Revelations and materialism

I finished reading through Revelations yesterday. 

I share these observations with a bit of hesitation.  It was recently pointed out to me that Revelations contains the instruction to neither add nor take away from itself.  It also contains the promise that we benefit simply be reading the book.

Clearly, the conclusion is that we add to read more and interpret less.  In a way, our interpretations can become a sort-of adding to the text. 

So please take my suggestions with a grain of salt.  It’d be better to read scripture than read my blog.  But seriously?  You already new that.

The thing that struck me is that you don’t have to work very hard or look very deeply for distrubution of wealth and capitalist greed to become a central theme of Revelations.

So much has been made of the number of the beast.  Above all else, it seems to me a license to participate in the world’s economy.    Chapter 13 says: 

“He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. “

When things are ugliest, Babylon falls.  Babylon seems to be a superpower.  But it’s not about military might, really:

For all the nations have drunk
      the maddening wine of her adulteries.
   The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
      and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

Later, in Revelations, we get a list of these excessive luxuries: 

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:
   ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city,
      O Babylon, city of power!
   In one hour your doom has come!’

 11″The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more— 12cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men. ”

Not a single thing provided by Babylon was necessary for life.  It was all over-the-top.  Decadence.  As I look at the last few words, I wonder if the bodies and souls of men means slavery in the strict and obvious sense or if this might be a reference to the ways we get addicted to being pampered, the ways we, in our comfort, can forget looking after the widow and the orphan.

It seems a pretty astounding understanding of globalization.  There are even references to the mourning of those who shipped Babylons goods, and to the businessmen who made it all happen. 

I’m not here to say “Babylon is really _____” or “The world is happening at _____.”  Really, what I’m trying to say is that materialism is identified as an evil in scripture.  Having a surplus when others do not have enough is seen as a wrong.  We will weep when Babylon falls, but Babylon must fall before God’s kingdom can come.

 

 

Advertisements

Published by

jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s