Edge of the Abyss: The Usefulness of Antichrist Terminology in the Era of Donald Trump

Academic discourse does not often reference the idea of antichrist, perhaps because it is seen as archaic or as too closely associated with religious fundamentalism. Robert Isaac Skidmore, a depth psychotherapist and an Orthodox priest, argues that antichrist, alongside its theological meaning, designates an aspect of our psychological, social, and political experience that becomes hazardous, especially when ignored or dismissed. Seeing Donald Trump’s cultural and political influence as expressive of an archetypal pattern, Skidmore explores implications of taking the idea of antichrist seriously—in order to lift it toward conscious awareness and responsible use. Christian individuals are asked to reconsider the theological function of the notion of antichrist as a summons to self-scrutiny concerning their fidelity to truth. Readers, religious or not, are invited to awareness of antichrist’s archetypal contours, in order to appreciate its significance for the understanding of psychological and social phenomena and to better understand the implications of its use—including its potential benefits and hazards.

“Dr. Skidmore has revived the importance of an ancient Christian idea, showing its relevance for our contemporary situation. His correlation of the Antichrist with the antisocial personality is particularly important in this context, presenting a challenge to Christians of all denominations.”

Lionel Corbett, Jungian analyst, Professor of depth psychology, Pacifica Graduate Institute

“In this suggestive piece, psychologist and theologian, Robert Skidmore, brings together concepts from Christian scripture and modern depth psychology to elucidate one another and, together, to cast light on a contemporary American political phenomenon. Specifically, he shows how the Biblical notion of ‘antichrist’ can both enhance and be enhanced by the psychological constructs of sociopathy, Freudian conceptions of repression and projection and Jungian ideas of shadow and archetype, and how these may help explain President Trump’s popularity among believers. Identifying deception as the hallmark of ‘fake Christ,’ Skidmore helps to bring to awareness the human temptation to revert to tribal instincts in stressful times. He cautions those who seek to follow Jesus to ‘put not your trust in princes nor the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation’ (Psalm 146:3).”

Mark Nickolas, Eastern Orthodox Christian and Psychologist

“I knew Rob Skidmore when he was a seminary student; Fr Isaac, to give him his ecclesiastical name; Prof. Skidmore, as I am proud to call him now. He has written a deceptively simple book, whose brevity and unassuming title belie its spiritual depth. Throughout, we are cautioned about the perils of self-deception and reminded of the need for self-awareness if we are to find healing and wholeness.  This is a profound book, but also very timely. In our era of Donald Trump, the concept of antichrist as we meet it in the Bible reminds us how easy it is to mistake error for truth, especially when error retains the appearance of truth. As Prof. Skidmore points out, psychology serves a similar function when it alerts us to the deceptive charms of the sociopath, who may show a high level of cognitive empathy but be altogether lacking in emotional or compassionate empathy – the con man who is very good at “reading” other people but lacks any inclination to take meaningful, helpful action.  This book is timely for another reason – one that Prof. Skidmore could not have realized when he was writing. The era of Donald Trump has now fused with the era of Covid-19. In recent years we have grown accustomed to the unprecedented. We cease to be shocked when conventional norms for behavior are discarded one after another. But in the era of Covid-19, our anxiety has been raised to a new level. We grasp for anything – even cartloads of toilet paper – that will give us a sense of being in control. Whatever we once thought of as “normal” is exposed as illusion. This may be a good thing. This may alert us to our need for the spiritual sobriety and vigilance that Prof. Skidmore expounds so ably.”

Rev. John H. Erickson, Peter N. Gramowich Professor Emeritus and Former Dean, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

“Until reading the Rev. Dr. Skidmore’s work, I had yet to find a fully layered, accurate, satisfying albeit sobering diagnosis of the mind-scrambling national madness in which we have all been embroiled in the past 5+ years. With wisdom drawn from depth psychology, political philosophy, and Christian theology, Skidmore adeptly wrests the construct of ‘antichrist’ from pop culture and applies it fruitfully to our present moment. In my estimation, the ‘usefulness of the terminology of Antichrist’ will be so if and only if we dare to do two things: 1. to take in its full meaning as Skidmore describes it. And 2. to then use it to do the hard of work of self-analysis, confession and transformation as Skidmore encourages. Only then, in Christ’s merciful true light, will we stand a chance to be freed from our collective intoxicating madness and be returned to our grounded loving right minds. But is that what we want?”
Deborah B. Edgar, PhD, LMFT, Private Practice, Pasadena, CA, www.theunselfishjourney.com