I had a teacher who used to say revolution is impossible in a capitalistic society because any countercultural idea will quickly get bought up and mass-marketed and next thing you know Che Guevara T-shirts are going for $8.99.
I found the above quote from a sports article about the Super Bowl (which I can’t find now), but I think it applies to the prospect of transforming our lives and churches. Namely, our need for change and the attraction to change may actually inhibit change. Change cannot be bought or sold. The currency of real change is intangible, invisible. Revolution is a quiet storm.
And yet, those of us who want to see change cannot help but to pitch it as though it were a product, as though it could be had easily, as easily as reading a book or meeting with fellow minds. Can we consume inspiration? without being consumed ourselves? I think those interested in emerging church are cautious of the commercialization of revolution, yet ironically are being accused of it.
It is audacity to claim that it is high time for revolution, without providing the plan for it — a business plan, a marketing plan, a strategy, an apologetic…whatnot.
But that defeats the purpose. They’re not selling a revolution or a reformation. They’re just blowing the whistle on the rest of the church that has already bought into the notion that technique, specifications, and presentation are the end of it.
We are at an unbelievable level of Christian industry with corporate worship music publishers and songwriters, and leaders’ and pastors’ conferences, but whether or not revolution can borne in that environment is questionable. Our very culture of consumption co-opts our ambitions for revolution.
Jerry Seinfeld said once in an interview that for all the conferences for comedians that he attended, he would’ve liked to have saved everyone a bunch of time and money by telling everyone to just go back to work. The only way to learn comedy, says Seinfeld, is to go do the hard work in the comedy clubs, not by making yourself feel better about how hard the work is with all these other cats who can’t make it.
That is not to say that stand-up comedians can lead revolution, but I see an acknowledgment there that something is carved out in the midst of putting one’s life on the line. Instead of approaching the act of ministry as public art, we somehow assume that we can separate ourselves from that process. We approach our context heavy handed with a finished product and have people sit through our 45-minute infomercials on a Sunday morning. You don’t know what this can do for you! It chops! It slices! And you get a two-for-one deal this morning! Look at what it’s done for me! I used to be forty pounds lighter!
No, revolution, even a personal one, is not cheap. Revolution leaves a man ruined. And there are a lot of casualties. You can’t sell that. And even as I understand it from where I’m sitting…it’s too much for me to grasp and I can’t let go. God help me, I can’t let go.