Speed Reads

Speed Reads

Christians who oppose masking have 'the spirit of antichrist,' religion professor says

Obery M. Hendricks Jr., a religion professor at Columbia University, said last week that Christians who refuse to wear masks are possessed by "the spirit of antichrist."  

"These folk are not fulfilling their gospel responsibility. They're violating it. They're spitting in the face of it," Hendricks said. "It's anti-biblical. It's anti-Christian. And I'll go farther … what we see reflected in their attitudes and their actions and their pronouncements is what 1 John calls the spirit of antichrist."

In Christian theology, the term "antichrist" can refer to a particular human adversary who will appear shortly before Christ's return, but it can also refer to any person or force that opposes Christ and his teachings.  

Hendricks made these comments on the Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley's YouTube show Can I Push It? Wesley pastors the 8,000-member Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

"[W]hen we look again at these conservatives, these right-wingers that talk about 'You're infringing on my freedom by having me wear a mask' … they don't understand that they are violating the biblical principle of responsibility for our brothers and sisters," Hendricks told Wesley.

He went on to claim that Franklin Graham, Paula White, and Robert Jeffress — all prominent evangelical supporters of former President Donald Trump — also have the spirit of antichrist.

This is not the first time Hendricks has attributed this spirit to right-wing Christians. A 2020 profile quoted him as saying "the spirit of antichrist is being unleashed by right wing evangelicals' embrace of the discourse of evil personified in and articulated by Trump."

Hendricks is an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a self-described democratic socialist, and the author of Christians Against Christianity: How Right-Wing Evangelicals are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith.

According to his bio, he served on a State Department working group under then-Secretary Hillary Clinton and delivered a closing benediction at the 2008 Democratic Convention.