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.