Does Perry’s New Ad Suggest Romney is Satan?

Hmmmm. It looks like Lucas Baiano—the 23-year-old wunderkind who makes Michael-Bay-style political ads—has come out with a new one in support of Rick Perry’s candidacy, and against Mitt Romney’s. At least, I assume it’s him: it’s his style, and it was he who the Perry campaign hired after successfully directing Tim Pawlenty’s big-budget movie campaign spot. And that was after he’d made one for Hillary Clinton.

Which is why it’s sort of cheaply funny that this Baiano spot portrays Mitt Romney as being loathsome due to… ideological inconsistency. Derp. Here, though, maybe you’d better watch it yourself:

So here’s my question: Is this a very subtle anti-Mormon dogwhistle? To be sure, religion is not mentioned at all in the ad. Romney is portrayed as one who misleads, lies, is cozy with Obama (VISITS TO THE WHITE HOUSE! OH MY STARS!), supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and then lied about having done so. That’s the explicit message.

But the video opens with “Mislead: Mis-lead—to be misleading; tend to deceive.” Those on the watch for an identifiable Antichrist and signs of the end-times (and, um, hopefully a few others) know that “the deceiver” is used to describe Satan in the book of Revelation. Meanwhile, the wee little Second Epistle of John, in most English translations*, refers to certain theological opponents as “deceivers”—presumably docetists, who held that Christ wasn’t really a flesh-and-blood person but was more like a ghost, an apparition, an appearance.

Today Mormons actually believe something very different than this: that Jesus was the literal flesh-and-blood firstborn of God, and not (as most Trinitarian Christian traditions believe) a pre-existent divine Person that became incarnate in time. But still, one central dispute between the LDS and Trinitarian Christians is over the nature of Jesus’ flesh. Curious.

And then there’s the whole association with President Obama, in a time when some people seriously believe that Barack Obama is the slick-tongued hypnotic lying world leader “predicted” in Revelation. (That’s if you’re a dispensationalist, a theological viewpoint that is between 1/10th and 1/8th as old as Christianity, depending on how you start counting. Otherwise, Revelation is probably “that weird book at the end about the horsemen” or an interesting literary artifact about the persecutions under Nero or maybe Domitian, depending on your persuasion.)

Anyway: Is there an explicit anti-Mormon message? No. Is it maybe evoked, ever-so-lightly, while over a great epic-battle-of-good-vs-evil soundtrack and some serious cinematic styling? Well, if you squint, you can kinda get there, can’t you? Was it intended? Maybe not, although Baiano’s certainly talented enough to have picked up on that and subtly worked it in. But will the ad evoke some or all of these things for at least some viewers who are already deeply troubled about Romney’s being Mormon? Oh yes. Almost certainly.

*Confidential to my students: Here it’s legitimate to refer to an English translation, and not the Greek, because we’re talking about the target audience of a Rick Perry ad, so the subject matter is more what the ad would evoke in their minds, and less what the manuscripts said, let alone meant. I’m not trying to do exegesis here. Do as I say, not as I do, basically.

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