Advent: The Antidote To Power’s Venom

December 3, 2017


oppressionBelieve it or not, today’s disparate clashes congeal into a single blob. Sexual harassment, win-at-any-price tax legislation, and nakedly partisan religious leaders all signal warped power. We’re bobbing and weaving on a wave of tyrannical power that oppresses the weak, stomps the environment, and breathes fear into an intimate, holy, life-creating, covenantal, and rapturous act.

Power is like an addictive narcotic. We always crave more. We’re not even satisfied after we’ve clawed our way to our professional pinnacles, which is why king-of-the-hill politicians, executives, journalists and entertainment moguls terrorize their female employees after they’ve scaled the dazzling heights. Power is the motif of knife-me-behind-my-back America, bristling every day on Facebook and Twitter.

Perhaps we should take advantage of this liturgical season to detox ourselves. Wayward evangelical leaders can step up first.

What Advent Was Meant To Be

Historically, Advent camps out with Lent. It’s a reset season. We pray, fast, and meditate on Christ’s second coming. We zero-in on the eschaton, or the end times, which would color Advent in dreamy, never-never pastels but for a bombshell in the Gospels: The end times were actually inaugurated at Christ’s first arrival and will be consummated when he comes again. Eschatology saturates Jesus’s ministry. Jesus lived the life of the future in the present: He taught the future, modeled the future, and dropped futuristic tokens into everyday life. His healings and miracles prefigured a disease-free era; his favoritism to the poor and oppressed augured an age of total justice. And he invites his followers to live that future now. We join his kingdom, yield to his spirit, follow his norms and, together, form eschatological communities in which we live-out his motif: “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many …” (Matthew 20:28).

Jesus gets his kicks out of service, not grim power. That’s why he washed his disciples’ feet.

The faithful are, indeed, other-worldly – but with a twist. We’re not seeking pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye. We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We yearn for the other world here and now. Let love and justice and healing invade this world as the future colonizes the present. Nuts to warped, domineering power. Hello to eschatological power: the power to empower others.

Our challenge, of course, is the tension of the already-but-not-yet (Christ’s kingdom has already come; it’s not yet complete). The strange allure of warped power wars with Christ’s call and often ensnares us. Thus the wisdom of re-set seasons like Advent. We quiet down. We fast. We turn a deaf ear to today’s clamor and listen to the future’s summons.

Examples for us all 

James Dobson and Franklin Graham reveal the utility of an old-style Advent.

Dobson, the pro-family advocate, railed against President Clinton’s immorality in the 1990’s. Yet he said this after several women levelled credible accusations against Alabama Republican US Senate Candidate Roy Moore:

Judge Moore is a man of proven character and integrity, and he has served Alabama and this country very, very well. I’ve known him for over 15 years, but recently I’ve been dismayed and troubled about the way he and his wife Kayla have been personally attacked by the Washington establishment. Judge Moore has stood for our religious liberty and for the sanctity of marriage, when it seemed like the entire world was against him. I hope you’ll vote for Judge Roy Moore for United States Senate.

Endorsing an accused pedophiliac trashes Dobson’s own family values. He’s so enmeshed in the partisan power war that he fails to see his own incongruity. Press Advent’s reset button, Doctor Dobson. Detox yourself.

Then there’s Graham’s Facebook entry, part of which reads:

I met Roy Moore when I was in Alabama last year, and I talked to him a few days ago from Norway and asked him if these allegations were true. He said absolutely not … My prayer is that the truth will ultimately be revealed and lies will be seen for what they are.

Yet he said this of Matt Lauer:

Matt Lauer of the Today Show was fired by NBC News after an investigation. What we’re seeing in the recent string of what is termed “misconduct” really boils down to a morality issue—people failing to follow God’s standards, and that is called sin. The Bible tells us, “…be sure your sin will find you out.” This is a warning to all of us to examine our lives. That doesn’t just apply to movie stars, media personalities, and politicians, but to everyone. One sin leads to others and can have a great impact on our own lives and the lives of those around us. Sin has devastating consequences—here on earth, and for eternity. But God is anxious for us to come to Him in repentance and ask for His forgiveness and help. True healing comes through trusting Jesus Christ in faith and following Him as the Lord of our lives.

I don’t disagree with his Lauer statement, but why the double standard? Reset yourself, Mr. Graham. Enter Advent’s detox and pay heed to Katelyn Beaty’s tweet: “If your moral standards for leaders shift depending on the leader in question, then they aren’t really standards, just tribal boundary markers.”

Dobson and Graham are far from alone. They’re just two samples of a loopy culture pitting rival tribes of relativistic evangelicals and spendthrift Republicans against intolerant liberals and lackluster Democrats. The social media trolls prowl as the Muzak plays in the shopping malls and the disparate clashes congeal into that single, shrill blob.

Perhaps this year’s noise will jar us into accepting the invitation of a traditional Advent. We’ll tune out the dissonant din. We’ll hear the call of a compelling, present-day future as we yield ourselves to the Lord whose birth we’ll soon celebrate.


About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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