Monday, August 15, 2011

The New Generation Looking For A Movement

I am intrigued by the movements we are seeing all over the world. For a number of years now we have seen the Green Movement reflected in Green political parties, concern over climate change, reactions against globalization, love of whales, and socialism. Then there is the movement of extreme Islamic terrorism which is now on the wane after its zenith in the early 2000's with 9/11, the London and Bali bombings and other terrorist attacks. There are also the clashes seen at IMF and G8 Summits with people railing against globalization. More recently we have had the Middle Eastern revolutions as people across the Middle East are rising up to overthrow dictatorships. Some have succeeded as in Egypt, but in Libya, Syria and elsewhere, they go on. Now there are the London riots, with a totally out of proportion response to the killing of Mark Duggan and London and other British cities the scene of mob-violence and destruction. Everywhere we look people are looking for a movement, what is going on?

I get the sense that all over the world there is a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the world and its systems. In some parts of the world the target is dictatorships which are obviously corrupt and power is held at the end of a sword – hence the Middle Eastern revolutions. In western countries the 'enemy' is more subtle found in the structures of western society.  The rise of western dominance has been built on centuries of incessant growth. This growth came from a combination of intellectual 'superiority' seen in industrialisation and new technologies, the plundering of other nations for their wealth, the comparative weakness of other economies, the growth of the 'new nations' like the US, Australia and NZ. Things have changed. The west is now in decline with the European culture dying on its own low birth rate. It now relies on immigration but this is proving difficult culturally as immigrants bring different cultures and values into European culture. No longer do Europeans have an intellectual, technological and industrial advantage, and if they do, it is on the decline. Our egalitarianism which is a great and commendable value, is now becoming a disadvantage when competing against nations that can constantly outdo us in terms of the low cost of labour, they being unhampered by labour laws. At the same time the great western work ethic is now failing as new generations grow up with a dependency and entitlement mindset, and simply won't put in the hard yards that prosperity is built on. The west is now going to the emerging nations China and India for labour and to prop up their economies, and these nations are growing in strength. The net result is that the west is now weakening and fast. They are borrowing like crazy to prop up the lifestyle to which they feel entitled.

At the same time, the wealthy in the west who have control over the nations are doing all they can, working their legal, economic and political systems to retain their wealth. They employ people in the emerging nations and continue to produce. However, this is serving to empower the weaker nations and power is shifting from west to east. Within western nations, the greed of the rich seeking to hold on to their privileged lives is producing a growing disparity of rich and poor. The answer we are told is more production, so taxes can't be raised. Yet equally the great social welfare systems of the west are backfiring as multiple generations of welfare dependency has created a underbelly of western countries that has a dependency mentality. Left-leaning thinkers see this as propaganda of the right, whereas the right seem to think western nations are full of 'dole-bludgers.' So we have growing movements in the west screaming for lower taxes and encouragement to business. Others cry out for more tax, and even more welfare. The truth is that we are in a hole because there is not enough money around to keep the rich rich, and to maintain the welfare systems we have created. Our problem is that, due to our decline, and the rise of other nations with a fierce work ethic which puts westerners to shame, we are going to find it hard to stop the rot. For me the bubble has burst for the west.

Now having said all this, it is the quest for a movement that intrigues me and it strikes me that we Christians have an opportunity now we have not had for a while. This deepening dissatisfaction with the state of the world is an opening in which we can proclaim Christ. Christ came to inaugurate a movement, a new humanity, a new creation. He came to call people out of the ways of the world that get us into this sort of mess into the reign of God. It is a movement of restoration. It is the coming together of the people of the world to live the values of God, of love, of service, of grace, of mercy, of compassion, of sacrifice, of humility, to suffer to bring in a new world. It is the Kingdom of God. The gospel is about God and what he is doing. Jesus came to restore every part of God's world. When we become a Christian we are not merely plucked out of the horror of hell and redeemed from this fallen world to heaven – we are saved into a movement of reconciliation, of redemption, of restoration. We are called to join Christ and his people, and with his Spirit surging through our veins, to work for the transformation of God's world. This is the movement that we can now proclaim. It doesn't involve revolution, riots, bombing, violence and mob-anger. It involves an army of people committing to take up towels and crosses and serve. It is not so much interested in all the power play of the world, but living out the values of God in the world.

I think we have an unprecedented opportunity, to invite people into the movement of God. They are looking for a movement, a cause. They are dissatisfied in the extreme with the status quo. We can tell them the story of God and what he is up to. We can tell them of the vision of God for a world of love, freedom, joy, unity, creativity, hope, fun, work, play as we create using the resources of God, building human society in a world of love. We can speak of what has gone wrong, the corruption of human sin which has defiled it shattering the dream and causing the mess we find ourselves in. We can preach Jesus who came to restore, beginning with each human heart restored through the power of the cross and resurrection, and then with marriages, families, communities, cities, nations, even the world restored as people hear the call and join Christ in his movement to restore his world. We can preach that the Kingdom has come and that they are called to join a movement, not of revolt and violence, but of mercy, compassion, love, restoration and hope.

We must move beyond the vision of God as holy and angry judge who is preparing to smite each sinner and humanity. We must move beyond an individualistic anthropocentric gospel to a corporate cosmic Christ-centred Gospel, inviting people into the movement of God. This is what they are looking for, they just don't know it. Of course not all will respond and some will be antagonistic. We won't see this dream realised in this age. But that should not stop us.



Bruce Hamill said...

We said Mark. 'Movement' is just the word for the life of the triune God which overcomes all barriers to re-form our self-contained economies. The kind of movement which flows from the divine life of Jesus reminds me of the saying that "It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed, than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail."

George Dunning said...

Mark I cant agree. I have no argument that we are in an age where the message needs to be heard (tho was there ever a time it did not) but I don't like the concept of 'selling' a movement, even one with Christ as its head. A movement is bigger than the individual, an individual fits in/finds their place in the movement that they feel comfortable with and where they feel they can contribute . . . however if/when they become dissatisfied with the movement then there is a tendency to ditch it and move onto the next one.
The journey to God I think starts not in a corporate (movement) setting but in the heart, it is a one on one connection, a acknowledgement of need met by the offer healing . . . from this the change that you propose comes and when two or more gather together and discover that the process of change is one that they all share in their own way then it may be termed a common movement towards the fullness of change that will ultimately come at the consummation of all things.
I don't think I am phrasing this very well, I know or at least think I do what your getting at, there is just something in the way it is conveyed that I cant go along with . . . however love will conquer all.

pax vobiscum

George Dunning said...

"Christ came to inaugurate a movement, a new humanity, a new creation. He came to call people out of the ways of the world that get us into this sort of mess into the reign of God."

had to go away and think about it but I think this is where the problem starts for me. I don't thing Christ came to start a movement he came to speak to hearts that he could heal them . . . what he achieved on the cross we can't really understand and I don't think he asks us to, he just asks us to trust that it was necessary, and from there he comes to restore us and through us humanity and in conjunction with humanity, creation. But is starts with one, and if all those ones end up moving in the same direction then you 'could' call it a movement but and here is the crux of it all. Can you have a movement of one? For would the love of God not have ensured that he would have come and loved and died just to save one?

Anonymous said...

What is on offer to join the 'movement'? Will I get a T shirt or a 'honk if you love Jesus' bumper sticker if I choose to join the movement? And your comment Mark, we just don't know what we don't know. Do you know? Is this just another bed time story. The new movement story?

Mark Keown said...

Hey George, how you doing, long time! First, I agree that Christianity starts in the heart. But what ignites the heart?

However, I think your answer shows one of the greatest flaws in western thinking concerning Christianity, it is unbelievably individualistic.

Of course conversion must involve a heart transformation, but how do you get there? What inspires a person to want Christ? And then what? Once I am saved, what am I saved for?

It is not a pietistic individual faith. It is a call into a new humanity, a new creation, a new world. It is a call to mission and engagement.

Yes, it starts when one hears the call at a heart level, but after that it is not some personal individual communion, it is a movement of renewal, restoration, transformation as the people of God engage in the muddiness of the world working for what God always intended.

The disatisfaction around the world today shows people are yearning for something. One way to proclaim Christ is to give them a picture of what God is doing on planet earth i.e. a movement of transformation.

That is how the Roman world was transformed. That is what our lovely western world is built on (among other things).

Yes, it is personal and individual as Spirit encounters spirit in the heart. But that is only the beginning, and the road to that I think now should involve the painting of the picture of what God is really about.

A monastic withdrawal mentality is not what God is about to me. It doesn't work either. We have to engage in the mess, and be agents of renewal. Christianity has created a parallel universe in the west and it does not work. Individualism does not work. The hard road of building a new people and world is what is needed. Cheers.

George Dunning said...

Hey brother I don't think we are talking at cross purposes but I do think we look at this a little different. I think both my post and your response to a degree reflects both our friendship and our perception of where the other might be coming from. The friendship is no issue but I think the perception may indeed result in a degree of assumption for both of us . . . but as I said the love is bigger than both.

I disagree that my 'position' is western and indeed that you think so or rather pigeon hole me does surprise but not offend for you know my limited reading is more eastern than western, more desert than cosmopolitan. However one thing I do concede and that theologically your in another league and your understanding of history from a church perspective is nothing I would choose to debate, but in opposition to that all I have to offer is what is in my heart (as confused as that is)

There is a need for a movement, and there is a need for people to both see and understand that what Christ achieved in his death and resurrection was more than just an 'act for me' it was indeed the redemption of all creation in the fulfilment of time (not that I think any of us see the how of that) . . . indeed it could be said he did not die to save us just for him, but for the part we have to play in conjunction with all creation in becoming what God originally created it to be.

Hmmmm starting to ramble now so a couple of quick points:- I think you do a disservice to monastics or those who seek a path of solitude as to be in some way an abdication of their responsibility to the task to the rest of creation . . . I think all serve the purpose they are called to IF they are following the path God has set them and conveyed to them in their hearts.

The other issue I have with selling a 'movement' tho is that I personally think in the west many join movements to somehow absolve themselves of personal responsibility or action . . . "I was just doing what I was told for the greater good, as espoused by the movement" approach. I still think the movement you speak of needs to start and end in the personal relationship and that when that happens the desire to be a part of something bigger takes hold and there is a collective 'move' supported by individual relationships.

Luv ya mate, good stuff, good reading, write more!

Mark Keown said...

Hi George. I hope the friendship is not an issue because of a conversation in which we challenge each other.

Perhaps I do you a disservice by speaking of a western perspective. What I am speaking about is a sense that if Christianity is ONLY a heart movement, then we have a dualism and a hyper-individualism, whatever its source.

You stress the heart element and one of the dangers of a movement/mission/corporate/cosmic etc approach is that we neglect the need for personal transformation and renewal.

My issue is that this is the bigger issue than people erring on the side of a movement at present.

Christianity today is about me me me, my hopes, my dreams, my interpretation, my perspective, my potential, my achievements, my personal relationship etc. Yes.

But it is being swept up into God, into the Trinity, into Christ, into a movement, into a people, into a mission, into a new creation, into a new humanity, into God's cosmic purposes.

That is why I cannot get the 'I don't need church' idea. It shows a lack of awareness or a lack of courage and commitment to be a part of what God is doing. It is reductionist and truncated. At what point it ceases to be Christianity and meianity is a good question.

The monastic approach to Christian faith has its place but if it involves withdrawal and non-engagement it errs. We withdraw as Jesus did to replenish, to recharge, to reconnect, to renew, and then we reenter the world and, led by the Spirit, we work for transformation, renewal and restoration in the sphere where God has placed us.

Enough. Great to hear your e-voice, we need it more. Love.

Bruce Hamill said...

oops what I thought I wrote was 'Well said Mark'