A couple of weeks ago, my oldest son graduated from high school. Perhaps I’ve seen one too many Michael Moore movies or read one too many Chalmers Johnson books or heard one too many teachings from David Korten, but I couldn’t help but tremble with concern for his and his fellow graduates’ futures. They come of age in a time of great transition. The institutions, values and mythologies underlying the foundations of the American way of life have atrophied. What has been is passing away, what will be has yet to be given birth. What that will be, good or evil, is not yet determined.
Within the life of the institutional church I find some fragments of hope. True, the Church has much of the stench of corruption about it, but it also continues to carry within it the subversive memory of Jesus the revolutionary. The message of Jesus consisted of redistributing the wealth of the nation, of resistance to global empire and of communal identification with the lowest, least and lost of society. This message, and his organizing of the people to implement the message, threatened the interests of the financial elite and of Rome. He was put to death not because he was a troubadour of love, but because he was a fiery prophet offering a way of life that challenged the way of empire.
This subversive memory is still alive even within the compromised shell of the institutional church. We can see the revolution of Jesus in action every time a congregation opens its doors to the homeless. We see it in the New Sanctuary Movement as congregations open their wallets, buildings and resources to immigrants. We see it every time another house is built by Habitat for Humanity. We see it in the lives of the Amish who not only forgave the man who killed their school children in 2006, but who counseled their neighbors to spare oppressing the man’s family and who themselves have offered friendship and financial resources to the man’s family. We see the powerful non-violent revolutionary movement of Jesus every time a local congregation mobilizes against war, practices civil disobedience for justice and works for reconciliation between enemies.
The revolution of Jesus lives within history as a seed sprouting, slowly, step-by-step evolving and opening history itself to a change in consciousness and in societal structures. I hope that my son’s graduating class will look beyond personal profit and towards a social prophetic possibility that can build a bridge between what was and what will be: a bridge for all the people and not just for the benefit of a few. I hope that they will not settle for the mediocrity of what is, but will soar with new wings into the possibilities of what could be and I hope that they will embody the revolution of radical change in the American way of life.
Rich Lang is Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard and the host of Living Faith Now, a progressive Christian radio show at www.livingfaithnow.org. He can be contacted at email@example.com.