Stranded in Babylon

I’ve been doing some reading lately that has got my mind in the right place. It has me realizing that politically, the right and the left are both pushing to build the American empire, just in different ways (which is why I bow out from both right and left). Most of the church wants to build the same empire and pronounce God’s blessing on it (which is why six years ago I bowed out of the traditional church and started my own) “God won’t bless the empire if we do this, but God will bless the empire if we do that…” Thanks, Dr. Dobson, Dr. Robertson, Dr. Falwell, and many others, for the way you have led millions of Americans in using the tools of empire to advance the church.

Biblically there’s no reason to believe that God will ever bless any empire anywhere at any time. Certainly he never has before, as the means of building empires are in direct conflict with God’s means of bestowing his blessings and grace on men and women (i.e., economic exploitation, always-expanding military might, political manipulation and intrigue, politics of race and class, growing gap between haves and have-nots that is allowed to endlessly increase — all anti-Biblical things that are the tools of empire). If there’s any message we can take from the Old Testament it’s that God did not bless the empires of Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, etc., nor did he bless Israel when Israel lost its distinctive commitment to God-given ideas of government and adopted the principles of empire-building. Witness this:

Revelation 18:1-5 (NIV)
1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2 With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3 For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” 4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.

(Note the similarity between Babylon and the good old US of A). The message here for the political right is, “There’s a point where luxury IS excessive in the eyes of God – it’s not just about whatever the free market (another of our contemporary gods) will support.” The message for the political left is, “The government that you see as a solution to everything is the one that is bringing its people to ruin.”

The message for the church is “Come out so that you will not share in her sins nor receive her plagues.” The church’s task is to figure out what it means to “come out.” So far the church on both the left and the right is so busy defending Babylon (much of the church, too, has “drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries”) that they haven’t yet begun figuring out what it means to “Come out” from her. Every empire in history has fallen. Sooner or later, America will fall too. (To believe otherwise is to embrace the very pride that ultimately LEADS to the fall) The only question is where the church will be when that happens.

I want to lead a church that has taken seriously the call to “Come out.” I want us to love America when America looks like Jesus, and be willing to acknowledge and admit it when America does not look like Jesus. And I want us to know the difference. One thing is clear to me. Christians are not free in Christ to say, “My country, right or wrong.” Because the God we serve happens to care deeply about right and wrong, and he does not define right and wrong according to America’s standards. He will not forever look the other way when wrong is done whether by America or any other nation. Since he expects us to have his heart, we cannot look the other way either — not even under the guise of patriotism and love for country.

What does this mean? I honestly don’t have the foggiest idea. I know I believe, like Larry Norman said years ago, that in many ways we are “Stranded in Babylon.” The question is how to “come out,” and what that means for myself, my family, and the church.

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  • Jeremiah

    31 “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. 36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

    39 “After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

    44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
    “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”
    Daniel 2:36-45

    The only kingdom in ths world that will ever prosper will be the Kingdom that Jesus Christ builds when He returns. His Kingdom is the “rock cut out of a mountain but not by human hands.”
    Just as you said Dave, sooner or later even America will fall. Our only hope for leaving Babylon is Jesus.