Nobody likes a real prophet. Real prophets speak truth in times of deception and illusion. They publicly announce that the emperor has no clothes. They poke holes in false walls and call down fire on soaking wet tinder. They blow down houses of cards. They sit in the crow’s nest and cry out when fog banks or icebergs are approaching. They expose hidden and crooked paths that lead downward. They call the wicked to account. They call us all back home- to GOD, to our senses, to reality. Real prophets don’t call themselves prophets and they rarely possess any miraculous powers. Their gift is vision and then in turn the proclamation of the vision. But the vision isn’t often one of comfort. It’s often a word of warning. And no one likes to be warned or called into account- at least at first.

You might say the role of the prophet is for ancient times. Or you might say GOD has always had His prophets- even today. It also seems, that there are always more false prophets than true ones. There are always voices that would rather speak favorably than rock the boat. Maintaining status, social standing, and the status quo can be primary motivators. And then there are dark prophets who are simply out to deceive, manipulate and destroy. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to tell the truth speakers from the self-seekers or out-right deceivers. But I’m not hear to settle that argument. We all have a responsibility to test the prophets.

Sometimes the prophets arrive on the scene as stand-up comedians, artists, musicians, film makers, whistle-blowers, children, graffiti artists, mothers, farmers, desert dwellers, and like in ancient times, Balaam’s talking donkey. Other times they are economists, professors, kings, statesmen, astronomers, and authors.

In our day, I believe it is urgent for us to heed the prophetic voices that are urging us towards facing the true state of our country and the world. We live in titanic times. Like sleepwalkers, like passengers in our pajamas, it’s hard for us to believe the ship could go down -despite the fact that even in our sleep we heard the impact and were awakened by the jolt. Nobody wants to believe that anything could break the peace of such a perfect night. The American dream was such a beautiful illusion- at least for a time.

I recently read a book that has reinforced my belief that we are entering a post-stable future (characterized by instability) in America. I would call it a prophetic book of sorts- but it’s not the sort of book I would recommend to everyone- unless you want to hear the sound of denial and delusion smashing to the floor- or the sound of consequences coming to roost. There are parts of it that I had to skip over as he drags the reader through the underbelly of America’s obsession with celebrity and hedonism. There were parts of it that made me stop and sit in the shock of what he was saying.

In the book ‘Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle‘ by Chris Hedges, he holds up a glaring mirror to our American society- to a culture that he says is mortally wounded, morally bankrupt and drunk on bread and circuses. But this isn’t a book merely decrying surface issues:

“A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies. And we are dying now. We will either wake from our state of induced childishness, one where trivia and gossip pass for news and information, one where our goal is not justice but an elusive and unattainable happiness, to confront the stark limitations before us, or we will continue our headlong retreat into fantasy. Those who cling to fantasy in times of despair and turmoil inevitably turn to demagogues and charlatans to entertain and reassure them…” [from the inside cover]

In the book he states:

“How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of a superpower and the fantasies of a glorious tomorrow, or will we responsibly face our stark, new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up in moments of crisis and panic to offer fantastic visions of escape?” [p. 145]

“The worse reality becomes, the less a beleaguered population wants to hear about it, and the more it distracts itself…” [p. 190]

In the end he offers the ultimate reality, the never-failing reality that we know has it’s origins and completion in our Creator:

“Love will endure, even if it appears darkness has swallowed us all, to triumph over the wreckage that remains”. [p. 193]

Right now that’s not very encouraging. I still am having a hard time listening to voices like Chris Hedges, Dmitry Orlov and my friend Steve from Texas who says GOD told him to prepare for times when roads will turn to fields and that GOD is raising up ‘cities of refuge’. I have a hard time listening to the market analyst who says:

“Do your friends a favor. Tell them to “batten down the hatches” because there’s a HARD RAIN coming. Tell them to get out of debt and sell anything they can sell (and don’t need) in order to get liquid. Tell them that Richard Russell says that by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country. They’ll retort, “How the dickens does Russell know — who told him?” Tell them the stock market told him…

I’m not saying I know who is right. I’m not saying some of what’s being said is not fear-mongering. I’m not saying any of us can really know. But I am saying I have heard the loud sound of an impact in the spirit and I can feel my feet getting wet. I can’t prove it, but if it’s true- what will it mean for the church to be GOD’s enduring love in a time of great instability? I’m not saying it’s the end of the world but it may be the end of the world as we know it. We may need to put away our own bread and circuses.

“…And He will be the stability of your times, A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the LORD is his treasure….” [Isaiah 33:6]

A final word from the prophets?

(video: Radiohead- House of Cards)

J. Fowler

J. Fowler is the website editor and co-founder, along with his wife Pamela, of the Sustainable Traditions project. The Fowlers live with their seven children on a farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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