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So You Want a Revolution?

So You Want a Revolution?
When I became a Christian, following Jesus seemed like the most revolutionary thing I could do. The teachings of Jesus are radical. The way the early church lived out the gospel inspires me to go deeper, give more of myself, and nurture a grander vision for what human community could be like.

The more I read the New Testament, I more I find myself pushed towards a lifestyle that challenges our present society to its foundations. In contrast to the radical individualism of consumer capitalism or the enforced conformity of most religious communities, the way of Jesus demands both radical openness and profound submission to the guidance of the Spirit.

This revolutionary new reality plays out in love for enemies. We find it when we choose relationship and trust rather than money and self-interest. It comes alive in the healing power of forgiveness and the daily practice of justice.

The freedom of the gospel looks like insanity to middle-class, safety-conscious America. For those of us who are a wrapped up in the world’s priorities, the simple act of forgiveness looks like weakness. The Christian’s refusal to take refuge in wealth and privilege seems like adolescent silliness at best. At worst, the humble-yet-prophetic way of Jesus can activate the defense response of those in power. Violence. The emperor does not like being told he’s stark naked.

My years as a Christian have been filled with a sense of longing. I’ve yearned for the revolutionary days of the early church. I’ve looked back to the fiery, apocalyptic campaigns of the early Quaker movement with admiration. And I’ve wondered: What must we do to ignite this kind of movement in our own time and place? What must I do to be part of God’s continuing revolution?  

I know a lot of other people are experiencing this same yearning. We live in frustrating times. Stuck times. Times in which we all find ourselves longing for upheaval and change.

I hear words like “revolution” being thrown around a lot. In Christian circles, the word “revival” is often a popular choice. Heck, even I’ve used this word once or twice. Quakers and Christians of all stripes throughout the world are longing for revival – the restoration of that movement-church fire, the Holy Ghost power of a people gathered by God to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.

It’s a beautiful vision. It’s the right vision. And it’s a vision that we are completely unprepared for.

I’ll be completely honest: For a long time, I’ve blamed God for the lack of transformation in my own life and in the communities where I’ve served. I’ve been baffled at the lack of forward momentum, Spirit-led change and healing despite how much I and many others have prayed for it. Looking back to the miracles of the early church and the prophetic Quaker movement, I’ve been perplexed. If God could do that in the first century and the sixteenth century, why won’t he do it now? Why doesn’t Jesus send the Holy Spirit like he used to?

I’m seeing now that I’ve been wrong to blame God. The Holy Spirit is alive and ready for action any time we call on her. God isn’t the problem. I am. We are.

We’re not ready for the spiritual revolution we dream about, precisely because it is a dream. Far too often, our ideas of revival are a fantasy of spiritual highs, supportive community, and connection with God. But when’s the last time you fantasized about losing your home, your bank account, your sense of security? Does your imagined revival include beatings, persecution, and social ostracism? Does your vision of the beloved community involve sacrificing career, enduring hardship, becoming a community that our culture laughs at and punishes?

Mine neither.

Lots of Christians talk a big game about revolution and revival. (I myself talk about both.) But it’s all a delusion if we aren’t ready to embrace the cross, the sacrifice that comes when we choose to be friends of Jesus. I’m weary of all our talk of revival – I’ve gotten fed up with my own words! You and I have no business talking about revolutionary transformation of our society when we have yet to take seriously Jesus’ call to repentance. 

The whole Christian movement is founded on the idea that we must profoundly change our way of life. If we think that we can follow Jesus but keep our toys, our security, our status, and our noble conceptions of ourselves, we’re going to be very disappointed. I know I have been.

How much longer will we chose to wander in the wilderness of conformity to the 21st-century capitalism, self-centeredness, and the world’s conception of what’s important? How long will we refuse to let go of our dreams about community and embrace the real relationships that make the church a revolution – not a club? When will the numbing effects of our opiate religion make us so nauseous that we resolve to sober up rather than choking on our own vomit?

Jesus has told us time and again that the way to life is narrow. The passion and beauty that we admire in the early church and other Spirit-filled movements has always emerged from sacrifice and struggle. Until we repent – until we turn away from our involvement in the consumer-capitalist war machine and all its false promises – we will never be that community we dream of. But if we do embrace this challenge, Jesus has promised us life, real life. Gathered in his victorious and comforting Spirit, revival is possible. 

Related Posts:

Are You Sleepwalking Towards Death?

Do You Have the Courage to Face the Horizon?

  • charlesburchfield

    I feel that when the spirit departed religious organizations & collectives (i imagine around the time of Constantine) it went because it was betrayed and abandoned. The numinous departed leaving a void filled with panic, loss & grief, with exceptions, to the present.
    When one is born in such a community all one knows is an inherited void and the path before one is infected and filled by one’s hosts neo-nostalgic second, third hand accounts and stories imbued with highly charged, colorful emotional feelings for a distant past neither they nor you has ever actually lived through. I have a gut feeling this is so. Living in such a society It’s, therefore, tempting to create a phantasy self as heroic and grandious as the stories one has been raised on. One might even be tempted to believe one should have had opportunities one does not have now &, sadly, one is living with out authenticity. It really isn’t one’s fault because one has been living in an enchanted community & their expectations of one are grandiose.
     “IF ONLY” is the mantra. Giving deference to a golden age version of reality can seriously arrest one’s spiritual maturity. I feel that’s what’s happened to me many times & that it has often hijacked my energy, triggered urgent manic action passing as necessary to accomplish revolutionary ideals when it was actually a much deeper manipulation of (established in childhood) engineered brainwash & emotions disguised as revolutionary itching for action based on a cult’s expectation. I’ve known people who fell short in their own eyes and were abandoned by peers & family. their shame and self hate drove them to suicide. I almost killed myself as well.

  • elliogr

    Thank you for this honest and powerful post, Micah. My brother. I can really relate to everything you shared. In my own experience of following the Holy Spirit, I am finding things heading in the right direction when I decrease the duality I impose on the “gifts of the Spirit” and the cross I must carry if I am to follow Jesus. It is easy to hold them as opposites – what could be more different than breaking bread with those in the Spirit and being persecuted by the imperial state?

    I’m taking a fantastic class with the Alternative Seminary on Acts. IT’S SO AWESOME. I haven’t spent nearly enough time with Acts before, and I’m finding it very enlightening. This all might be review for you, but Will O’Brien pointed out in last night’s class that in Acts 4:23-26, when Peter and John are released from their first trip to prison, they don’t pray for safety or protection. They lead a prayer of profound rejection of the imperial order and the sovereignty of God. It’s a powerful moment. They’re not in fear but in glory.

    Granted, as Will was quick to point out, maybe the early church wasn’t quite as perfect or profoundly faithful as Luke portrayed it. But his message in that passage is clear – if we are willing to make the leap of total faithfulness, the only thing we need to worry about is spreading the Word.

    May you and I and all those in the Spirit find such faith in these challenging times!

    Love to you and your beautiful family. I hope our paths will cross again soon. Blessings and gratitude.

  • Susan Chast

    Thank you for this impassioned plea and ministry. What to do? Some are suggesting workshops/meetings with police, others a boyott of prison-made and corporate goods and switching to Black-owned businesses. If we are working, some suggest monetary contributions to bail funds and engaged organizations that do seem to be building a revolution, continuing to grow for two years plus. And I read an article today that you might be interested in, When I posted it in the FB page “Quakers Engage to End Racism” (a closed group), much insight into who’s-talking-for-whom ensued. Let me know if that conversation interests you (or join the group). Here’s the link:

  • Keith Saylor

    Lay down outward ideological weapons as you lay laid down outward hardware of war. Stop ideological warfare nurtured in the nursery of the outward political, religious, social, and economic, powers and principles of this world.

    Christ is come again into this world, inshining into our conscious and conscience. This inshining is an unwinding from a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed around the orbits of outward religious, political, social, and economic, ideological constructs like Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, and Fascism and respective identification with individualism, self-governance, community, outwardly imposed notions of duty, etc. All of these ways are outside direct guidance of the inflowing Christ in the second covenant through death, resurrection, and the inshining Pentecostal event. Jesus Christ is here now and in all moments shining into our conscious and conscious. This inshining perpetual event breaks the orbit of human being around any and all outward planets and plantations. The revolution of Christ, who is come, is the inshining event, the second coming of Jesus Christ. In this coming, human being is free from the process of being that orbits or revolves around any outward political, religious, social, or economic forms, structures, or constructs.

    In the inshining that is come, there is no outward form and therefore no orbit around which to revolve. Orbiting around outward forms is no longer needful or valuable. The revolution of this inshining event that is come, is not that we orbit around one particular outward planetary ideological construct like Capitalism and reject another, but that, through the power of the Inshining itself in itself in the conscious and conscience, we take orbit around no outward political, religious, social, or economic form (for example, Capitalist or Socialist) at all or those who profess and prescribe those forms.

    In this pentecostal inshining, we not only withdraw from and lay down physical outward weapons; we also are given the strength and power to lay down and withdraw from the outward political, religious, social, and economic, weapons of ideological warfare and imposition upon the conscious and conscience of men and women. The act of being inshined is the direct and unmediated experience of withdrawing from both the outward physical warfare and outward political, religious, social and economic, ideological warfare without regard any ideological orbits.

    The Spirit of Jesus Christ shining into the conscious and conscience is peace through the withdraw of outward physical and ideological warfare. The revolution of the inshining Light is the withdraw from human being bound to revolving itself and into the direct experience itself in itself of unwinding and breaking free from all outward orbits gathered in the gravity of outward ideological planetary forms and into direct inshining itself in itself.