Revival and revolution




I have a cold so this entry may lack research and statistics and quantitative data.

A few weeks back I wrote speculatively about the consequences of a revival in the country. Specifically I wrote about the impact on the jobs market. Very few people are talking about revival and the political and economic implications of it. That makes it even more important to talk about in the event that it ever takes place.

Historically there have been revivals which have influenced the UK. Many people believe that revivals are the soft version of revolutions, a kind of non-violent turning of the tables. There has been a lot which has been written about how revivals have prevented revolutions and as a result many people see revivals as a kind of soft compromise position. The truth of this is not known as there are very few people alive today who have seen a genuine, influential revival.

What we have, in the Christian community, is a very hazy vision of what a revival should look like. Choruses like ‘Revival’ by Robin Mark offer an idealistic interpretation:

“From the preacher preaching when the well is dry To the lost soul reaching for a higher high From the young man working through his hopes and fears To the widow walking through the veil of tears Every man and woman every old and young Every father’s daughter, every mother’s son.”

Apart from the obvious fact that ‘every old and young’ is a lousy line, the general emphasis of the chorus is nicely idealistic and inclusive. If the Church were to offer an alternative political viewpoint in the face of Labour and Conservative consensus then that may not be such a bad thing (whether it is the Church’s job to do that is another matter). But perhaps that is not such a strange idea.

There is little unity on the issue in Christian circles. Many believers take a more pessimistic view of the future and see no great revival which will make things better. They see things getting worse and a kind of ‘remnant’ being left who believe. This would seem to square nicely with some of the trends about those who no longer call themselves Christians (e.g. the census information). There are many others who are deeply cynical about the subject and conspiracy theories abound about ‘Joel’s Army’ and Kundalini-influenced events. Others see the European Union as a kind of revived Roman empire which will quash all liberty in faith matters. Only the Christian imagination could come up with such a bold, persistent statement.

Historically the media has dealt with revivals in a haphazard way. The Welsh revival was covered by many newspapers and the reports were both positive or negative (depending on the opinion of the writer). In the film Elmer Gantry, the reporter Jim Lefferts remains cynical throughout (and in this case, rightly so). But the issue is still seen as newsworthy. It is not something that must be taboo because it deals with spirituality and God.

Thinking people can’t look at the current floods in the UK and entirely sideline God when it comes to the blame game. Personally I think it is intellectually insulting to do so. It may be the fault of the jet stream, but many believe that God has allowed the jet stream to do the damage. Of course, if you don’t believe in God you are spared from these kind of thoughts. Which is just as well because they are all pretty grim and entirely useless. Better to blame floods and man-flu on the Government as politicians are usually visible and pretend to be accountable. It may not be rational to do so, but it is satisfying.

But if a God can allow the floods to take place, why can’t he allow a flood of love and mercy to fill the nation? If God is permissive, or neglectful enough to allow negative events to occur then why is the permissiveness always in disaster… or ridiculous man-flu?

I have a fairly hazy vision of what a revival should be myself and I imagine that should one occur in my lifetime itwould not be as I expect. I can insist with God that it is a liberating revival and quote “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” until I sneeze over an invisible angel, but the fact is that there are a whole host of people who are not concerned with any kind of freedom. If a revival popped up in the future and it was a stifling, legislative nightmare then all that would be left for me and my belief system would be to be a little saddened by God.

There are some days when I really think there should be a revolution. Maybe that would make things better. Maybe a revolution would turn the tables and bring peace and freedom. But a revival would be more long lasting. And a revivalwould make things better for most people. Whether this is a soft-compromise solution, I will leave to your judgement.

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