In March 2003 an elderly minister I knew sent out an email containing a dream that his sister had shared with him. As I emailed back and forth with the minister for a short time (and with his daughter as well), it became apparent that the minister had misinterpreted his sister’s dream, and I wept as the Spirit unveiled the meaning. The dream, as best as I can recall it, is as follows:
The DreamThe elderly minister’s interpretation:
She was going to a church, and when she got there it was like an outdoor marketplace or vending booth. There were three items on display being sold: stovepipe hats, t-shirts, and checkbook covers. Her vision seemed especially drawn to the checkbook covers. Each of the items were emblazoned with the same image—an iconic city skyline. As she looked closer at the image, it seemed to move: in the middle of the city there was a dark space on the ground, like a hole. But as she looked it was like there was a black tower like a sharp spike in the midst of it emerging and rising upward to the sky. After this she was filled with a sense of expectancy, which reminded her of when she had visited the Black Hills of South Dakota and first saw George Washington’s face on Mount Rushmore, how the greatness and majesty made her heart swell with awe and pride.
The minister believed that the dream was a prophetic message to the nation (the USA). The stovepipe hats (like Abraham Lincoln’s) represented “head knowledge” being idolized, he thought. The t-shirts reminded him of many “protest” t-shirts he had seen younger people wearing, which often had phrases that seemed vulgar to him. I think minister didn’t say much about the checkbook covers, the city skyline image on everything, or the dark place in the city where the tower was rising. He basically painted a picture of the moral decline of the country and its increasing godlessness. Specifically he mentioned how the some people wanted the words “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, how teachers in public schools were being forbidden to pray over their classes. He said all of these things were signs of the time of the end, and that the wickedness and chaos would increase until suddenly Christ would “cut the work short in righteousness” and bring a swift end to it. I believe he may have tied that into seeing Washington’s face on Rushmore, and I think that also inspired him to mention the great and “godly foundations” of the country.
I replied to the minister’s general email, not to contradict him, but because I thought there must be some meaning to the parts he had not mentioned in his interpretation: the skyline, the rising dark tower, and particularly the checkbook covers. As I typed about these things, more and more meaning began to emerge, and finally the parts that the minister had initially interpreted also began to take on very different meanings.
Re-interpretation of the dream:
The minister sent out the dream (and his interpretation of it) during the same month that America began the Iraq war (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”). I did not want to think the dream was about that situation, but sudden weeping came upon me as I understood that the dream portrayed the ‘selling’ of the rationale for the war, the justice of its cause, and the ultimate good that it was said to be undertaken for.
The Church as a Marketplace
The dream shows the church as a marketplace because the majority of American churches really became a place where war, politics and economy were ‘sold’ to Christians, to the American people, and to the Iraqi people.
The first of the three items being sold were stovepipe hats like Abraham Lincoln famously wore. Just as Lincoln used the moral justification of ending slavery when fighting the Civil War, the Iraq war was sold as being “for the liberation of the Iraqi people.”
(Several years later when then-Senator Barack Obama—who had voted against starting the war—ran against Senator John McCain who had supported the war, the Republican National Convention actually convened against a backdrop of a picture or logo of Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat!)
Instead of the “clothing” of Christ’s righteousness, the church was offering the righteousness of the national cause. Instead of preaching “clothe yourselves with compassion” (Col.3:12) the church was teaching people the justification for starting a war. (The minister’s interpretation of it representing vulgar protest shirts is sadly a minor footnote: between 9-11 and the first few years of the Iraq war, patriotic apparel was overwhelmingly the preferred fashion.)
The Checkbook Covers
The checkbook covers represent the prosperity that was supposed to come as a result of the Iraq war– both for the Iraqi people and for American interests. The war was sold as a “win-win” for all sides. It was supposed to liberate the Iraqi people and bring them free market & prosperity—the American dream, basically.
But the checkbooks were empty.
I wept as I understood what the checkbooks meant. They were a façade, an appearance of bringing help and prosperity, but without real substance inside.
The Three Items Being Sold
The real gospel is that Christ came to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and set the captives free. But the items on the table being sold represent a kind of parody-gospel behind what was being sold to America, the church, and the nations:
The checkbook covers = feeding the hungryThe Image on the Products (and its dark heart)
The t-shirts = clothing the naked
The Abraham Lincoln hats = setting the captives free
The city skyline on all of the products beings old represents how the Iraq war was sold to the people as a just reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Following the pattern of previous battle cries in American history, the nation was rallied to war with the motivation to “Remember 9-11” (which was also its moral justification). Although other reasons were given that America should go to war, the rationale that connected with and moved American hearts most was the appeal to that recent national trauma, even when evidence failed to show any link between Saddam and the 9-11 attacks.
The shadowy heart behind this propagandic manipulation of national trauma is simply Babylon— the desire to bend others by force to our will so we may build and preserve our prosperous empire. That is what the dark tower rising like a spike signifies. In the wreckage of the World Trade Center, our pride rises up defiantly: “We will not be defeated, we will not change our ways, we are proud of who we are and what we’ve done, we will stand united and we will beat you.”
Like Seeing Mount Rushmore
The rising, defiant pride of that dark tower in the skyline parallels the rising feelings of awe and pride the minister’s sister felt when she visited the Black Hills and saw Mount Rushmore.
When I first read this, I hadn’t realized that Mount Rushmore was in the Black Hills. I had read when I was younger about how several Native American tribes considered the Black Hills (Pahá Sápa) to be sacred. The US government signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie which recognized that the Black Hills permanently belonged to the Lakota people. But after gold was discovered, settlers and the army poured into the Black Hills in violation of the treaty. The United States pushed for the Sioux to sell the Black Hills, but the Sioux would not budge. The army provoked and went to war with the Sioux (most famously losing at “Custer’s Last Stand”) and eventually succeeded in taking the Hills from them after the Great Sioux War of 1876. About fifty years later it was in these same hills that the faces of American presidents Mount Rushmore were blasted into the face of a mountain the Lakota called “Six Grandfathers.” The sculptor chose four presidents who had protected or expanded the territory of the country.
To most Americans, Mount Rushmore may elicit feelings of pride and awe at the greatness of America, but to many Native Americans the monument represents the dishonesty of America in the breaking of solemn treaties, the greed underneath that drove them to do it, and the genocidal policies of the nation against Natives (several of which were undertaken by those presidents whose faces are carved on the mountain).
The spiritual reality underneath the façade of Mount Rushmore is the same as the dark tower in the dream—it’s Babylon: empire, dishonesty, manipulation, greed and violence.
Why Post This Dream Now, 11 Years Later?
That’s my question, Lord. I prayed and shared it with several people at the time, and of course I sent emails to the elderly minister and his daughter. I don’t know what came of those communications. But this week I’ve read with sadness what is happening in Iraq today, where sectarian wars are recurring and increasing. I remembered this dream and You said to write about it and post it. But I wonder, Lord, what good can it do now?
Yet… I pray that it helps open eyes to the spiritual roots, the undercurrents that were happening 11 years ago in America. These strongholds have been in place since the nation’s foundation, and every generation in America is pulled into a major war because these strongholds remain in place. I pray that You use this dream and its interpretation to open up veiled eyes, to expose strongholds in hearts—in the heart of the nation and the church in America—and set people free.
Help us as the church also repent for our part in encouraging and supporting the war and the lies the war was begun upon. Use us as intercessors in prayer, word and deed, to bring healing to the people of a land that we have helped bring more pain and chaos to. Please save them and help them, Jesus, in spite of how we have misrepresented You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
"What We've Allowed"