by Robert Hamerton-Kelly
November 19, 2006
Scriptures: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Mark 13:1-8
“Take heed that on one leads you astray” –Mark 13:5
One might think that the recent election shows that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and that the electorate has experienced an apocalypse, that is a moment of insight, but you would be mistaken. The inmate of the White House is still speaking of victory in Iraq and the new Speaker of the House has shown, in one week, that she is either politically inept or ethically challenged, or both, and that there is little to hope for from the new Congress with respect to the war. The co-chair of the so-called bipartisan consultative committee on Iraq, James Baker, is photographed in Iraq not with his Democratic co- chair Lee Hamilton but with the mad-dog architect of the whole sordid disgrace, Dick Cheney, affectionately known as Vice. My heart aches for the parents and loved ones of the 3000 of our military personnel sacrificed to the moral corruption of these poseurs, and the relatives of the scores of thousands of Iraqis murdered by their overweening pride. Gen Abizaid believes we can establish a stable democracy in Iraq and that we can count on the local security forces to uphold it, and that it will take only a few more months (four to six he said) to achieve this. Patently these are lies, not mistakes, not miscalculations, but deliberate, dastardly lies, told to cause the deaths of more young people so as to cover up the lying corruption that has already taken place, and therefore, they are morally culpable in the extreme. Each one of these persons, and all their supporters fall under the ban of Jesus: they are those who are leading us astray and in the context of today’s apocalyptic thought world, they are of the Anti-Christ.
Our text is the opening paragraph of what is known as an apocalypse. An apocalypse is a revelation or uncovering of things that have been hidden hitherto, of which the best-known example is the Book of Revelation at the end of the Bible. An apocalypse usually concerns the ultimately important things, the end of the nation, the end of the world, the people who are true, and those who are false, the final judgment and the fate of judged. 9/11 precipitated a kind of apocalypse in the political life of our nation, but it was not an apocalypse of Christ but of Antichrist. Our leadership took the event as an opportunity to terrify the nation for five years and use that terror to gain support for deeply unwise, nay morally corrupt, military adventure. They led us all astray just as Jesus warned us they would. I cannot go into detail here, but if you study the apocalypse in the 13th chapter of Mark’s Gospel you will see that these scare tactics are not new; “Many will come in my name, saying, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place but the end is not yet (13:5-7).” If you knew the truth of this administration and not just the paranoid fantasies of a Rush Limbaugh, especially the roles of Cheney and Rumsfeld, you would understand why I use of them the apocalyptic imagery of those who are sent by Satan to lead us astray.
I am using this extreme imagery because it is the imagery of our set text, and also because it is from the same spot on the spectrum that our holy warriors use to justify themselves. The leader says, “I am he,” that is “God has sent me;” “I do not consult my father the 41st President because my Heavenly Father advises me.” Apocalypse is the unveiling of the hairy claw in the velvet glove, the tribal idol who has led us to disaster rather than the Christ who waits to lead us out again to a place of peace. We must leave Iraq immediately, or before, and begin the slow journey home to the borderline sanity we usually cling to. Perhaps you remember Francis Ford Coppola’s film of the Vietnam war, ” Apocalypse Now;” it portrayed the essential horror of it in terms of Joseph Conrad’s novel of the 19th century Congo, “Heart of Darkness.” The mantra of Conrad’s protagonist Kurtz, was “Oh the horror, the horror…” Likewise Coppola’s Colonel Kurtz played by Marlon Brando; they both give voice to the satanic heart of a war misused by great powers. We need another apocalypse film now. I warned five years ago from the pulpit that it would come to this; now I warn that five years from now you will not find one responsible person who does not agree that it was unwise to invade Iraq; meanwhile we shall stay there for another two years at least because our rulers are too ashamed to confess that they have done wrong.
One of our great literary apocalypses is Fyodor Dostoievsky’s novel “The Demons.” (Also translated as “The Possessed”). It is a long meditation on the Gospel account of the exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac and the migration of his demons into swine who drown in the lake, in the version of Luke 8:32-36. It features a herd of young political fantasists, “demons” that is, loosely arranged around a windbag of an intellectual whose pathetic life unfolds through the 700 pages, by itself and through the damage his young disciples do. His name is Stepan Trofimovich Verkovensky and we see him on his deathbed in an inn where his affliction has laid him low. A Bible woman, a traveling seller of Bibles and other holy books, whom he had met in one of the inns prior to the one we find him in now, nurses and comforts him. To her he confesses during the deathbed conversion he is undergoing, as follows: “My friend, I have been lying all my life. Even when I was telling the truth. I never spoke for truth, but only for myself, I knew that before but only now do I see…Oh, where are those friends whom I have insulted with my friendship all my life? And everyone, everyone! Savez-vous, perhaps I am lying now; certainly I ‘m also lying now. The worst of it is I believe myself when I lie. The most difficult thing in life is to live and not lie…and…not believe ones own lie, yes, yes that’s precisely it! (p.652) “. Thus he sees himself, but when he lifts his gaze to the horizon he sees a good future for Russia: “…These demons that come out of a sick man and enter into swine- it’s all the sores, all the miasmas, all the uncleanness, all the big and little demons accumulated in our great and dear sick man, in our Russia, for centuries, for centuries!…But a great will and a great thought will descend to her from on high, as upon that insane demoniac, and out will come all these demons, all the uncleanness, all the abomination that is festering on the surface…and they will beg of themselves to enter into the swine…But the sick man will be healed and “sit at the feet of Jesus…”(p.655).
Our dear sick man is the USA, and of course it will survive and more or less thrive, but ultimately it will with all of creation sit at the feet of Jesus, healed of the diseases brought on by lies. In the mean time, let us speak the truth as best we can; that at least will be a turn towards Jesus and away from the demonic precipice. As for me; I confess with Stepan Trofimovich, that I have lied all my life and am probably lying now, about everything except this: this is the one thing I know I have spoken truly : Jesus is the One! Jesus can exorcise our demons, Jesus can make our lives and true again. Therefore, Go to Jesus! Behold the Lamb, slain as the foundation of the world!