Thursday, September 2, 2010

Imagine ...

Three weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Herbie Hancock, the legendary jazz keyboardist who was in town the next week with what he called the "Imagine Project." The concept of the album, which included a cover of the John Lennon classic "Imagine," and subsequent tour was about global community, and he recorded with artists from every continent and in different languages other than English.

With all his talk about everyone living together on this planet, which I can certainly understand and appreciate, one thing of which the interview with Hancock, who was at one time a practicing Buddhist and still might be for all I know, reminded me: Without Jesus Christ, all that is ultimately futile because He is absolute, unconditional LORD.

But what would that mean, in practical terms? After all, we Christians have the only message of redemption and reconciliation that actually counts. We know the Way to peace, contentment, justice, truth ... so, why haven't we been more effective?

I think it's because we've become too much a part of the establishment. Especially in the West.

Let's remember that the early church was often on the run, had few friends and faced persecution on every side. Its members thus had to cling to not only Jesus but also each other, which is why they were so willing to share their possessions. They were willing to identify with the dispossessed because they themselves were such.

Today, however, we make the rules and ally ourselves with the powerful, assuming -- arrogantly -- that if people lived by our rules our nation would prosper. (Except that following Christ is not routine; He has to call you.) And of course, we're quite divided these days, among theological, racial, cultural, economic and ideological lines. The civil-rights movement, for openers, essentially, pitted one set of Christians against another set of Christians. Sad.

So, I'd like to take this time to imagine: What would happen if we actually dropped all our campaigns and took unity seriously? I have an idea. Some years ago I wrote a song called "A Call for Reconciliation"; in those days when you wrote a song you also thought video, and I came up with a concept for that as well.

It came in three parts: One, a mostly white church service that was already underway when a choir of African-Americans saunters down the center aisle, clapping all the while; they go up front and embrace others in the choirloft. A blond woman sings a solo; a young Asian man preaches a message; an older, bearded man in vestments holds up a wafer and breaks it.

Two, an after-church picnic, with people playing games, a wedding (with people of different races) and children riding piggyback on adults. Three, people singing at a campfire, a passing gang member tossing his guns away and a Ku Klux Klansman stripping off his robes and throwing them into the fire. Imagine that ...

Well, we in Christ can do these things, or something similar. If we did, we wouldn't need Herbie Hancock to tell people how we should live; we'd already be doing it.

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