Friday, May 4, 2012

Revelation 18

     More on the destruction of Babylon in Chapter 18. Here the destruction of the city is complete -- the kings, merchants, and sea captains stand at a distance and lament. Notice that they don't really lament the fall of Babylon as much as they lament the end of their own livelihoods. The Kings have lost their power (10) mighty city of Babylon -- you might is over. The Merchants will more because "no one buys their wares anymore" (11) which includes a list of luxury items (notice there is not mention of food, normal clothing and shelter -- necessities -- only luxuries. The sea captains have lost their jobs as well - there are goods to sell but no one to buy them. With no buyers there is not need for shipping . . . their livelihood is also destroyed. The "curse" on Babylon (21 and following) is a pronouncement of the finality and totality of Babylon's destruction. No music, no marriages, no trade, no lights, no hope. The reference is a scary one. The ruins of the ancient city of Babylon can be seen today in modern Iraq -- there is no one living there. The city of Rome was so totally decimated in the early 400's many despaired of it ever being rebuilt (and clearly never returned to its former glory. This is the way of empires and mighty super powers. Eventually someone else has the power and the power that was used in corrosive and coercive ways will be removed.
     Think of it this way: Babylon is not a place it is an attitude. It is an attitude of colonial might the feeds itself with luxuries while impoverishing all else. Babylon is not a place it is an understanding of power: power that crushes others to its will, power that destroys all who stand against it, power that corrupts all that attempt to wield it. The framers of the US Constitution understood this coercive power and sought to limit the power and to provide "checks and balances" to protect the common person. But with great wealth our own country has exercises babylonic tendencies around the world and the description of the amassing of wealth and the luxuries that were lamented are enough to make us nervous. I am amused that when the "interpreters of Revelation" try to identify the modern Babylon very few choose to look in the mirror. J.R.R. Tolkien, in his great work "Lord of the Rings" attempts to describe this coercive power by showing us that power of that kind and nature corrupts all who touch it. It cannot be wielded or controlled it eats like a cancer all who try to do so.
     As Christians we are called to have power "with" not power "over". It is a different journey that rejects the powers of Babylon and seeks to use what little power and influence we have in service of others.

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