This series has contrasted servant and beastly leadership. The last 3 posts brought Adventism and America into this contrast. The prognosis of Revelation 13 is that America could abandon its role as servant leader. How?
Here, I explore four ways this could happen.
First, they (the US government OR the US people as they are theoretically linked) could reject both the spirit and letter of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. They could abandon their vision of “liberty and justice for all” and abandon the Amendments, specifically the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment is the heart of USA’s identity, freedom and key to its prosperity and empowerment!! It defines USA!!!
These documents have attracted millions to flock to USA shores to find safety, worship and claim their voice.
Adventists have long believed America could abandon this basic right.
The First Amendment is especially a “law” that liberates and differentiates American because it protects minority groups from majority rule. It ensures individuals have a voice against oppressive political and religious regimes, even if they have the majority vote or sympathy. Allowing such voices has kept powers–both governmental or religious–more willing to serve, more responsive to truth, and more accountable to people and principles. Thus this law fosters an engine of accountability AND freedom essential to foster greatness. This is the genius of USA innovation and productivity.
Freedom of worship and voice allows private right of judgment and dialogue, both of which increase moral majority and starves corruption and exults a nation. The deep morality that is fostered is what breeds national maturity (see Gibbs 2014 on Moral Development and Reality).
America could violate this central “law” of liberty in many different ways. They can force a religious dogma or persuasion on everyone. Or the USA government can entangled itself into religious practices or institutions (churches, schools, hospitals) thus sabotaging the ingenuity, inventiveness and godly faithfulness that comes from free religious practices.
For 150 years, Adventists have seen this route as the main way the lamb-like beast of America (prophesied in Revelation 13) could assume more beastly roles. As a religious minority, we not only think this could happen but “feel” this could happen. We sense how our Saturday Sabbath keeping behavior could easily become a natural target if Protestants and Catholics allied to enforce Sunday rest. Clifford Goldstein, a lawyer and prolific SDA author, has argued this point well in his 1993 book, Day of the Dragon: How Current Events have set the Stage for America’s Prophetic Transformation. He does a good job of showing how the politically frustrated religious right could get impatient really fast and seize government power to push their religious agenda. We have defended the “wall of separation of church and state” but many Protestants/Catholics have not and we believe this is where beastly rule could start seeping through (this wall) and later become a major break that cause a flood of liberties to be swept away. While Goldstein is worth a read, he makes some predictions related to his time (1990s) that defocus these issues away from key principles. The two principles I think Adventist have correctly focused on are the loss of a wall of seperation and the restriction rights in the First Amendment.
And there are other ways, other then our historical views of this, by which these two principles could be abandoned. First, infringing our freedom of religion is only one way to abandon the First Amendment. It could also be abandoned by a popular uprising or governmental overreach that shuts down the presses, restricts congregating around a religious or an ideological conviction. Plus, a heightened fear of terrorism could motivates people to accept martial law that restricts freedoms.
I addition to this primary way– seepage and flooding through the wall of separation of church and state and loss of other first amendment rights–where beastly leadership can increase in the US.
Here are three other ways that I find hinted at in the Book of Daniel. Revelation 10 said the little Book of Daniel would give power to those who ate it and I think it has helped Adventists see how the lamb-like beast of Revelation 13 could quickly develop.
The second way beastly rule could creep back into the US is through Kingly or “personality” rule. This is basically when the whim of one ruler or one part of government restricts the counterbalancing view of the other. The US hasn’t had a “King” system since the days of our independence. We have representatives rule that restricts any one group from taking over. However, if a U.S. President, or executive branch, or if Congress or the courts take over sole leadership, not only would the central checks and balance system in the U.S. be challenged but representative voice would be loss and beastly rule increase. We see this beastly “personality” leadership in the first beast reviewed in Daniel, Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27, Daniel 2, 3, 4) gives us a picture of what a personality driven leadership does to due process. It throws it away….into the fiery furnace.
The third concern is with the beastly rule grows in a culture of “drunkenness.” Daniel 5 shows us what beastly rule exists when too much wealth, alcohol, pride, aggrandizement, and power accumulates to a few. Beastly leadership overlooks the obvious trends, does not support the marginalized, and develops a “wine of Bablylon” approach to leadership. This is a real possibility for America. If she continues on a debauchery trend, her freedoms will be fogged from within and lead to abusive power plays.
Finally, a fourth way America could turn more beastly, is seen in the government of the Medes and the Persians introduced in Daniel 6. Governmental officials fool Darius into passing a governmental law that he himself could not change. So we see that the “personality” or “kingly” rule is taken out of the system (which is good to an extent) but no jurisprudence is available for relief from a bad law. In Daniel 6, we see an aging Daniel escape the abusive rule of personality kingdom (Bablylonia with King Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar) only to end up in the abuse of laws that can’t be changed by judicious processes. This could happen in America if we swing from the threat of a “personality” to a cold hearted “policy” rule. Oddly, Nazi Germany had both beastly issues taking place: a strong personality based leadership without opposition and a rigid policy wonk system that abandon due process and jurisprudence.
America could fall into that beastly rut of leadership in many ways.
Next time, we conclude this long series by talking about how to keep servant leadership on the winning approach in America and in Adventism.