God is good, all the time, but human beings have an unerring tendency to mess things up. The purpose of this post is to warn against politicising the current renewal – the most likely way for the Asbury Revival to get side-tracked.
The internet can be a depressing place sometimes. Instead of celebrating the blessing of God, an increasing number of voices are starting to make the most predictable claims. In this case, Right and Left along with Evangelicals and Progressives are already falling into their favourite pits. I trust the mercy of God will cover our small-mindedness and the outpouring will continue, but I hope to set up some hazard tape around these pits, for those willing to be diverted.
The militance of the Right
Some among the Religious Right are claiming the revival as divine affirmation of their political stance. Suddenly this is a call from God for the Left to repent and embrace conservative views. Instead of being an outpouring of God’s love to heal and restore his people, the revival is being reframed by some as a divine affirmation of the Pro-Life movement. Some are even seeing the renewal as validation of Christian Nationalism – the enforcing of so-called ‘Christian principles’ through legislation. I was pleased to learn that when Christian Nationalists attempted to divert the purpose of this revival, they were turned away, but unhappy to hear that Fox News are all over this, attaching strings to the move of God. Get your hands off! This revival, along with all that have come before it, has nothing to do with a specific nation. It is not American, about America, or for America. This is for the world.
Thankfully, the university are having none of this, protecting the students from forces looking to harness the revival for their own purposes. I pray for the wisdom and protection of these leaders and the students they look after.
The flinching of the Left
In reaction to the Right, some among the Left are ready to denounce the revival entirely, associating it with politics and people they reject as uncaring. In the USA, Christianity is often associated with the Right, but that is merely a local circumstance; though I lean to the Left, I would say the same of the reverse status quo. The Lord is above all that stuff, and far more compassionate than you or I. Make no mistake, associating this revival with the Right and turning away as a result is the same as saying ‘No thanks,’ to God and cutting your nose off to spite your face. My advice – forget what your political opponents are saying, abandon fear, and get stuck in with God. This is between you and Him.
The hard-heartedness of Evangelicals
Certain Evangelical voices are making the outpouring of the Spirit a confirmation of their personal theology. This revival (along with all other revivals) is a manifestation of the grace of God, and does not affirm a particular set of doctrines, including those of the university it has broken out in. We cannot earn the blessing of God; it is of grace, and therefore an unmerited gift.
Just today on Facebook I read a meme saying, ‘If you seek revival you’ll get performance, but if you seek Jesus you’ll get revival’ – text imposed over an image of the worshippers in the chapel at Asbury University. This might sound good to some, but if this were a genuine expression of gratitude or celebration, the statement would be much simpler – ‘if you seek Jesus, you’ll get revival’ would suffice. In reality, this meme is trying to make a point, using revival as an opportunity to restate a negative view of both contemporary Christian worship music and the Charismatic movement – those accused of ‘performing’ worship and those who regularly speak of and pray for renewal. Why can’t believers keep things simple? We are called to childlike faith, and our response to God should be free from pettiness.
The brokenness of Progressives
This is where I get really disappointed, but also filled with compassion. Progressive Christianity should be a place of rediscovery, but so often its voices deny the work of the Spirit in reaction to past trauma in the church. Such believers can associate spirituality with pain and performance, and get locked into entropy and resignation – I’ve been there, but thankfully came out the other side. If we deconstruct but fail to reconstruct, all we’ve done is tear something down. In the case of Asbury, certain Progressive voices are quick to dismiss the outpouring as a natural psychological phenomenon, or see the use of contemporary worship as reason to reject the renewal entirely. Progressive Christianity is a great movement, with enormous potential, but it is destined for the scrapheap if it shuts the door on the Spirit of God. I pray for repentance and redirection in the Progressive Christian community – hearts and minds turned back to effective faith, and reconciled to their first love. I pray for the healing of wounds inflicted in faith communities, and the courage to re-engage with the Holy Spirit, even growing into new spiritual freedom.
It’s time to grow up
Revival is not about a particular stance on abortion or any other election issue. It is not a confirmation of either side of the Methodist schism on same sex marriages, and it is neither a pat on the head nor a rebuke for the Left or the Right. Revival is neither Evangelical nor Progressive, nor confirmation of anyone’s personal theology. Nor should we believe renewal is an expression of the Lord’s preference for the country it breaks out in. It says nothing about the United States of America, or God’s view of it. All these things serve as idols when they become gatekeepers for a child of God before their Lord.
The church today is in desperate need of unity, and true unity is forged in the presence of God. In our born again spirits, none of us are Right or Left wing, Evangelical or Progressive – we are children of God. Whatever our political or denominational affiliations, we are members of Christ’s body, and each of us has a part to play. I implore all readers tempted to impose judgements on what’s happening in Asbury, or donning lenses to view it more comfortably, to rein themselves in and embrace the blessing of God with humility.
Lord, as you build your Church, keep us from reducing, quenching, or attempting to direct the outpouring of your Spirit. Let our consciences object if we stray into personal bias or agendas in our response to your grace. Most of all, don’t let our pettiness, fear, or unresolved pain quench this move of your Spirit, but instead may we be healed of and released from all that’s holding us back. May the flames of this revival be fanned by our ‘Yes and Amen!’, and spread far and wide around the globe, as we turn our hearts towards you.