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15 January 2013

Revenge and Revelation: When Fantasy Spawns Phenomena

Fabio has this interesting post over at orgtheory. It reminded me of one of the greatest revenge stories of all time, The Book of Revelation. (Note that the final word in the title of that book has no "s." It's a nifty little shibboleth.) Revelation is a complicated work with a complicated history. It almost didn't make it into the canon, and even though it did squeak by, many (including Martin Luther) have been uncomfortable with it every since. Even though this has made it sublimely intriguing to sociologists, it's a dangerous book theologically because it stars a faceless monster on whom countless enemy faces have been superimposed over the millennia and seems to sanction violence and hatred. This made it a favorite of Fundamentalist blowhards, even though (because?) the message is starkly inconsistent with that of the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. In its proper historical context, though, Revelation is a revenge fantasy of the early Christians (or perhaps some post-Temple/pre-Christian Jews) against the Roman Empire.

Like the new Tarantino film, Django Unchained, Revelation can be benignly enjoyed as a self-indulgent romp. Too often, though, Revelation has devolved into self-righteous indignation, which makes it superbly dangerous.

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