by Berry Friesen
Writing in the October issue of The Mennonite, religion professor J. Denny Weaver suggests the essence of the biblical image of the anti-Christ (see Revelation 13) is to sanctify imperial war-making by linking it with Judeo-Christian symbols and rhetoric.
“Wars have been fought in the name of Jesus ever since the fourth century, when Emperor Constantine declared himself a Christian and put Christian symbols on the shields of his army,” writes Weaver. “In that sense, there have been so-called anti-Christs ever since.”
An American anti-Christ? In our time? Yes, says Weaver; all the current candidates for the US presidency “are running for ‘not-Christ’.”
Most American Mennonites—indeed, most American Christians—are sure to object to such a characterization. We take pride in “our democracy” and treasure our right to choose our leaders via elections. It’s provocative—even inflammatory— to say we are using these cherished practices to pick an anti-Christ. What possible connection is there between the violent, deceptive and enslaving beasts of Revelation 13 and the US President?
Weaver’s relatively short article doesn’t explain this connection in detail. He merely references two features of the United States that support his thesis: its claim to a Christian identity “under God” and its practice of “waging war” by “sending American young people to foreign countries to kill and be killed.” Thus, Weaver says, the book of Revelation—with its parody of a dragon and two beasts—remains a warning to us “to remember the true character of the emperor and empire.”
There are American Christians who refuse to invest themselves emotionally in presidential elections. The Amish and so-called plain Mennonites are examples.
But the great majority of us American Christians are not easily persuaded to detach emotionally from the American state. And most of us still think the current empire is so much better than the ones spoken of in the Bible as to render its warnings inapplicable.
If you are included in that great majority, then I encourage to test your perspective via “The United States as Destroyer of Nations,” an essay by University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor Daniel Kovalik.
Coming out of the great US victory in WW2, the core issue for foreign policy was how to maintain control of 50 percent of the world’s wealth with only 6 percent of the population. What success has the US achieved in that regard? Kovalik explains:
“While it would have been impossible for the U.S. to continue to monopolize a full half of the world’s wealth after Europe, Japan, China and the USSR inevitably got up upon their feet after WWII, the U.S. has nonetheless done an amazing job of controlling an unjustifiable and disproportionate amount of the world’s resources. Thus, currently, the U.S. has about 5 percent of the world’s population, and consumes about 25 percent of its resources.”
How has this been accomplished? Again, professor Kovalik:
“The only way the U.S. has been able to achieve this impressive, though morally reprehensible, feat has been to undermine, many times fatally, the ability of independent states to exist, defend themselves and to protect their own resources from foreign plunder. This is why the U.S. has teamed up with the world’s most deplorable forces in destroying independent states around the globe.”
Kovalik’s list of nations weakened, divided or destroyed by the US-led empire in the post-WW2 era is long: Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Yugoslavia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine. Many millions have been killed along the way. And Kovalik’s list of targeted nations doesn’t even get them all.
Our objection is easy to anticipate: yes, all of those nations were weakened, divided or destroyed by the US, but that wasn’t the purpose of the US intervention.
Here is Kovalik’s response:
“This would seem to be an insane course of action for the U.S. to take, and indeed it is, but there is method to the madness. The U.S. appears to be intentionally spreading chaos throughout strategic portions of the world; leaving virtually no independent state standing to protect their resources, especially oil, from Western exploitation. And, this goal is being achieved with resounding success, while also achieving the subsidiary goal of enriching the behemoth industrial-military complex.”
Kovalik sums up this way:
“Jose Marti once said, ‘There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love and create, and those who hate and destroy.’ There is no doubt that the U.S. has proven itself to be of the latter kind; indeed, the very nature of U.S. foreign policy is destruction.”
We may find it outrageous to characterize the US-led empire as one of the beasts of Revelation 13. But then how do we explain Syria, where to protect al-Qaeda’s control of east Aleppo, the US is prolonging the war and threatening Russia? How do we explain Libya, where the US armed Salafist fighters and destroyed the government, leaving chaos behind and ISIS entrenched? How do we explain Ukraine, where the US joined neo-Nazis in bringing down an elected government and making war on Russian-speaking citizens?
There are no honest explanations for these crimes.
Nor should we spend any more time or energy debating the relative merits of Trump or Clinton. One of them will be the new anti-Christ; let’s not legitimize either with our votes.
Berry Friesen lives in Lancaster, PA and is part of the East Chestnut Street Mennonite congregation in that city. A version of this essay first appeared at his blog, http://www.bible-and-empire.net