Sunday, August 30, 2009

The revolution will not be televised

We worship an awesome God in the blue states ...
-- President Barack Obama

Lately I've been rereading the book "The Jesus I Never Knew" by Philip Yancey and noticed something I hadn't before. It's almost a truism that Scripture suggest that God is closest to the poor, but he noted that the poor had an easier time with the Christian faith than the wealthy.

Reason? The poor, in his view, already lead a life of dependency on others -- which would translate into a relationship with God -- more so than wealthier folks.

And that is why, I believe, that any sort of spiritual revival in America will take place not in the halls of Congress or in well-scrubbed churches that focus on "doctrine" or "cultural issues." It likely will happen in ideologically "left-wing" urban centers, among the forgotten, the ignored, the scapegoats -- in short, the kind of people to whom Jesus ministered in His earthly life. And most of those people will not understand the concepts of predestination or be concerned with the fight against gay marriage -- they have more immediate issues. Like survival.

And it is that single-minded focus on God that will give the poor spiritual strength once He gets a hold of them. Not only that, but eventually prophets will emerge from that community that will challenge the status quo -- including the Christian "establishment."

There's precedent for that. Many of the biblical prophets were just that -- ordinary men who nevertheless heard the voice of God and delivered His message of inconvenience to people who didn't want to hear it. (After all, no one wants to hear from "those people" because they remind folks that they share some responsibility for their state of deprivation.)

More recently, the civil-rights movement was sparked by prayer and revival meetings in conservative black churches in the South; God gave its adherents the strength to withstand beatings by police, bombings of churches and incarceration of pastors for a much greater redemptive purpose. However, it's important to note that the movement took place almost exclusively in cities, where the distinction between the "ins" and "out" were, and still are, most pronounced.

Today, even many of us Christians look down on the urban poor and blame them for their state, not realizing that much of that had to do with political decisions out of their control. I wonder just how many of us might change their minds if we spent time with them, especially with fellow believers. You know, we might learn not only compassion but also to become their advocates -- which would please God.

But that kind of life-transforming ministry usually doesn't make headlines. It doesn't raise a lot of money. It rarely gets attention from media or politicians. It only forms bonds among people and reaffirms the line from the classic chorus "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love." Not by our doctrine or our stances on morality.

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