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beauty and the beast: empire in the book of revelation (part 3)

Other parts of this series:

Part 1—Revelation in Context
Part 2—The Beast: Might and Power
Part 4—The Lamb: The Witness of the Cross

Part 3—The Prostitute: Seduction and Luxury

Hans Burgkmair the Elder: ‘The Whore of Babylon’, 1523

In this, the third part of this study, I will discuss another of Revelation’s major characters, the Great Prostitute of chapter 17-18.

A PRIVILEGED MALE SPEAKING HARSHLY ABOUT A PROSTITUTE?
Now, before I begin, I must follow the wisdom of Howard-Brook and Gwyther[1] and comment on the fact that it is a privileged male from the First World who is about to talk about a prostitute.

Indeed, John’s negative use of the image of a prostitute has, in some circles, been very controversial for its patriarchal and sexist depiction. Feminist biblical scholar Tina Pippin claims the disembodiment of the Prostitute in Revelation 17:16 “points to the ultimate misogynist fantasy!”[2]
Pippin’s point is that these images can be quite dangerous, particularly in the hands of man who can exert power over the bodies of women. Howard-Brook and Gwyther point to the example of the church’s burning of women as “witches” as the consequence of taking these depictions as the “word of God”.[3]

It will not do for a male like myself to simply say that this language was a product of the time. This would be to pass over, and even excuse, the real pain, violence and degradation that many women across the world have felt because of the use and abuse of such passages. I must acknowledge this pain. My only response is to say that the images of women used by Revelation were not produced with the intent to legitimate violence against women. Faithfulness to the text requires that no reading ever contradict this intention.

Ultimately the image of the Prostitute in Revelation, though a product of a different time, is not about human women: as we shall see the image represents a city and an empire.

Revelation 17:1-14 (The Great Prostitute) Read the rest of this entry

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is wealth God’s blessing to the righteous?

Is it true that God blesses the righteous with financial wealth? Does he want to bless you with such wealth?

I’ve been a Christian for little over a decade and I’ve heard such a perspective propagated dozens of times in a wide variety of denominational backgrounds – God wants his people to be rich, and financial and material wealth is a form of his blessing.

This view is normally derived from the Old Testament, particularly from the stories of Abraham and his family. It is true, God does indeed bless Abraham and his sons with wealth:

And the LORD has blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he has given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. (Genesis 24:35)

Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. (Genesis 26:12–13)

There is no getting around the fact that wealth is here viewed as God’s blessing by the author. However there is no definitive reason to view these reports as constituting a prescription for us. Read the rest of this entry

things on heaven, and things on earth…

Christians are often puzzled or bored or indifferent when confronted by the Torah’s obsessive concern with regulating every aspect of Israelite life. Does the holy book really need to tell us what to do when one ox gores another (Exodus 21:35-6)? Why are bald eagles detestable to eat (Leviticus 11:13), but bald locusts are just fine (Leviticus 11:22)?

The details of such passages might need some sorting out, but the overall point should not be missed: the Old Testament writers had an abiding concern with the materiality of life. There simply was no distinction to be made between spiritual concerns and material concerns.

The realm of the material is not just an inert and indifferent means to spiritual aspirations. The salvation of the whole community is worked out not in some interior dialogue with God, but in the everyday interactions with the material world. All of creation is to be brought into conformity with God’s will.

William Cavanaugh in his article on the ABC Religion & Ethics website, Only Christianity Can Save Economics.

MCA

she works hard for the money?

“We read the gospel as if we had no money, and we spend our money as if we know nothing of the gospel.”

– Father John Haughey

No doubt there has been much criticism of the Church in regards to its handling of finances in the wider world over the last few decades. While the majority of the Church has probably not deserved such criticism, the fact is a few bad eggs will ruin the meal.

Such criticisms are a great opportunity, though, for the Church to re-evaluate where it does in fact stand in regards to money and wealth. Keep Reading…

capitalism is a jealous god

I found this great little piece by Ben Griffith here.

Then Capitalism spoke all these words:

I am Capitalism your God–the spirit of the American Dream–who brought you out of the Great Depression, who brought you from poverty and a mere speck on the map to being the greatest empire on earth. You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not think up for yourself a god that disagrees with me, whether he is one who disagrees with the free-market, laissez faire economics, the desire to be filthy rich, or any other of my values. You shall not bow down and worship them; for I, Capitalism your god, am a jealous god, punishing the lazy and those who can’t help themselves with generational poverty, but showing kindness to all those who work hard and dedicate themselves to the pursuit of money and power.

You shall not slander my name in any way. In fact, you should hold classes in your schools that glorify my name and slander the unspeakable name of Socialism. If you question me, I will make sure that you are embarrassed and thrown out of our business circles–doomed to mail rooms and cleaning toilets.

Never stop working…not for anything. Some people believe in rest. But the days are not yours, they belong to the market. And if you think that you can make it in this world, then rest assured, you will never rest. For by hard work and labor, the industrial revolution, the technological revolution, and Wall Street were created, and those who pioneered them still haven’t rested.

Take advantage of whoever you want–even if it’s your father and mother. This is the only way you will prosper and have the retirement that you want.

You shall not murder–that’s illegal–but anything else is fair game. You can slander, defame, and threaten anyone that gets in your way. That is the only way to the top.

You shall not commit adultery–that’s scandalous–but never let your wife distract you from your firm. Don’t get caught having sex with another woman, but the company must come first.

You shall not steal. Well, at least don’t commit accounting fraud or embezzle, but don’t worry about stealing from neighboring countries by using their cheap labor. After all, that’s my sprit of Global Economics.

Be prepared to misrepresent your competitor. It can be a problem when you attack a fellow employee (at least publicly), but that can sometimes be advantageous too. But always paint your competitor as incompetent, selfish, and below you. Lie if you have to, do what you need to succeed.

Covet everything. Covet your neighbor’s house, maids, cars, and everything else that he has. After all, the world is yours for the taking.

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