This post is my second contribution to the MennoNerds Anabaptist Missional Spirituality Synchroblog event.
Before discussing such a dreamy topic as “revival” or what others call “renewal,” I must come clean. Every time I hear or read the word, “revival,” I run and get my gun. Yes me a pacifist who desires to not own any lethal weapons, reach for my imaginary gun. Why you say? Because everytime I hear or read that word “revival” coming from conservative evangelicals, more often than not, its from an imperialist Dominionist point of view. Revival understood in this manner is when Christians are lead by white Conservative (more than likely Reformed) evangelical men, who give minimal head nods to Charismatics and multiculturalism with dreams of hegemonic, violent takeovers of the national culture (Conservative Republican political means). Two examples of this are the Acquire the Fire movement and Methodist but hardly Wesleyan Institute for Religion and Democracy.
As a Baptist Christian, as a continuationist with Charismatic tendencies, I do hope for a Spirit-led, Christ-centered renewal of our national culture in general. As James Cone called for in Black Theology and Black Power, there needs to be an exchange in value systems. See the problem with the popular versions of revival is that they resort back to the days of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finley, and imagine that God will move the same way. We Christians commemorate these revivalists and year to year go on hoping that revival/renewal will look like it did in the past. We hope for a cycle, we know this only as a cycle that happens naturally. And that’s part of the problem. Revival is about cycles being broken, with the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit arriving anew in fresh and unexpected places, and God’s standards for holiness being revealed in the lives of some of the least ideal persons.
I like what Micael Grenholm has to say about revival, that we can’t separate peace and justice from conversionist modes of religion. Reading through the late Richard Twiss’ One Church Many Tribes: Following Jesus The Way God Made You, I once more found a hope for Christian renewal in the USA. Twiss’ challenge to Evangelical Protestantism is still a much needed word, and his contention that we should start viewing the First Nations as a mutual party when it comes to missions, and that Native culture has something to offer (AND NOT JUST RECEIVE). There is something rather impossible when you read Twiss’ words because what he wrote, we have not yet witnessed with our eyes. While folks talk about revival, relying on things seen, by faith, Twiss taught me once more to believe in revival, the likes we have never seen.
Twiss’ post-colonial vision of widespread renewal reminds me of David Walker’s Appeal in the lone footnote in chapter one:
“It is my solemn belief, that if ever the world becomes Christianized, (which must certainly take place before long) it will be through the means, under God of the blacks, who are now held in wretchedness, and degradation , by the white Christians of the world, who before they learn to do justice to us before our Maker–and be reconciled to us, and reconcile us to them, and by that means have clear consciences before God and man.–Send out missionaries to convert the Heathens, many of whom after they cease worship gods, which neither see nor hear, become ten times more the children of Hell, then ever they were, why what is the reason? Why the reason is obvious,they must learn to do justice at home, before they go into distant lands, to display their charity, Christianity, and benevolence; when they learn to do justice, God will accept their offering, (no man may think that I am against Missionaries for I am not, my object is to see justice done at home, before we go to convert the heathens.) “
For Walker and Twiss, the missional and just YHWH of Hosts requires the righteous fruits of those who have been justified by Christ, and just relations between people groups prior to worldwide revival, and not vice versa.