Listen to any TV preacher for the last 60 years and you would have heard a consistent theme – America needs a revival. They stomp and shout and sweat all over the stage proclaiming how godless we are, and that God has turned God’s proverbial back on us as punishment for our faithlessness. On the other side of the theological spectrum you have people like the brilliant Phyllis Tickle (yes, like Elmo) telling us that we are in the middle of a new reformation. Most of us don’t know it, but we are. And I agree; like the people in power during the last Reformations, those in the process of losing power are in total denial, and those seeking change aren’t looking to create something new. This is what both ideas have in common; there is a need for repentance and renewal, or else.
Every presidential candidate has proclaimed a similar idea; elect me, and we will bring back America’s greatness. The people running this place have lost their way, and I can help you find the path back to our glory days. Renewal – Reformation – Revival – all Rewords that tell us we need to go back before we go forward. What that means, though, depends on where you are on the religious/political spectrum, and those implications are meaningful and have far-reaching ripple effects.
For the very conservative people of faith, it means making America a Christian nation, and it is at the root of Christian Nationalism. Non-believers (they would include me, by the way) would still have rights, just not as many as the chosen. For them it means the return of Jesus as well, which is curious, since their interpretation of Revelation is filled with bloodshed and destruction and genocide. It isn’t reconstruction, it is devastation and ruin. Their thorough lack of biblical knowledge leads them to make assertions that have no basis in Scripture. After all, Revelation says that the saved will be 144,000 men who have not defiled themselves with women (who those me are depends on one’s ideology, but, once again, that leaves most of us out).
For the rest of us, this reformation is present, and we have no idea what will happen or where it will take us. The pandemic has exacerbated our present difficulties, and those who are able to navigate it will possibly see the beginning of our new, ever-evolving reality. What we do know is this: the church we have known, regardless of its flavor, is gone. The church of the next 50 years is yet to be discovered. For me, I don’t believe in a literal interpretation of Revelation, but I do think it has a lot to tell us about what we need to change in order to thrive spiritually. We have been living in a post-Christian time for over 1700 years (thanks Constantine), and what most of that time has shown us is that Christendom was not Christianity. I believe that now that Christians have lost their massive secular sway in America, we can begin to be the church of Jesus once more. It is in our weakness, Paul tells us, that we are true servants of Jesus.
So, buckle up buttercup; this bumpy ride is going to get chaotic. Only those most willing to be servants will make it through as a remnant of the faithful. The rest will vie for power and control and authority, three things true believers should never grasp for. Like Jesus did when He was tempted, we need to say no to most of what the powerful have to offer. Those who are able to discern what God needs will be the church. The rest? We will see, won’t we?
Prayer – Help us, God of the lost and found, to navigate the temptations of the world that pull us away from You. Amen.
Today’s art is “Revelation 21:4” by Michel Keck.