Summary: Advent Hope

When I was a lot younger I used to be really into the James Bond films. I can’t stand them now. From Dr no in 1962 with Sean Connery, to OHMS in 1969 with George Lazenby; to Live and Let Die in 1973 with Roger Moore, The Living Daylights in 1987 with Timothy Dalton; to Golden Eye in 1995 with Pierce Brosnan; to Casino Royale in 2006 with Daniel Craig and Bond 23 due to be released in November 2011.

The first of Ian Flemings novels was Casino Royale, made into a film in 2006. Bond’s mission to him to Madagascar to spy on a potential terrorist. He got involved in a game of high stakes poker in Montenegro with a villain who provided a money-laundering service to terrorist grops. If Bond wins the poker game he saves the world from future acts of terror. The plot is familiar – the same as every James Bond film. The actors may change, the locations may change, but you can always guarantee what you will get in a James Bond film.

There will be unique villains, outlandish plots, voluptuous women who fall in love with Bond, who also happens, conveniently to fall in love with them at first sight.

There are gadgets from Q, death-defying stunts, outlandish behaviour. The climax is always the same – Bond saves the world from apocalyptic madmen.

Somewhere the try to kill Bond with a death trap during which the villain reveals vital information. Bond escapes and uses the i9ntelligence to thwart the evil plot. Bond then often kills his opponent, or they die by someone else’s hand. Bond always saves the world, but he always saves it by using violence.

And this kind of plot is not unique to James Bond films. The idea that we can be saved by a super hero who overcomes evil and terror by force; that we can be saved by some act of violence is the plot of many a thriller. You find a common thread running through these films. There is a good person and a bad person. The bad person gains the upper hand and seems to be going to win but always, by an act of violence, the good person comes out on top and the world is safe again.

A final, violent act can save the world for us. It is of course a myth but it is believed not only in films but across society. Violence is part of modern society, almost the spirituality og the modern world, almost a religion.

It was Tony Blair and George Bush who thought inflicting violence on Iraq and Afghanistan would save the world from oblivion through terrorism. It is racists, members of far right parties who are happy to bring violence against people of other ethnic origins because, somehow, without them things will be better.

It’s why the Jews are happy to have illegal settlements, to breach UN rules because all will be better if Arabs are removed. That’s why the President of Iran threatens violence and annihilation against Israel because the world will be a better place with the Jews, he says. That’s why Hitler unleashed violence against Jews and others. Things will better if this or that person, group, race, nation are removed and we will use force and violence to do it.

But it’s always been the case. It’s nothing new. The idea of salvation by violence infects all cultures and all societies and all religions. Before Christianity, before Babylon, some of the 1st people believed in a story of a good god who created by brutally killing his mother. Evil came first and, by violence, good overcame it.

And this idea of salvation by violence offers is a way of thinking about the end times which brings us to the gospel reading for today in mark 13. It’s called apocalyptic literature, or millenarianism. It is the belief that society is going to be transformed and after this all will be well, better than now. The present is corrupt, wrong, evil and unjust and must be destroyed buy a powerful force that will bring in a new era. This way of violence is the only way that things will change.

Only a dramatic change will make the world a better place and that change will be brought about, or survived, by the devout and dedicated.

Mark 13 is one of the most difficult chapters in the New Testament for us to understand because it is so full of Jewish imagery, history and ideas. The Jews never doubted that they were the chosen people, that one day they would occupy the place in the world the chosen people deserved. God would intervene in a time of terror and trouble when the world will be shaken to its foundations and a new world created. And that idea and that believe is still held by many today.

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