From the Apocalypse of John of Patmos:
The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony, and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent of their deeds.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Revelation 16:10-11 (NRSV) – November 5, 2014)
The Republicans won control of the Senate. Facebook and other social media this morning are rife with Democrats and other self-styled progressives writhing in agonized self-blaming (or furious finger-pointing). You’d think the fifth angel’s bowl was poured out yesterday on the United States and that we’d been plunged into darkness.
Last night my Education for Ministry group did a theological reflection on an image from culture. (EfM folks will have a better understanding of what that means. If you aren’t an EfM participant, I can’t really go into the EfM model of theological reflection here: I recommend you find an EfM group in your area and enroll.)
Our image: Zombies. We talked about the old “voodoo” horror movie model of zombie; the George Romero “living dead” movie version; the AMC television program “The Walking Dead” version; and the new Syfy Channel “Z Nation” version. Zombies, apparently, have changed over the years from living people under the spiritual control of an evil voodoo shaman into dead corpses reanimated by a virus which (I didn’t know this because I don’t watch the television programs) infects everyone! So, everyone dies and everyone comes back as a zombie! Now there’s a metaphor for something; I’m not sure what and I’m not sure it’s spiritually edifying, but there it is.
Anyway, we had great fun deeply considering the world of zombies then moving from the culture source into the Christian tradition source, the personal position (belief) source, and the personal experience (action) source. When we reached the end of the evening and came to the application exercise – “How will I apply this reflection? What will I now do?” – one of our thoughts was, “Just go home and shoot myself in the head.” Apparently that prevents one’s coming back as a zombie.
I had no idea I would wake this morning to so many liberal friends and colleagues having that same sort of reaction to the midterm election!
Chill out, folks! The world has not been plunged into a zombie-filled darkness filled with creatures gnawing at their tongues and covered with rotting sores.
One party has taken control of the Congress by a narrow margin in the upper house, but it is a party at war with itself. I think it will actually be fun to see if Mr. McConnell (presumably the new majority leader) can control his caucus any better than Mr. Boehner has controlled his. The split between old line Republicans and the new “Tea Party” Republicans may just grow wider and hamstring the legislative branch even more so than it has done for the past four years. Furthermore, even if they unite, the Democrats hold enough votes to defeat things by fillbuster (an old GOP tactic they will now have to contend with on the receiving end) and a Democratic president still holds the veto power. (See this analysis by the UK’s The Guardian newspaper.)
It’s not John’s end of the world! Nor are Zombies flooding the streets.
I hope that something good can come of this. The New York Times this morning editorializes that there might be greater opportunity for compromise than there has been. Personally, I think they’re wrong; I believe we are in for two-years of mind-numbingly pointless political theater. My prayer is that it is not also spirit-numbing!
The “zombies” in John’s vision did not “repent of their deeds.” My hope and prayer is that we, the “zombies” of the 2014 midterm election, whatever our party or political persuasion, will do so. We are where we are (and we would be here if the Democrats had held onto the Senate, by the way) because, as a nation, we have allowed ourselves to be tribalized and polarized. To a certain extent, when it comes to politics, we are all “zombies,” infected by the unrelenting virus of our political positions and unwilling (perhaps by this time unable) to see any positive in the positions of others.
We need to repent and return to the ways of civility, negotiation, compromise, and actually getting the work of society done.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.