Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are you a revolutionary

The other day I was talking to a friend... okay I was arguing with a guy on Twitter. We were speaking about structures, and ecclessiology (what the church is meant to be like), and we were not agreeing on most things. He pictured me as a bit of a renegade church planter, unbound by rules and regulations, and not having to worry about lineage and legacy of an historical church. At least I think that is how he pictured me. And if he did, it is pretty correct for the most part. But anyways, we got to a certain part of the discussion and he uttered this phrase, "I am gifted and skilled in making the most of what I am given, I'm not a revolutionary"

Now my first desire was to fire back, "well thats too bad, because Jesus was" But I have actually censored myself from time to time. So I took a minute to reflect on that statement and my reaction. The truth is, I am a revolutionary. I love Che, and Malcolm X, and Gandhi, and I want to be like that when I grow up. I have lived as a revolutionary in my communities, and churches, and I generally feel like the systems should not be slowly redeemed, but burned to the ground. Lets start a fresh with some new blood, some new structure and a refusal to get in bed with the worlds systems of management and leadership. Yeah, thats me. And I have learned over the years that we tend to put our ideas onto Jesus. This is actually quite normal, though wrong.

But what about the statement, I am not a revolutionary. In the context of following Jesus, what does that mean? I wondered, and still wonder. I see Jesus as a revolutionary. In fact the more I learn about Jesus, and his historical setting, the more I see him as a revolutionary. But to the religious systems of the day, to the perceptions of God, and even towards the interaction with government even hostile government. If we aren't naturally geared towards revolution, does that mean our following Jesus is meant to be different? How does every joint supply? How can those that aren't so quick to jump into the unknown follow this crazy Jesus?

Well, I think the best thing to do is to ask, what does this pondering require of me, and my attitude... so I will leave that til last :)

First, what about him? Well, I think he needs to be willing to risk, and jump into the unknown sometimes. I think he needs to be revolutionary, when the systems and structures continue to oppress people, or keep them stupid or compliant. He has to let the radical Jesus push him out of his comfort zone.

Now me, and I need to let him be who he is. I need to allow people like him to temper my fire, and avoid injuring a bunch of people who need a more gentle plan. I need to be humble and submitted as is all of our callings. I am not always right, though I think I am. And even when I am right, I need to respect others and their paths towards the truth. I need to stop being a new emerging monastic radical discipleship pharisee.

But I don't want to, self satisfaction is quite addicting



Tracy Fitzgerald said...

Speaking of burning things down, have you heard this story about Rabia (said to be the first female Sufi)?:

One day, she was seen running through the streets of Basra carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When asked what she was doing, she said,"I want to put out the fires of Hell, and burn down the rewards of Paradise. They block the way to God. I do not want to worship from fear of punishment or for the promise of reward, but simply for the love of God."

Seems to me the punishments we fear and the rewards we crave are just symbols for the anti-human systems and structures we build to contain the terrifying freedom of God, the joy of Christ in us, and the mystery of Spirit's wanderings.

Anyway, great post. Thanks!

Chris Lorensson said...

Hmm. Great post dude.

I share your sentiment about preferring to burn everything down and start over rather than slow change—but you're right—this doesn't work for everyone. The definition of 'work' here is questionable ;-)

I often wonder what would happen if everything did metaphorically or actually burn. I think that, at least in The West, our popular church models have been so mixed with Western ideas of hierarchy, leadership and programmes that we've lost a lot of the radical nature of the Gospel. The funny thing is, I think a lot of Christians who do attend these churches would agree—certainly some whom I've met anyway.

But I guess one of the burdens of the revolutionary is that they're, by nature, the underdog. A revolutionary, by definition, is doing something differently, and people don't like change. Just like we see in the Gospels, Jesus was not a really popular character in many respects because He was doing things differently, not subscribing to the popular and accepted models, and people didn't like that. In fact, as well know they killed him for it.

I think you could argue that the nature of our calling as follower of The Way is that we should, by definition, be revolutionaries, and that's where this idea of tolerance sort of falls down—because if we're supposed to be like Jesus but we're not revolutionising, that's a contradiction.

I think it was Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA who said something like "If I'm not getting hate-mail then I'm not doing my job". (Sorry Bill if I mis-quoted!) but you get the idea.

I admit that's a very broad way to put it, but I'd love to hear any arguments AGAINST that viewpoint.