Wrestling with Revelation.

Let’s say the world’s population disappeared tomorrow.

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(Yes lets say that mwah ha ha ha)

Then let’s say in a few thousand years alien’s come to earth and decide to investigate what kind of people it was than once inhabited this planet. I’m sure a few things would confuse them .

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(Like this Picture!)

In my estimation nothing would be more confusing to them than trying to figure out the wonderful world of pro wrestling. First to get the necessary out of the way, I love pro wrestling more than I should. I’ve watched it more or less for the past 20 years. I’ve seen the good the bad and everything in between. It is through being a fan that I can say no form of entertainment is harder to explain to friends than pro wrestling. The questions that flow forth from a first time viewer are seemingly unending. “You know it’s fake right?”, “who’s that guy?”, “why are they fighting?”, “why are they dressed so silly?” , “Does that really hurt?” “what in the world is happening?”, and the questions go on. In short it is a confusing mess for those uninitiated in it’s strange world. I’ll try to explain the wonderful world of sports entertainment (that’s what pro wrestling likes to be called) as best I can. It is scripted, the outcomes are predetermined, and the wrestlers try not to hurt each other while making what happens look as convincing as possible. At the same time there is some level of realism, people do get hurt, some of the stories are based on real events and tragedies in the performers lives, some performers don’t like each other and this is often worked into story lines in hopes that their real animosity will make their fake feud more realistic.

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(Fake or not this is about to hurt.)

Even though everyone knows it’s fake the performers remain in character to some extent in their public appearances and activities. On top of all that is the fact that it is always changing. Performers leave or change characters (sometimes we are supposed to notice it’s the same guy sometimes we aren’t) , story-lines disappear and reappear, some stories develop while some are dropped and the overall presentation of the shows change too. In the 80’s it was very kid oriented, with superheros like Hulk Hogan. In the 90’s it became raunchy and decidedly not child friendly and now over the last 10 years or so it has tried to become family friendly again but not as cartoon-ish as the 80’s. Sports entertainment is a blend of soap operas, stage productions, reality TV all stretched over the frame of (fake) athletic competition. OK now back to the aliens.

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(We thought you forgot about us.)

There is no way these aliens would figure sports entertainment out. They may think it was a real sport and be very confused. They may think it was a stage production, but wonder why they stayed in character when shows weren’t going on. They may think it a TV show but then why is it filmed live in stadiums and arenas. I would love to see the anthropologists findings and conclusions about our culture based on their study of the WWE, I am 100% positive they would be wrong. The problem is that wrestling is a unique genre of entertainment and in order to understand any entertainment you need to first understand genre. This goes beyond entertainment to literature, art, and so much more including the Bible.

 

Revelation 10:1-11

The Message (MSG)

10 1-4 I saw another powerful Angel coming down out of Heaven wrapped in a cloud. There was a rainbow over his head, his face was sun-radiant, his legs pillars of fire. He had a small book open in his hand. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left foot on land, then called out thunderously, a lion roar. When he called out, the Seven Thunders called back. When the Seven Thunders spoke, I started to write it all down, but a voice out of Heaven stopped me, saying, “Seal with silence the Seven Thunders; don’t write a word.”

5-7 Then the Angel I saw astride sea and land lifted his right hand to Heaven and swore by the One Living Forever and Ever, who created Heaven and everything in it, earth and everything in it, sea and everything in it, that time was up—that when the seventh Angel blew his trumpet, which he was about to do, the Mystery of God, all the plans he had revealed to his servants, the prophets, would be completed.

8-11 The voice out of Heaven spoke to me again: “Go, take the book held open in the hand of the Angel astride sea and earth.” I went up to the Angel and said, “Give me the little book.” He said, “Take it, then eat it. It will taste sweet like honey, but turn sour in your stomach.” I took the little book from the Angel’s hand and it was sweet honey in my mouth, but when I swallowed, my stomach curdled. Then I was told, “You must go back and prophesy again over many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

 

Isn’t the book of Revelation fun. It is the last book of the bible and is written in this odd confusing style with vivid and unusual imagery. The thumbnail version of the book is that it is a prophecy from a guy named John. It tells the story of the destruction of the world and the rebirth of the world in the form of God’s kingdom. That is a way oversimplified version but gives you the gist of it. Along the way it vividly tells of the end of the world, with boiling seas, a massive death toll, lots of suffering and so much more. If you’ve ever seen Bible inspired end of the world imagery it came from Revelation, from the antichrist to 666 to the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse to the battle of Armageddon it all came from here.

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(Not to be confused with wrestling’s much cooler 4 horsemen)

The mistake that I think many people make is not identifying the proper genre that this book is written in. Many see it as a book of prophecy. For them it is the Biblical equivalent of those people who have read ahead in the Game of Thrones books and tell you what is going to happen before it airs.

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(Spoiler: He says Hodor.)

They feel that John was given that opportunity to “read ahead” and is telling us what the destruction of the world would look like. I think people who understand Revelation in these terms picked the wrong genre. If I assumed pro wrestling were a real sport I would make all kinds of wrong and inaccurate conclusions about what was going on and people do the same with Revelation. It’s not a fortune telling prophecy it is actually written in a Genre (appropriately) known as apocalyptic literature.

 

Apocalyptic literature is very different from prophecy. It is a genre that is no longer familiar to people. It is most often written by and for people who are being oppressed. The cryptic imagery and language serves to hide the true intention of the book from those oppressors who may read it, a hidden code in a way. Revelation was written by and for those oppressed by the Roman empire. The goal of the writer is to help the reader understand that there is reason for hope. That though the Romans are powerful their power is nothing compared to God’s power that their empire can fall but God’s will remain. The end of the world death and suffering imagery through out the book serves to show the reader how the oppressors are vulnerable to things such as economic collapse, disease, death, foreign invaders, political instability, and subversion. On the other hand God is not vulnerable to any of those things. For those who are truly oppressed it can be hard to imagine that a power beyond the oppressor exists apocalyptic writing served to remind people that the oppressor is never truly almighty. So the book of Revelation is in many ways an illustration of all that could go wrong with Rome, all the ways it can fall and how none of those things will cause God to fall. Apocalyptic literature is in other words hope for the oppressed, their oppressors will not have the last word.

 

So often however when it is understood as a glimpse ahead at the end of the world when people chose to understand the Genre to be prophecy Revelation takes on a different tone. In the book some are taken to heaven before the destruction begins. The implication of this is that some will be saved (the faithful) and the rest will suffer horribly. This then becomes an ultimatum to believe or else, this word of hope becomes a threat. If you believe you will be saved and if you don’t then you’ve turned your back on God and will suffer more than anyone has suffered before. I don’t think this interpretation paints a picture of a loving and caring God. No it paints a picture of a God who allows his children to burn because they weren’t obedient enough.

 

I think it’s a shame that a book written to be a word of hope a reminder of where power truly lies(with God) and what kingdom truly has power (God’s) has turned into something so negative. To go back to my analogy at the top we have become the aliens examining something thousands of years old. An odd little something and we don’t quite understand what it is. We have two choices we could endeavor to find out exactly what we are looking at then make conclusions or we could make assumptions about what it is based on our own culture and understandings and make false conclusions. I fear too many people have chosen the latter option. Revelation is as much about telling the future as pro wrestling is about actual athletic competition.

 

(Pictured here; the opposite of athletic competition)

 

Peace

Jamie

 

 

Superhero

I’m a big superhero fan. I’ve always loved the tales of over coming huge odds to save the day. It turns out though that the hardest battle the superheroes ever faced happened off the page.

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(A battle even bigger than this.  But still take a moment to fully appreciate this cover, if museams had pictures like the I would be there everyday)

In the 1950’s folks started to feel that comic books were contributing to “delinquency”. Just like every generation has found something that “causes” kids to be bad the folks of the 50’s picked comic books. It was decided that they were too graphic and too violent and that they needed to be censored. I find it a bit humorous that this happened right after WWII and during the Korean war, both of which were fought by plenty of 18 year old kids and were, its safe to say, more violent and graphic than comic books. The comic book industry, faced with government censorship decided to self police and started a group called the Comics code authority and agreed that no book would be published without it’s seal of approval. This meant that Superheroes had to undergo some changes, they could no longer be vigilantes and instead had to work closely with the police. They moved away from fighting crime because that could become too violent. They all had to have steady girlfriends and boyfriends so they wouldn’t look promiscuous. The CCA even removed all slang from comic books so kids would learn to speak proper, or is it properly, so kids would speak good, (that has to be grammatically correct right?) Comics became more kid friendly and superheroes became more one dimensional. Superheroes ended up in much stranger situations during this time…

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(The flash faces Glandular problems)

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(Head Fat is always the hardest to get rid of)

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(Who knew Orville Redenbacher was Superman’s Dad)

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(Batman faces off against umm…ahh.. the debt ceiling?)

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(OK why did the writers hate auctions so much?  Did they get an advanced screening of Storage Wars?)

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(I guess Batman’s auction was just clearing room in his closet for these fancy new duds!)

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(OK Now I’m just confused, and sad, and a little curious, but mostly confused)

In the 1960 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided they would take a new approach they would give their characters more realistic problems, like self doubt, struggle with identity and not being accepted in society. It worked and these ale hallmarks of superheroes to this day. In many ways the most compelling part of the story isn’t their powers its how they struggle with the realities of the world they live in. It is through these struggles that they become truly heroic not because they are without flaw but because they are trying to be heroic in spite of them. They are struggling to be the best version of themselves that they can be. It connects with us so well because that is a version of heroism which we can all strive towards.

Psalm 119:105-112

 Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to observe your righteous ordinances.
 I am severely afflicted;
    give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
    and teach me your ordinances.
 I hold my life in my hand continually,
    but I do not forget your law.
 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
    but I do not stray from your precepts.
 Your decrees are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
    forever, to the end.

The writer of this Psalm could be writing an inner monologue for a superhero. He knows that he is surrounded by challenges and that the road ahead won’t be easy. Yet in the midst of his reality he is looking to God. His promise is to work towards knowing God better to follow in God’s ways as well as possible to be a better version of himself. The truth is it sounds very heroic. It’s heroic not because he is going to face everything alone like an action hero but because he is looking for help he is looking for God.

Often People think of Christians like those silver age comics above. A bit goofy, a bit odd and a lot naive. That we walk around like everything is fine and OK like God is a blinder for us. I don’t think that is how we are called to act. God call us to see the brokenness around us and within us and to aim for better. God calls us to be heroes not the kind who do everything alone, not the kind of hero Baby Batman was (seriously that was a thing?) but the kind who recognizes that aiming for better despite the struggle is where true heroism lies. Be a Hero

Peace

Jamie

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(Told you it was a thing)