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Speaking to the Soul: Babylon the Great

Speaking to the Soul: Babylon the Great

Week of Proper 26, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 56, 57, [58] (morning) // 64, 65 (evening)

Ecclesiasticus 38:24-34

Revelation 14:1-13

Luke 12:49-59

As of today, we’re just one year shy of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Our reading from Revelation this morning includes a character who was very important to sixteenth-century Christian reformers: the whore of Babylon. These reformers argued that the whore of Babylon was none other than the Roman Catholic Church. After labeling the church in this way, reformers could justify their separation from her. They argued that a later verse in Revelation demanded that they reject Roman Catholicism, for “a voice from heaven” ordered, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins” (Rev 18:4).

It’s so easy to justify behavior after labeling someone or something a “whore.” Our passage today records the voice of an angel proclaiming, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” That’s Babylon, for you: She is fallen. She is drunk. She’s a fornicator. Therefore, we can justify however she’s treated.

This practice of labeling people as intoxicated whores and then justifying their punishments has a long history in our Scriptures and in our church conflicts. Today our prayers cry out for this narrative and this language to be rewritten and reformed, and for comfort and justice to find all those who have been harmed by it along the way.

Lora Walsh blogs about the Daily Office readings at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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