The Beast

These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth. 5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. 6 They [the prophets like the prophets of old] have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish.7 When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them. . . .11 But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. (Rev. 11)

John of Patmos had been exiled to that Aegean island by the emperor. Christian teaching was subversive to the ends of empire. Revelation was written as a disguised critique of empire—the Roman Empire to be exact. It is not, as many fundamentalists insist, a treatise predicting when the world will end.

Two things jumped out at me as I read this passage this morning. First, the Risen Christ is referred to as Lord of the earth.” Second, the “beast” comes up out of the ground, the abyss. You can blame what follows on Bill McKibben  ( whom I consider to be a modern day prophet in the mold of prophets referenced in this passage. Bill is speaking truth to power about the destruction of the earth of whose Lord is the Risen Cosmic Christ.

Carbon based fuel coming out of the abyss is the Beast of planetary destruction. How many deaths is the Beast responsible for as empires have vied for hegemony over gas and oil? Hundreds have died in Israel and Palestine this past week and, in part, it is about hegemony over oil. Our support of Israel gives us a toehold in the oil-rich Middle East. One excursus—many of the victims in Gaza are Christian. Some of them have been educated at the University of Bethlehem which is run by the Christian Brothers. Brother jack Curran emailed us this week to share their concern for their graduates who are now living in Gaza.

How much destruction of Planet Earth is the Beast responsible for? If we stay the present course of extraction from the abyss and our patterns of consumption, the Beast will be responsible for the total destruction of earth and all life on earth much sooner than we think.

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The very title is a throwback to feudal times and means very little to most people. Christ the Prime Minister or the President will not work either. The feast does still remind us that the Risen Christ is the Cosmic Christ who is present in creation moving it toward completion at Chardin’s Omega Point.

Our task then as followers of the Cosmic Christ is to stand up and speak truth to power about the destruction of Planet. Care for creation is a fundamental religious value. We are charged with bringing creation to fulfillment and completion in the Risen Christ. We cannot do this without challenging the profit-driven greed of the fossil fuel industry which is ignoring the consequences of man-made climate change. We must confront the their self-serving denial of the potential effects of climate change produced by CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The Living Risen Christ is Lord of Creation!

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