The Rome of Christ and Antichrist

You know, ever since the gnostics there has been an apocalyptic, quasi-occult culture of superstition, pseudo-scholarship, and titillation surrounding the future – what the evangelical fundamentalists like to call “prophesy”. One of their key themes is the re-creation of a “Roman Empire” that will wed the economic and political structures of society into a globally pervasive environment, with people finding it impossible to do business (buy, sell, trade), make a living, and support their families unless they adhere to the system. In other words, it’ll be a pugilistic entity that uses pressure, leverage, and force to compel participation in its system. It’ll starve, bankrupt, or make war on and ultimately (with much suffering wreaked upon the poor) absorb peoples that don’t want any part in it. This empire is essentially the cultural face of antichrist.

restored quadriga atop Brandenburg Gate ►pale-...
Image by quapan via Flickr

For the past 100 years or so, all kinds of entities have been called that “revived Roman empire”. The League of Nations, the UN, the European Union, NAFTA and GATT – all kinds of things. Most of this has involved all kinds of selective information and reasoning, dubious analysis (to onlookers), and again a quasi-occult culture of superstition, pseudo-scholarship, and titillation surrounding the future. The enlightened who “see it” (gnosticism) get together for prophesy conferences and do a brisk trade in tithes, tapes, tabloids, and book sales. Everyone is convinced they need to explain their version of it to you (how else would they make a living?) but it’s really just the same sermon repeated again and again. Daniel and the 7 weeks, etc. etc.

Now of course, we Orthodox don’t think the same way. There have been many antichrists, many romes, and we expect there will be more again, until Christ comes. We have no need to understand all prophesy, as if analysis were understanding, or numerological theories were the same as knowledge. We say the books are sealed, and not yet opened. So we have written in the holy scriptures. But we’re not above some speculation, tho the best speculation is merely recognizing the typologies that we know from the holy gospel. We recognize Pilate. We recognize the Evil One who met us in the desert. We say this emperor, potentate, nation, or false prophet – these are antichrist. Stalin was antichrist. Pol Pot was antichrist. Hitler was antichrist. One might have more contemporary leaders in mind, if they did what those persons did – torture, bomb, and subjugate others, etc. Typology. I’ve no objections to calling any such person antichrist, even if he bleeds red, white, and blue. Perhaps especially then.

But I find it quite compelling that these fundamentalist prophesy gurus (vicarious prophets offering derivative visions of the future) have not pegged the United States as the best example in all of history of a “revived Roman empire”. It’s the seat of international lending and credit institutions and currency exchangers, “food” and chemical conglomerates, energy conglomerates, NGOs (world bank, IMF, etc.), private military-security forces and “intelligence” networks… if ever there were horns coming out of some beast, the metaphor would certainly be the most apt in this case. The US has fundamentally wed political and economic (commerical/corporate) interests, and created a global system into which it compels participation, by subjugation, leverage, and all manner of economic extortion – it is the Walmart of world powers – it is *the* world power – you basically can’t do business, as a people, unless you’re involved with the US system. And if you’re the exception, holding out and giving the US the finger, you get bombed into oblivion and made a client state as we ‘rebuild’. One way or another, you break and yield – if we have to claim there are WMDs hidden somewhere under your house, and fabricate documentation, we’ll do it. If we have to claim you have “ties” to nebulous global organizations that threaten us, we’ll do it, even if you’re fundamentally incompatible with those organizations. If we have to say that you attacked us, not the other way around, that’s in the contingency plans – always has been. Whatever it takes, one way or another, you get the mark. That flag will wave, that dollar will prevail – you’ve got to be in bed w. the leviathan, the behemoth, the enormous, all-consuming world empire that sets the markets, manipulates the rise and fall of governments, and wages war on those who stand against it.

I think one would be hard pressed *not* to say, using the Orthodox ‘hermeneutic’, that this is one of the “Roman Empires”. As I say, I think it’s the best example ever. It’s on a grand scale, compared to all the localized Romes we’ve known. Sure, we think there’s a final Roman Empire, and there’ll be a final antichrist, out of many. Whether this is it, or is just one more, from which once again there will be redemption, God knows. I merely think it’s silly to fill our eyes with flags and love of McDonalds and Oprah and Chevy trucks, and pretend it’s always the other guys. The rest of the world knows. We’re the only ones who go around thinking we do little wrong, that the rest of the world either must be like us, wants to be, or should be, and that it’s OK to profess our friendship with a gun pointed at someone’s head and the other hand taking the food from their children, while we crap under their dinner table. If someone were to ask for an example of what Christ is talking about in the gospels, this is what I’d tell them.

Of course, the fundamentalists are busy trying to figure out how to make their “bibles” fit with President Obama being “the” antichrist. They want to stop just short of his “blackness”, what there is of it. But they’re just not being creative:  he’s a pugilist and a bully, too. He’s continuing, not discontinuing, the extension of the system of global US influence, control, and possession of markets through military, economic, and cultural force that his predecessor was also continuing and extending. Parties change – this underlying global policy does not. It’s too important to leave to the exigencies of a single executive. The duality of parties is like the difference between being bludgeoned or merely beaten – it’s a form of words.

I share more faith with those who used to shout that the US is the “great Satan”, before we set up secret prisons in their countries, and helped get them rounded up and tortured to death by their governments. They at least have a correct analysis of typology, and are doing it in an Orthodox manner. Listen to the rational ones, and they’re saying that the US is trying to dominate the world culturally, economically, and militarily in a global empire of influence and control. In other words, they’re saying, “look, here is Rome”. Remember, all roads lead to it. Or put another way, our “worst” critics are also most accurately describing what we, in our speeches and white papers, declare as our express goals, whenever we talk about “pursuing US interests” – those aren’t your interests or my interests, but those of the entity – the ‘beast’, if you will. It’s as if our biggest problem is with those who don’t cooperate, and our second biggest is with those who say “Look, there is Antichrist!” Let those who have understanding count the number of the “beast”. Hell, a turnip could understand it when it’s this obvious.

It’d be interesting to see those toting around their prophesy pamphlets and Scofield bibles work up a set of “parallels” (their concept), representing Christ’s words about Antichrist and his empire and US economic, industrial, political, and military endeavours over the past 70 years. “Hers” for those of you into ‘inclusive’ bibles and female antichrists. Instead of the manifest destiny bit in the back of their Birch Society minds about “America” being “special” or “chosen” or a “Christian nation” (that one makes me laugh) – just assume for a moment that all of that is made up – foolish blathering – that none of it has been correctly understood (that’s certainly the way almost everyone else on the planet looks at it). Instead, play devil’s advocate and just compare Christ’s words in the gospels with things like the decade of Reagan’s secret wars or, more blatantly, every military and international banking action, and every US trade dispute since the Berlin Wall came down, and its plethora of effects in the world. My favorite quotation right now from the US is “We’re going to open up new markets, one way or another.” Sounds pretty much like that ‘Bible’ to me, if you ignore the notes in the margins, and just listen to the beast talk. 🙂

Incidentally, the Protestants will never understand the Rome of Antichrist until they understand the Rome of Christ, and how it is said (in one of our prophesies) “Two Romes have fallen, a Third stands, a Fourth there shall not be.” Amen.

Also, the fundamentalist “prophesy” sticklers will say I missed one. They say the empire weds political, economic and *religious* aspects of the culture together, and we’re back to that “but we’re a Christian nation” rhetoric. If that’s all we’re missing, I’ve got two words for you: Max Weber. If there was ever a wedding of those three elements, it was right there at the beginning, when the US was founded (and it continues to this day). The US was founded as a “Christian” nation only in this sense that, utilizing Weber’s thesis (“The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”) it’s in perfect symmetry as an Antichristian one. Remember, these are their criteria – economic, political, religious- I merely point out that Weber answers that nicely. Give it a read. It’s a required text for any US political science degree. Then grab Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations (also required reading, if you do US foreign policy) for his delightful diagrams of the “end times”. That’s the real “prophesy” in use in US foreign policy. What is ‘prophesy’ anyway, but the belief in the inevitability of a thing?

And just to be fair to Walmart, I think it’s one of the “little” beasts. I didn’t want to leave that out. It’s got horns everywhere.

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