by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of[d] the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth
Revelation 13: 14
Our popular culture – the whole of it, not just advertising, but political and social discourse of all kinds – is full of deception; full of falsity.
During yesterday’s class we discussed how we might interpret or understand the “land beast” in today’s world. We had settled – in agreement with Poythress and Peterson – that the land beast represented “organized deceit,” particularly, at the time the book of Revelation was written, the deception and sensationalism of the corrupt priests of the imperial cult that operated in that day.
Since you and I are not subject to an “imperial cult” per se, we talked about how we might see the “land beast” as something more general – something that, indeed, we must battle day by day. We mentioned that we in the modern world are literally bombarded with organized deceit day by day and hour by hour. Indeed, I wonder whether John could have possibly imagined how slick and how powerful the machines of advertising that surround us could be.
We did all of that in class, and that’s all fine and dandy, but here’s what I missed: Someone in class said that the land beast might be seen today as “the culture.” I did not respond (much) but I should have offered a hearty “amen” to that. Of course. Our popular culture – the whole of it, not just advertising, but political and social discourse of all kinds – is full of deception; full of falsity.
People regularly get freaked out by stories than turn out to be false, and by the time the facts are known a good deal of damage (not least to personal relationships) has often already been done — plus, the disappearance of the cause of an emotion doesn’t automatically eliminate the emotion itself. In fact, it often leaves that emotion in search of new justifications for its existence.
I have come to believe that it is impossible for anyone who is regularly on social media to have a balanced and accurate understanding of what is happening in the world. To follow a minute-by-minute cycle of news is to be constantly threatened by illusion. So I’m not just staying off Twitter, I’m cutting back on the news sites in my RSS feed, and deleting browser bookmarks to newspapers. Instead, I am turning more of my attention to monthly magazines, quarterly journals, and books. I’m trying to get a somewhat longer view of things — trying to start thinking about issues one when some of the basic facts about them have been sorted out. Taking the short view has burned me far too many times; I’m going to try to prevent that from happening ever again (even if I will sometimes fail). And if once in a while I end up fighting a battle in a war that has already ended … I can live with that.