The Self-Satisfaction Of The Righteous

St. John of Patmos, Heironmymous Bosch, 1489

St. John of Patmos, Heironymous Bosch, 1489

There are fewer places on the Internet to find erroneous Christian thought than The American Thinker.  An exemplar of why that is so is this piece, “The Gimlet-Eyed People”.  Now, as many commenters at Lawyers, Guns, and Money note, the use of the phrase “gimlet-eyes” brings to mind those who might have been enjoying a bit too much gin (or vodka, should your taste preference move in that direction).  Still and all, the idea that we Christians may rest in peace while all falls apart around us, thanks to the heavenly insurance policy that guarantees our removal prior to the real horrors to come is such an abominable distortion both of the Gospel in general and St. John’s Apocalypse in particular, it is enough to make me set aside my preference for positive posts and make clear just how St. Wrong of Wrongness this entire bit of typing really is.

At the heart of MacKenzie’s piece is a recounting of our current horrors, and how for the “real” Christian they should hold neither surprise nor the roots of despair.  On the contrary, that gimlet eye is sparkling precisely because the “real” Christian understands this is all preamble, the preface to the glorious separation of sheep from goats.  The blessed will be rescued from even more horrors to come, while those of us “Left Behind” (to quote the name of a surprisingly popular series of books) succumb to the dictatorship of the Anti-Christ, in preparation for the final battle to come.  As someone exposed to this kind of nonsense in my early youth – the song above was sung often in Sunday School, and left a decidedly horrific taste in my brain – I can attest that none of this is either new or even interesting.

What it is, however, is wrong.

The visions of St. John the Divine, if such they were (as opposed to editing and updating existing Apocalyptic writings in an effort to reassure those suffering persecution) was an effort to keep the faithful to their work – spreading the Gospel despite the horrors of this present age; to make alive the Kingdom even as all the forces of darkness seemed to deny even the possibility of doing so.  There is nowhere in the Bible, Old Testament or New, that insists the faithful are to sit back and just let the world sink in an abyss of violence, horror, or death.  On the contrary, we are to go to all corners of the world, preaching the Gospel and baptizing in the name of the Trinity, serving this world that God loved so much the Son came and died and was raised in order that death and violence would no longer hold dominion over it.  The multi-headed serpent, ridden by the Whore of Babylon were the two great Empires of Rome and Persia that sought to destroy the still-toddling church; St. John did no more than St. Augustine would do centuries later: promise that these Empires, like all before and since, would collapse, with the Church left standing to bring about the peace of Christ to the survivors.

It is we moderns, with our smug self-satisfaction that have transmogrified St. John’s balm in to a horror novel.  It is we moderns who have made of blessedness a curse visited upon others, while we stand by, our gimlet-eyed smile filled with neither pity nor remorse for the suffering around us.  It is we moderns who assure ourselves that the details of the Apocalypse are meant for others, while we rest securely in the bosom of Abraham.  I can imagine nothing less Christian then settling in our comfy chairs while the wretched beg for release from the wrath to come.

To us has been given the task of spreading the Good News that God loves this world; that each of us and all of us are of infinite worth, beloved by the Creator of the Universe; that even now this broken, sinful Creation and all that is in it groans and awaits the glory that is to come.  It is our task to take this simple message to any and all: That God, the Maker of all that is, sees us and knows us and loves us beyond our ability to understand.  With that love we are to follow in the footsteps of Christ, to bring about the transformation of the world not through escaping the horrors of sin and brokenness but precisely by entering in to them and making them worthy to be called “very good” once again.

The Rev. Dr. MacKenzie can sit back and relax and rest assured in his blessedness.  Let the rest of us be about that to which we are called – to be Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

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About gksafford

I'm a middle-aged theologically educated clergy spouse, living in the Midwest. My children are the most important thing in my life. Right behind them and my wife is music. I'm most interested in teaching people to listen to contemporary music with ears of faith. Everything else you read on here is straw.
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