Speaking Blount-ly about Escapism in the Book of Revelation

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]]’s use of Revelation, at least in my opinion, is reading Revelation much too subjectively. He wants his community, the disenfranchised African-American community, to find themselves in the ancient work and thus find hope among the modern forms of persecution. I cannot fault him for this, nor would I want to, although I disagree with his overall goal. However, I am objective enough (yes, Rodney, this is mainly stuff for you) to see some of the good things in Blount’s essay in the book shown to your left.

On pages 34-35 of his essay, Blount calls attention to two things which I feel are very important in the discussion of not just the Book of Revelation, but the entire eschatological paradigm that we see around us today.

No, I’m not going to launch into a rant on ‘I’ll Fly Away…’

First, he deals with escapism and then with resistance, but he does so simultaneously. For him, resistance is not about waiting to die to go to that celestial shore but about resisting becoming both an escapist and an accommodationist. He writes,

This is not the language or imagery of an escapist people who look to otherworldly visions to “drug out” their historical realities. Just as John foresaw a new earth as well as a new heaven (21:1), the slaves believed that God’s accomplishments in the heavenly realm could and would lead to liberation on the earthly one. The war and the emancipation of slaves validated the slave’s belief that God acts in human history, as the spiritual shows: “Shout the glad tidings o’er Egypt’s dark sky/ Jehovah has triumphed, his people are free.'” This is why they could sing in images that talked about other worlds but in their essence challenged the structures of this world and, even more important, beckoned their participation in that challenge.

Singin’ wid a sword in ma han, Lord,
Singin’ wid a sword in ma han’
Singin’ wid a sword in ma han;
Singin’ wid a sword in ma han.’

Purtiest singin’ ever I heard,
‘Way ovah on de hill,
‘De angels sing an’ I sing too,
Singin’ wid a sword in ma han,’ Lord.’

This is the language of resistance, not escapism. It is the kind of language that I believe characterizes the slave narratives” and corresponds with the ethical exhortation that John wanted his visionary imagery to impress upon his first-century hearers. In fact, the lens of the spirituals and the slave narratives helps us to see more clearly the way in which John’s apocalyptic language encourages “a witness of active resistance.” It is to this that we now turn.

Isn’t that the point of Revelation? Doesn’t John want to encourage – as Paul does, as Christ Himself does – an active resistance to the Old Order in hopes of the New Creation being manifested often times through the stripes of the persecuted?

One thing that I might disagree with in regard to Blount, although he is quoting ]], is on the issue of John’s rough language. Following Callahan, Blount argues that John’s bad Greek grammar is a resistance in among itself. Gonzales notes on page 59 that often times, John doesn’t quote from the standard Greek translation of the day, but often times, in his opinion, quotes from memory. In my opinion, I do not see bad grammar, spelling, or verbal degradation of language as a sign of resistance to the occupying regime. I think that Blount, like Callahan before him, makes a stretch here which is almost laughable.

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2 Replies to “Speaking Blount-ly about Escapism in the Book of Revelation”

  1. Bad language in Revelation? Callahan and Blount are on their rockers. I don’t agree with them on everything. Their approach to scripture is the cultural interpretation, and that’s fine sometimes, but the “rough language” argument just does not fly. And it sounds pretty patronizing to discourage umm, black youth to read. There I said it.

    1. I tend to agree with, Rodney. Granted, these are short essays and not meant to encompass all of their thoughts, but to say that bad language is a form of resistance seems to open up a whole other can of Bill Cosby worms

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