Location: Continental Divide, Rt. 10, Arizona.
10 "standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying,`Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.'
11 "And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore:"
The last thing in the world that you will hear me advocate (OK, OK, hyperbolically speaking) is that one should "read the bible in one hand with a newspaper in the other." (A statement sometimes attributed to Karl Barth) The prophecies of Scripture, especially those of John's Revelation, should be approached reverently, with one's sandals removed, and consciously aware that one is on holy ground. The apocalyptic images are designed to evoke wonder and convey the thrilling message that history has meaning and purpose, that it is headed somewhere, and that incredible and scary events are associated with its culmination.
Among those images is "Babylon." Starting in Genesis 11 (the tower of Babel) and on throughout its ultimately sordid physical history, the city of that name came to stand for all that is wrong with arrogant, selfish, earthly pride, wealth and power. "Babylon" is the sphere in which the "principalities and powers" (Eph. 6:12, Col. 2:15) of this world exercise their enticing allure, showing off their wares, seducing the souls of men as the "great harlot" (Rev. 17) with its promises of untold pleasures and possibilities. "Babylon" has much in common with the "Carnival" in the story of Pinocchio where young boys are turned into asses after indulging too heartily in its pleasures. There is no doubt that in John's day the earthly embodiment, at that time, of Babylon was the Roman empire and its "world-wide" encompassing moral, philosophical and commercial framework. Rome's fall was still hundreds of years in the future when John wrote but its consequent destruction, the subsequent dark ages, and the nostalgic longing for its glories that persisted among those surrounded by its ashes, certainly provide us with a taste of what Babylon's ultimate fate shall bring.
Which brings us to a "broke back" truck service station in the middle of no where.
Looking at that ravaged old building and its remaining ramshackle sign evoked some similar feelings in my own breast. Here is a metaphor for America perhaps and for the entire profit-based system which brought it such prosperity and power. Please do not misunderstand me here. Capitalism as an economic system is neither immoral nor on the other hand, righteous. It is a system... period. It can be used righteously or it can be infested with corruption and greed and become a travesty of human cruelty. The Scriptures do not commend any one economic system over another and therefore nothing I say should be taken as an indictment of Capitalism in its core assumptions.
But there are moral pitfalls associated with Capitalism just as in other schemes of men. When greed become mean... when the pursuit of wealth has no object other than itself... when the philosophy "all's fair in love and business" so permeates the system that entire cities are left in rubble as a result of direct exploitation, then the absence of moral compass points toward Babylon rather than Jerusalem and men of character should abhor those who are bringing about the devastation.
At the heart of Capitalism is an economic Darwinism based on competition for finite resources. Within a clear moral framework, it is the most efficient means by which mankind can build a prosperous and free social order. When those who guide the accumulation of wealth (such as the Guiness family in England) understand that wealth is an instrument to be used for the progress of human flourishing and not for narrow, miserly and self-seeking prideful ends, then much good can be accomplished.
But when that purposeful sense is absent, especially when it is absent on both sides of the Capitalistic structure (both management and labor), then the inevitable outcome is ruin... be it an old truck stop in the desert.... or..... Detroit.
What we see in these photos... what we hear about Detroit in the news... is America's future if fundamental structural changes do not take place. If we do not regain a moral foot hold that shifts our intentions toward building community within the social mores of personal responsibility, purposeful vocation and sacrificial service, then the days of wailing appear inevitable.
There is no external "fix" for our once magnificent social order. The only possible hope is a purely "internal" one. As long as it is "every man" for himself, then Capitalism, regulated or not, will default to greed and prosperity will fly to other lands, for God judges the soul of a nation in exactly the same way He judges the souls of individuals.