Revelation: A Survivors' Guide in Empire
When a curious form of theology turned the Book of Revelation into a flow chart of "end times" scenarios, a primary source for spiritual formation for the church to survive, even thrive under "empire" was lost. The last book of the Bible has become, for all intents and purposes, a lost book of the Bible.
Perhaps this is one reason why a major segment of the USAmerican evangelical church is blind to its own cultural captivity to empire. Like the church in Laodicea, thinking that it is healthy, wealthy and wise, this anemic segment of the church believes more in partisan politics than in the Spirit-empowered community for societal transformation, believes more in the majority vote than in the minority Christus Victor, and drowns in rampant materialism as they surround themselves with every edition of the "latest" Bible. I'm surprised there is not a Bible titled "The Republican Christian Study Bible."
John, the Revelator, gave the church "The Survivors' Guide in Empire." Revelation is a survival tool for those hiking the trails of national and international chaos. Yet, some insider, secret rapture theologians, believing the ecstatic visions of others, toyed with Revelation and it became an apocalyptic novelty comparable to a circus attraction. Emasculated of its original intent, the Revelation of John has created a cadre of people entertaining themselves to death as they long for the Great Escape. Without the formidable guide--the Book of Revelation--to shape and empower their allegiance to Jesus, a huge congregation of USAmerican believers has no direction and little encouragement to keep their loyalty to their King and his kingdom priorities. Success is not a kingdom priority. "Get'r done" is not a kingdom priority. Exporting a political ideology is not a kingdom priority. Choosing the next "American Idol" is not a kingdom priority. With the loss of Revelation, it became easy, even expected to turn the King of Kings into the Chairman of our favorite political party. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall become red, white and blue.
Don't get me wrong. I'm truly grateful for our nation. I have visited many countries (including Ukraine which I visit several times a year). I am very glad for my own country. Yet, I have had to wake up from the evangelical stupor that drinks in a-this-world-way-of-life and thinks that it is the life of the kingdom of God. Being of Cherokee descent, I'm a little hesitant to bow down to America as a "Christian" nation. Many well-known "Christian" leaders made promises to the Cherokee (and other Native Americans) and then broke them as they ravaged my ancestors in the name of Jesus. Forked tongue was an apt metaphor.
Yet, there is a hope. An intriguing light breaks the darkness. A fast-growing global community of alternative allegiance is daring to speak into all forms of empire, including the USAmerican kind. Citizens of heaven are not dead people, but living people who courageously pray "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." These loyalists to Jesus and his reign refuse to confuse the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. They don't wave flags and send armies as if their King needs those things to get his job done.
Amazingly, the one book of the Bible that is so desperately needed in our day has become the basis of fiction best-sellers. Fiction.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.