Is This What Revolution Looks Like? If So, the Church Is Blowing It.

Is This What Revolution Looks Like? If So, the Church Is Blowing It. May 11, 2017

blog pics.001We may be living through a period in history that is every bit as revolutionary as the revolutions of 1848 that swept through Sicily, France, Germany, Italy, and Austria.  In trying to understand this confusing moment in our history I can’t help wondering if this is what revolution actually looks like?

As a pastor, I get to visit with people who are all over the political spectrum. I have found there is one singular issue that everyone can agree on right now: we have lost faith in the ability of our government to respond to the basic needs of the citizenry. Washington is broken.

A close second would be a growing lack of faith in institutions. Congress has a 7% approval rating. Law enforcement is in trouble. The FBI has become politicized. Education saddles students with massive debt. Wall Street gets a bailout while the middle class languishes. Church attendance is dwindling, and the list could go on.

So one has to ask, “Is there anything that is actually functioning?”

The answer, it seems to me, is simple: corporations.

Corporations have slowly, silently, and effectively seized the mechanisms of government, and corrupted them to serve their own needs over and above the needs of the citizenry.

Corporations have slowly, silently, and effectively seized the mechanisms of government, and corrupted them to serve their own needs over and above the needs of the citizenry. Most of the political institutions on both the left and the right are controlled by corporate interests. The result is, there are few effective checks and balances on corporate power.

In our society, Government is meant to serve as that check on corporate power, but government is dysfunctional. So when we elect a CEO president, then we should hardly be surprised when he thumbs his nose at the traditions and institutions of government.

Historically, what happens next in this story is that some movement or organization emerges to lead and reshape the future of the society in question. These often take the form of revolutions, and they are usually violent.

Revolutionary forces on the right (Brexit, Trump, Le Pen in our time) tend toward the authoritarian, and usually move quickly from nationalism to fascism. They simply cannot be trusted. Those the left are too disorganized, unfocused, corrupt and short sighted to function as a revolutionary body. Plus, most left-wing organizations in America have been systematically dismantled in the name of anti-communism anyway.

So, what is a Christian to do?

Weekly church attendance is somewhere between 50 and 75 million people. Over 50 million Christians claim to believe in the revolutionary love of Jesus Christ that assumes Christian identity should usurp party loyalty… (see Gal. 3:28)

Our society is poised for a revolution. The church is the vessels of the revolutionary love of God. What in the heck are we waiting for?

The kingdom of God is the place in which democrats and republicans are required to relinquish those labels for the label of brother and sister.

I’m not saying church should take over the government. I’m just saying our society is ready for a revolution, and we are sitting on the one story that can actually bring true peace. Instead of embodying and sharing that peace, most Christians cling to party loyalty over and above Jesus.

Let’s face it, Christians. This is our big chance and we are blowing it.

The church is perfectly designed to enter into this moment with the revolutionary love of Jesus Christ that seeks the good of neighbor and enemy alike. The gospel calls any Lordship of party or nation into question before the cross. The revolutionary love of Jesus is how enemies become friends, how neighbors get back to neighboring, how old wounds can be healed, and how old sins are forgiven.

The kingdom of God is the place in which democrats and republicans are required to relinquish those labels for the label of brother and sister. If we follow Jesus, then we are required to live on less, so that we can share generously with those who are struggling. When we actually do these things, then the church becomes the revolutionary peaceable kingdom that embodies peace to the watching world.

The love of God that is embodied in little communities of faith and peace is, in a sense, revolutionary. The location of this revolution is not Washington D.C. It’s the local church, your neighborhood, your work.

This revolution calls into question all of our –isms.” It was Shayne Claiborne who once wrote, “When we truly discover how to love our neighbor as our self, Capitalism will not be possible and Marxism will not be necessary.” Our isms are too small for the kingdom of God. Conservers are so important to the people of God. Liberators are essential to the kingdom of God. But, Conservatism is idolatry. Liberalism is idolatry. Christians cannot heed those revolutionary calls.

The true revolution the world is dying for is led by Jesus. His kingdom comes not at the tip of the sword, or through left-wing or right-wing politics. It comes through the wise and patient practice of revolutionary love of neighbor and enemy alike.

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  • jekylldoc

    David Brooks had an excellent, research-based piece on our lack of truly involving organizations. It seems we have been neglecting real people, even if we are more involved than ever with abstractions like political programs. We are too busy, too focused, too ambitious, too superior, too entertained, too individual. What would we do with other people in our lives if we had them?

    It will take some thought, to create involving traditions and practices. It will take determination, but I think given some experience with them, they would be more rewarding than instrumental relationships. And I suspect that political and economic institutions will fall into line to support a culture of involvement in common projects.

  • Nixon is Lord

    Church is boring.

    • Obscurely

      Troll alert!!

      • George Waite

        Celebrate your diversity!

  • Daniel G. Johnson

    So, you say: “The love of God that is embodied in little communities of faith and peace is, in a sense, revolutionary. The location of this revolution is not Washington D.C. It’s the local church, your neighborhood, your work.”

    What are you getting done in revolutionary regard in your local setting?

    • Tim_Suttle

      We welcome the immigrant, the homeless, and the stranger into a community of love, justice, and peace where we all pursue faithfulness to the way of Jesus together (even though we are all total ragamuffins). In particular it looks like this:

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        I would like to see your total church budgetary information such as is made available to members at the annual meeting including pastoral compensation package.

  • Daniel G. Johnson

    Going on with my questions, it seems to me that the spirit here is counter that of Benjamin Corey’s blog which is addressing this matter. I concur with Corey that congregations, however goodly motivated, do not have the mathematical scale to address the exponentially increasing levels of poverty and oppression. I would point out: they NEVER did. Why is that ignored here?

    Another thing that I challenge is the oft repeated situation where this forum style seems to assume that poor people never show up here to comment…and thus, supposedly, this endeavor is rightfully a discussion about them and not with them.

    Got health insurance Tim?

    • Judgeforyourself37

      Churches can have food banks and free suppers, but they are really band aids and the government must do more and the taxes must rise exponentially on the wealthy.

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        Agreed. The scale of economic damage from the Recession is massive in scale both in terms of depth and generational length to come. What really really pisses me off is churches that sign onto the Ruby Payne “non toxic charity” bullshit which blames the poor for not thinking right…and then churches and other Ruby Payne industrial Republican ideology outlets (some of them food pantries and such) make a name for themselves with bullshit programs where they claim to teach poor people how to think middle class…and thereby are supposedly set on the path to middle class. Typically, all these dog and pony shows have a couple in-house poster children they trot out for their sales jobs to potential donors. It is sick.

        There are two basic moral policy repairs that need to be done:

        1) A living wage
        2) Health care

        There is no replacement for a moral political decision. It’s what democratic government is for.

  • Barbara Ann

    You forgot to mention Hungary in your list of revolutionary sites, Hungarians talk about as if it happened yesterday.

  • Daniel G. Johnson

    Come on, Tim. Let’s talk about health insurance.

  • William Rettig

    I agree with the author’s premise, but the question remains how do Christians bring on that revolution. With words from the pulpit? With prayer vigils? Candle light marches?
    I think the key is to live the same kind of life as the early Jerusalem “Christian” community did. They sold their possessions, praised God, met with other Christians to share every meal, cultivated good and sincere hearts, held everything in common, and worshipped together daily. They separated themselves as they showed that they were a group of people whose goal was to bring heaven to earth, “Thy kingdom come.” They created a model community that followed the lifestyle that Jesus and his entourage lived when traveling throughout Judea.
    Their living style included love, inclusiveness, taking care of the outcast, complete forgiveness of everyone who has hurt or insulted us in some way, honoring the meek, attempting to serve instead of being served, doing away with spiritual elitism and embracing total equality of all believers, putting value on the person and not on possessions. Ignoring the authority of those who used wealth and power to dominate? In fact their lifestyle was a plague upon the false powers as the Jesus’ followers refused to talk with them, listen to them, or acknowledge them.
    What was the impact of the early Church’s “shared life” on the world around them? They found themselves being thought highly of by the people around them, and new believers were brought in every day. They were living a spiritual life that turned into a political one.
    Christian revolutionaries must take the spiritual and make it political in the same subversive way as the first Christians did. Christians would be engaging in a spiritual battle against forces that are strong and pervasive, but the best way to win that battle is to follow the example of the First Century Christians who created an alternative positive better world and then invited everyone to join them. This is our calling; and it could provide the solution for our society.

  • Dan Dupree

    Christianity has been the tool for corporate take over. How will they become the solution? Go away

  • Thin-ice

    Sorry Tim, American Christianity, and in particular the evangelical branch, has sold it’s soul to the devil and become a mouthpiece for reactionary, fascist, right-wing hateful politics. Your Christianity has not earned the right or authority to change society in the slightest. Your Christianity is hypocritical if you claim to speak for Jesus.

    The model for revolutionary society, in which all economic levels work together for an egalitarian society where everyone receives healthcare, quality education, and public services, is northern Europe. Countries where churches are museums, and have become secular societies with the highest levels of happiness and satisfaction in the world.

  • I really appreciate your insight. I write about some of these questions as well on It is nice to hear others who are passionate and not afraid to ask questions and call the church out to be what it is suppose to be.
    Great writing Tim.

  • George Waite

    Church is an irrelevant bore.