Have We Reached the Imperial Tipping Point?

Bloody hands
Photo credit: Luca Rossato

Revelation 18:21-24

Then a strong messenger grabbed a giant stone (it looked like a millstone), threw it into the sea, and said:

Babylon will be thrown down with such violence
that it will be impossible to find.

The music of harps and singers and flutes and trumpets will be silent there.
No artist of any kind will be there.
No useful work will be done there.
No light will shine there.
No weddings will be celebrated there.

Why? Because the multinational corporations and nations were taken in by your siren song,
and the blood of the truth-tellers, the innocent, and the common people is on your hands.

So long as the siren song of empire continues to beguile people, the truth can be quietly swept aside and the innocent quietly killed. The music is too loud. There is too much to distract attention away from the human suffering that is extracted as a part of the cost of keeping the empire’s extravagant lifestyle afloat.

But it’s there. And within every empire’s continuing extraction of the wealth from the nations and people who can least afford it lie the seeds of its own ruin.

Until, suddenly the people say, no more. And the slight of hand that had covered over the dark side of empire is removed revealing what the real cost of imperial indulgence has been all along. And then, silence.

But not before the whole thing sinks like a rock into the abyss.

With the Occupy Wall Street movement taking hold around the globe, we have reason to suspect that we have reached that point. The cost to maintain the facade of empire and to maintain the rulers of the imperial system in their luxury has reached the proverbial tipping point. The denial that the costs to the innocent and to the general public is a huge embarrassment of blood guilt has been – for the moment – swept away.

We shall soon see whether John of Patmos’ prophetic voice will again tell us the truth about our own time.

Empires: Not as Permenant as They Look

no parking with empire sticker
Photo credit: Mánchate

Revelation 18:1-8

Then I saw another certified messenger descending from heaven, shining so brightly that the whole world was lit. With a deafening voice he announced:

Babylon is utterly destroyed!
It is now the home for demons,
haunted by all the warped spirits,
haunted by all the angry birds,
haunted by all the demented and disfigured beasts.

All the nations have drunk her grog of anger and lust,
and all the nations’ rulers have had sex with her,
and all the corporations have indulged in her.

But then came another voice from heaven, saying:

Leave her now, my people,
so you won’t be part of her misdeeds,
nor suffer the consequences for which she is fated.
For her misdeeds are piled sky-high,
and God has kept track of each one.
Now she will get back twice as much as what she has done to others,
and the grog she mixed will be mixed double for her.

As glorious and luxuriously as she lived it up,
she will writhe in pain and agony.
She thinks to herself: “I’m the invincible queen. I’ll never be left alone and destitute!”
But her comeuppance will only take a day:
rot and grief and starvation,
and she will burn to the ground
by the power of God’s verdict.

Babylon is empire. Forget all the Bible Prophesy Institutes and radio preachers who want to tell you it’s Rome, or Nazi Germany, or the Papacy. It’s empire. Whatever empire happens to be the current one. That’s what it is.

In 2011, it happens to be the US. And China. And the EU. And the imperial regime wherever you’re living. It’s the global free trade system.

Revelation’s point is that as all-powerful and invincible as they seem, they’re not permanent. And when they fall, they go down with spectacular speed.

It was called the Iron Curtain because it seemed for years like a permanent world fixture. But in the late 80s, we were all shocked at how quickly the whole Soviet system fell apart. The dictatorships that toppled all over the middle east earlier this year fell in days. Even the longest one, in Libya, took only months to be dismantled.

But here’s the key to bringing them down: Their power only lasts as long as people believe in them and stay in their system. So long as everyone is convinced that the imperial grog is the only grog, that the imperial economy is the only economy, that the imperial story is the only story, the empire is indeed invincible. But the moment the people leave (“Come out of her, my people”), the whole house of cards implodes.

And here’s the corollary truth: The verdict of God is always carried out by the people.