the end times, in which of course they will all be slaughtered along with all other non-believers.
My perspective is that it is interesting to note that fundamentalists believe in small government for those outside the fold but want government on the side of those inside the fold. They first were supportive of separation of church and state and now espouse basically a theocracy. I asked Matt how the fundamentalists became anti-intellectual, anti-science and particularly anti-evolution, and his first response was that he did not really feel that they were anti-intellectual. He said that over the decades, they had withdrawn from the public educational scene and became cloistered in their own educational system. As Matt continued to develop his answer, he mentioned a colleague of his who was banished from the fundamentalist system because of his academic views on evangelicalism, and at that point Matt changed his answer to say that yes, they are anti-intellectual. I later learned that his colleague is Randall Stephens who along with my friend Karl Giberson authored a book entitled "The Anointed - Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age." I believe that this book and this unflattering assailing of fundamentalist in the New York Times [The Evangelical Rejection of Reason] are fundamental to the fact that they are both no longer affiliated with Eastern Nazarene College.
In case you are wondering how it is all going down: