Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Revelation’s White Horse Warrior on Obama/Osama bin Laden?

Following on from what Augustine and Bono might say to Osama bin Laden, I think for the sake of honesty, Christians must also ask what Revelation’s White Horse Warrior might say to Osama/Obama?

The Bible book of Revelation ends with the Rider on the White horse, who comes to pour out God’s wrath (Revelation 19:15). In response, the saints gleefully cheer (Rev 18:20). It is easy to claim an Old Testament God of vengeance and a New Testament God of love. Revelation refuses to allow us this luxury.

What to do with these Bible texts in Revelation? What to do with those who suffer violence in the name of Divine? Miroslav Volf, theologian at Yale and native born Croatian, puts the question this way: “Why must God say the unrelenting “no” to a world of injustive, deception and violence in such a violent way?” (Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and ReconciliationChristianity Books) 296)

Volf argues that much talk of non-violence has “the sweet aroma of a suburban ideology” (296).

“A “nice” God is a figment of liberal imagination, a projection onto the sky of the inability to give up cherished illusions about goodness, freedom, and the rationality of social actors. (298)”

Ouch! Volf argues that in reality, patient appeals to reason do not always work. Thus the texts of Revelation are, in my words, reality texts. That some people and situations will not change. They refuse to “shy away from the unpleasant and deeply tragic possibility that there might be human beings, created in the image of God, who, through the practices of evil, have immunised themselves from all attempts at their redemption.” (297)

Obama and religious fundamentalism (of any persuasion) become contemporary examples of this.

In such reality, the White Rider in Revelation functions to keep open a God who is indignant at injustice, deception and violence. This does not mean that God is schizophrenic, a wierd mix of suffering Messiah and justice-seeker. Rather it is the preserver of true and radical human freedom, that people have the choice to say no to redemption and reconcilation – whether a fundamentalist or a Christian refusing to face their sin.

These are tough things to consider. But it does provide a way to understand what Volf calls “the symbolic portrayal of the final exclusion of everything that refuses to be redeemed by God’s suffering love … not because God is too eager to pull the trigger, but because every day of patience in a world of violence means more violence and every postponement of vindication means letting insult accompany injury.” (299)

To be honest, part of this makes my blood chill.

But another part warms toward a God who cares enough about justice to engage the world in reality, in truth, in freedom whether in good or bad.

Volf has not finished. He then asks “who” – who can enact such justice? Can Obama and a group of US Seals? Volf notes that in the New Testament, the “who” is the suffering God and the White horse rider, “partners in promoting nonviolence.” (302) Humans are freed to renounce violence because of future hope in God’s passionate justice.

“the only way in which nonviolence and forgiveness will be possible in a world of violence is through displacement or transference of violence, not through its complete relinquishment.” (302)

Further posts:
see Christian Jihad or what sort of God killed the Canaanites?

Posted by steve at 12:53 PM


  1. Gee Steve, the more you write the more you draw me in. You are my best reading and interactive option for the year. What do you say when someone keeps shaking you, drawing you out of your comfort zone and making you think, think, think? An answer .. learn from and interact with Steve more.

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — May 4, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

  2. another option – have a beer and turn the music up 🙂


    Comment by steve — May 4, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

  3. Wow, Steve. What a piece to write! And well written too. Although I risk going on a minor tangent, I felt drawn particularly to the following statement over and over again:

    “They refuse to “shy away from the unpleasant and deeply tragic possibility that there might be human beings, created in the image of God, who, through the practices of evil, have immunised themselves from all attempts at their redemption.”

    Then the following two questions cropped up in my mind, to which I presently have no answer. But it sure does make the grey matter work overtime:

    To Non-believers: What is an authentic Christian response to such peoples who, through acts of evil or perhaps just an aversion to the Christian message, appear to be immune to Jesus?
    To fellow believers: What is an authentic Christian response for fellow Christians who are deaf to all but their own ideas and opinions?

    Comment by Ryan — May 4, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

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