The voice is so important, not simply at an individual human level but at a corporate level.
The beast was given a mouth… (Rev. 13:5)
Two beasts, one rising from the sea and the second from the land (historically Rome across the waters and the Caesar cult worship in the locality) – a pattern that is repeated. In Creation we have heavens, water and land. The process is from heaven through the waters to the land, the water / sea taking on the symbolic representation of that ‘middle area’ that has to be tamed, the place where something can always rise up, hence the startling response to Jesus that ‘even’ the winds and waves obeyed him, leading them to say ‘what kind of human is he?’, and the final coming together of the binary of heaven and earth with that middle space disappearing with the statement that there was ‘no more sea’. The beast is given a voice… this always marks a major element in the advancement of imperial / demonic power, so there will always be the need to ask ‘who is speaking?’ to determine who the voice is representing.
Regardless of where one sits on the ‘open theology’ spectrum there seems to be a principle that certain responses are monitored to see what is in our hearts, and this is certainly true beyond the individual of movements or institutions. I am a big believer that all movements need regular (annual?) exorcisms for there is default pull which is the Babylonian pull.
Here are two thoughts I have.
A movement hits a crisis, and how they deal with it will determine the following years, and in that I am not suggesting it has to be dealt with perfectly – us acting perfectly? I don’t think so!!
Not perfectly but there is something about a dividing line that seems to me to be over ‘self-preservation’. The voice of Babylon is always that of ‘we will survive’, or in the words of scripture,
I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
or know the loss of children (Is. 47:8).
Survival at all costs. Babylon can never go out of existence and will go on for generations to come. There will always come a time in every movement when they will face this issue. If they go down the integrity route they run the risk of defamation and even the end of their existence; so in comes the cover ups, the painting of the situation in a light (light??) that hides what has taken place. Survival is something that God grants, he alone has immortality, and gives it. Survival at all costs starts the path of self-sourced life. God does not disappear (too gracious for that), the stories continue but the real evidence of life slowly dissipates, that real evidence not being what is happening within a movement but through that movement. It is the testimonies beyond the movement that indicate the real impact.
To survive at all costs will be at all costs, costs to individuals and the individual voice. The voice of the corporation becomes mono-toned, unlike the voice of heaven, that voice being the multi-toned diverse sounds of many waters running, causing a sound that has to be leaned into in order that we can actually hear what is being said. The voice of heaven is accessible but not without a leaning into the sound. One does not have to lean to hear the voice of Babylon.
A second aspect that rises is where a movement has a centre and there is a buffer between the centre and those that ask the challenging question. That centre might be a person, or a few inner core, but the effect is the same they cannot really be accessed in order to hear and respond to the perspective that challenges behaviour or direction. Let me call it the ‘Mercury / Hermes principle. Paul and Barnabas arrived at Lystra and the people were impressed so attributed divinity to the two:
Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker (Acts 14:12).
The ‘boss god’ and the interpreter for the god. That interpreter in our world is there to cover the ‘big’ cheeses, to make sure they are never viewed negatively, even to the point of ‘when they said xyz they really should not be understood as saying xyz but it really means…’, or ‘it is wrong to think they are not accessible it is just that they…’ In other words the ‘Hermes / Mercury’ principle is one of interpretation so that they are not directly accessible and they can never be critiqued.
Voices. Voices that self-promote, self-preserve and keep all honest critique at bay. That voice can be tracked back to the ‘beast from the sea’ and if we do we can be sure there will also be a ‘beast rising up in our land’.
Time to calm the waters and the winds. The voice of Jesus, clean, honest, simple, his breath (the wind from his mouth) will settle the waters. The waters are not evil. But they do have to be calmed.