Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)
I had a number of ideas about what to write this week, but last night’s news about a leaked Supreme Court draft overwhelmed them all. Things are about to go all apocalyptic – both in the popular misuse of that word as a shorthand for explosions and other special effects – and in the actual meaning of the term, an uncovering or revealing.
Like many Anglicans (and many other Christians of various traditions), I read the Revelation less for time frames on which to hang “the end of the world” and more for God’s on going Word to a fallen world being made new.
We seem to be in a time where “kings, great ones, generals, the rich and powerful” and those who follow them are plenty active but also coming under scrutiny and duress.
Covid certainly revealed their proclivity to know little and decree much.
Parents are fed up with educators who serve indoctrination instead of intellectual development. Even ueber progressive San Francisans threw out some of their school board great ones.
We had administrations of both major parties attempting “nation building” in the Middle East. Grand designs and extravagant expenditures of blood and material wrecked much and built little.
Meanwhile, churches in the U.S. are fading. My own tradition was one of a gaggle that served as an imagined state church, with a “National Cathedral” and a not too demanding ministry to a vague “Judeo-Christian” national consensus.
When a previous generation of great ones faced apocalypse through the Civil Rights movement, the proxy campaigns of the Cold War and the out-of-the-bedroom public indulgence of the sexual revolution, that national consensus evaporated. Churches became chaplaincies to competing political factions. Over time, people realized they didn’t need even the most trivial hassles and expenses of church membership just to hear echoes of opinions already out and about in the news media and political forums.
As abortion politics grabs center stage again, two groups claiming the Anglican mantle reflect the fractured and in that sense empty state of American churches. The Episcopal Church is essentially pro-abortion; the Anglican Church in North America is pro-life. This is not to make a moral parity argument, as my belief is pro-life; it is to show that Christianity in America lacks a coherent and credible witness because it is so badly divided and in many cases at the service of the great ones.
The Revelation does not solve the problem of being a Christian in a madly deceived world. But it speaks to every day, every moment, with reminders that God knows our discomforts and sufferings, our flashes of faithfulness and flops into failure, and is guiding us, through the ministry of the Lamb who was slain yet lives, to the new heavens and new earth.
It tells us that we are always in dress rehearsal for whatever God’s massive re-creation of the cosmos will entail, and reassures us that the new creation, like the first, will be good, and unlike the first, will not produce “great ones” to stifle the divinely breathed goodness that animates it.