Fighting the Beast

Peter Leithart recently wrote on his blog about the verse from Revelation 13, “Who is able to wage war with the beast?” and I could hardly help but take special notice. These were exactly the words l had had echoing about in my own head recently. Of course the answer to what was meant to be an unanswerable rhetorical question (nobody can fight against the beast, it owns you) is that the Lamb wages war with the beast, and those who follow the Lamb wage war with the beast, and the beast will be conquered and overcome.

I have been feeling these things powerfully from my own perch in my own little outlook from where I am stationed.

I served in a local hospital as a staff chaplain for a number of years. The hospital I served is one of only three community hospitals left in my state. Of those, one of the others has now been purchased by one of the giant national conglomerates, leaving only two. I recently had a conversation with someone in my town who was trying to head up an initiative of Christians to help poor and indigent people get independent medical help. They found it virtually impossible.

The community hospital, in order to survive, is buying every independent doctor’s office and medical outlet in the county that they can. And that is on top of just completing a four hundred million dollar building project (for which they paid cash) completing an entirely new hospital, and they now have moved from the old to the new. They are trying to become a medical monopoly in our county, and it appears succeeding. They have to, in order to survive.

I recently heard Mark Steyn say it all so well on the radio. He said that his primary objection to federalized and socialized medicine, is that it transforms the citizen’s basic relationship to the state. Once this happens, your body belongs to the state, and once your body belongs to the state, it is a small leap to believe that your soul does too. The average citizen is then in awe, and this is very close to worship. His very bodily integrity and health is utterly reliant upon the state, which is now becoming a beast. One can see that with regularity, wherever socialized medicine triumphs, God becomes an antiquated and quaint notion from a distant and irrelevant past. Euro-socialism appears to be almost as effective as Islam in hardening hearts to the Gospel.

To return to my story, the federal beast is now so vast and ubiquitous that an independent doctor’s office cannot survive the regulatory burden and the liability. We do not have socialized medicine, but we have something close enough, and the goal is to get ever closer. The federal and state beast can only be opposed or quelled by another beast of considerable size and power. Hence, the giant hospital corporate conglomerates. Our little ex-community hospital is trying to become a large enough county wide medical monopoly, i.e. another beast, in order to survive the weight and power of the beast.

Gone are the days when a single doctor might own his own small hospital, as did the doctor who lived across the street from my family in my childhood hometown in the 1950s. Gone are the days that the local churches might pitch in to help start a local community hospital, and when a local pastor or rector might sit on, or even be in charge of, the board of directors, as did the Episcopal rector in the town I now live in. He did this in one form or another for forty years up through the 1960s. Even many of the older church-based hospitals have had to sell to the conglomerates. I believe all of the nearby Seventh Day Adventist hospitals (bless the Adventists for all that God has used them to do in this area) have sold to the conglomerates.

I fear that medicine is very close to the deep nerve center of the beast. “Who is able to wage war with the beast?” Well, nobody but us Christians. We can. Only the church, and Christians, can conquer and overcome, because we can do war with that which controls the beast. It will not win, in the longer run. It will not.

It is precisely at these points that we have to take note of the ancient Christus Victor view of the atonement once again. Not only did Jesus die as a substitutionary atonement for our sins, but likewise when he died, he also “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).

Jesus did the victorious work on the Cross, but it is the church that brings the immediate application of this power to all of her surroundings. Paul is clear: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). It is in the end Christians who are armed with the power of the Cross who fight against the power of the beast.

We do this by the warfare of worship, the chanting of God’s war songs (the Psalms), by prayer, and when necessary, by martyrdom, both bloody and unbloody. By unbloody, I mean that we may not be called upon to literally die, but we might be called upon to suffer in lesser ways that will come of taking various stands, and refusing to compromise at certain points. It might cost various privileges, or employment, or advances and advantages. God sees and remembers.

Until recently, Rev. Richard Bledsoe served as a hospital chaplain in Boulder, Colorado, and is currently in transition.