Yesterday I received this forwarded e-mail from my dad.
This will make you re-think: A Trivia question in Sunday School:How long is the beast allowed to have authority in Revelations?
Revelations Chapter 13 tells us it is 42 months, and you knowwhat that is. Almost a four-year term of a Presidency.All I can say is 'Lord, Have mercy on us!'According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is: The anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive thenations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....theprophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hopeand world peace,and when he is in power, will des troy everything..Do we recognize this description??I STRONGLY URGE each one of you to post this as many times as you can! Each opportunity that you have to send it to a friend or media outlet..do it!I refuse to take a chance on this unknown candidate who came out of nowhere.
Do be perfectly fair to my dad, he often sends me the most outrageous stuff he finds on the web that he can because he likes to get a rise out of me. It is an on-going joke between the two of us.
This e-mail causes me to wonder if the people who created it, or others that are similar, actually believe this, or, are they more like cyber-graffiti artists who like to start these forwards to see how far they go? I would assume the latter if two interesting things hadn't happened in conjunction with this e-mail. My wife receive the same e-mail from her uncle in Georgia. Then, today on NPR, during a discussion of politics and the web, a man who monitors peoples web-searches and from that data attempts to discover what these searches might suggest about peoples feelings and assumptions about politics and the economy, mentioned the mass popularity of this e-mail. This suggested to me that maybe this isn't simply a joke, or it may be a joke with more influence that I had hoped.
My response to my father was quite simple:
1. It is the book of Revelation, not Revelations. A small detail no doubt, but one that causes me to question the depth of thought that the author of this e-mail utilized in its creation.
2. Revelation Ch. 13 makes no reference to a man in his 40's or of a man of Muslim descent. If my history is correct Islam didn't come to exist until about 500 years after the composition of Revelation.
My father responded with a question, 'why should he trust my OPINION about the meaning of Rev 13 over someone else?'
Which provides the long story of the whole point of this post... the Truth.
Christians generally proclaim that the Bible is the inspired word of God and as such authoritative in guiding Christian life and faith. Now I am a Biblical Liberal. Which is a short-hand way of saying that although I do believe that the Bible is inspired by God and the authority for my life and faith, I also see humanity involved in the creation of the Bible, so that the Bible also contains human inspiration along with divine. So I would not read Genesis chapters 1 and 2 literally for instance.
But still, if we are talking about the authority of the Bible, are we then not also talking about Truth. The Bible is the inspired word of God, a revelation of God's Truth. In our discussion of the Bible then, we are discerning truth and from the Bible we are being lead to truth. It isn't a matter simply of opinion.
This isn't terribly easy for me to write because as a Biblical Liberal and a child of the post-modern era, Truth is a difficult word to write. I am well aware that there is a wide diversity of cultures in the world and religions also. I am well aware that there is wide diversity of morals and ethics which are influenced by these diverse cultures, and that even within just one culture there is a variety of opinions on any given subject. We cannot speak about Christianity in a certain sense, but Christianities, for my experience of faith is very different from my Roman Catholic Priest friend's experience and from my fundamentalist mother's experience as well. Certainly there is more in common than that which separates, but still, our practice of faith and our concept even of who God is, what salvation is, and what Heaven or the End will be are all very different.
So I have tended to stay away from 'Truth' statements because 'truth' is largely a matter of one's perspective. And truth has often been used for oppressive and imperialistic ends.
More recently however I have come to reconsider the importance of truth while watching Stanley Hauerwas deliver an essay on Bonhoeffer's political theology. Hauerwas observed that Bonhoeffer was disappointed by the Ecumenical Movement in Europe in the 30's and in his seminary education in the US, largely because there was no dialog or debate about the truth. His feeling, according to Hauerwas, was that this lack of Truth, eventually lead to the rise of Hitler in Germany and the church's collusion in his program of genocide. The church did not know how to speak the truth because they had not been trained in the truth.
This has caused me to re-think 'truth' especially the truth of the Bible, the Gospel and Christ. While as a child of the post-modern I am unable to claim possession of the full truth, am I not still obligated as a disciple to discern the truth as best I am able? Should I not hold myself to a higher standard of discerning the Truth as the Gospel proclaims it and to think carefully about how the gospel illuminates the truth?
As foolish as this e-mail about Obama and the book of Revelation is, I think it exemplifies the cynicism that our culture feels about Truth. So cynical that either we purposefully spread lies either as a joke or to bolster our rhetorical position or we refuse to push ourselves to discuss truth because we do not want to seem judgmental or imperialist. Both of those are legitimate concerns when using the word Truth, which means that our approach to truth must be done carefully and thoroughly and that our use of truth must be humble. But if I cannot say that Rev 13 says nothing about Obama and that such a view is not a matter of opinion but truth, how can I then proclaim other Christian truths, such as the evil of war or the sin of greed? If we have no voice willing to sound the truth, even in part if not in full, what kind of witness will the church have or be? “without a church willing to proclaim truth, what kind of nation will we become?