CHAPTER 1

Hope for a Revival?

Is there hope for a revival?

These are hard times for Christians hungering for radical social justice and renewed spirituality. The past couple decades have been very regressive. All sectors of society seem to be regressing. Government is retrenching on commitments to racial justice and affirmative action. There is a backlash against the women's movement and gay rights. Most of society seems to be taking a more punitive attitude towards poor people, homeless people, and immigrants. Food stamps and other aid programs for poor people are being restricted. Society is becoming more militarized and authoritarian. The U.S. more and more is becoming a police state. Police forces are growing. Police powers are increasing as individual rights are receding. Surveillance and security measures are increasing. Prison and jail construction has boomed. The inmate population has grown to one-and-a-half million Americans - with millions more on probation and parole. Society is more determined to punish individuals, especially poor people and people of color, than it is willing to seriously address root problems. Much of society is showing signs of distress. Despite a long period of high corporate profits, economic stability for many Americans is declining. Corporations, civic leaders, and lawmakers have no solution for a more economically stratified society, the transfer of factories to foreign countries, downward pressure on union wages, the increase in homelessness - especially among women and children, the breakdown of communities and marriages, the persistent violence against women and among youth, and persistent racial segregation in society.

Ecologically, these are hard times for the whole earth. The world's ecosystems are seriously threatened by numerous wars, mounting pollution and toxic wastes, and economic exploitation of lands, oceans, and forests. Deforestation, loss of wetlands, high rates of soil erosion, groundwater contamination, acid rain, ozone depletion, and global warming bode ill for the future. In some countries important agricultural land is covered with land mines. Tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste continue to accumulate and leak radiation, contaminating the environment. Biological diversity is declining - with an alarming rate of extinction of species. The earth and most of life on it are in trouble.

The Christian churches are not providing a light in the present darkness. The churches don't even attempt to encourage or practice holistic discipleship to Jesus. Neither are they neutral. Rather, the churches obstruct and run counter to real discipleship to Jesus. In large part, although with minor differences, the lifestyles of Christians mesh with the mores of society. As a result, the social forces sweeping the nation are also sweeping the churches.

Alternative, intentional Christian communities, while doing many wonderful things, have been struggling. The past several decades are marked by the disintegration of many alternative Christian communities. Even long-enduring communities have lost some of their prophetic edge or are struggling to maintain members - and could use a new infusion of life and Spirit.

These regressive times seem to defy hope. The tide has changed. The old hopes and visions have dissipated. Conservatism, with some reactionary edges, has settled in. No revival movement seems to be close at hand. How can one maintain hope in these times?

Regressive times do not snuff out the possibilities for a revival. Regressive times offer the possibility of providing a starker contrast between the ways of the nations and the Way of God. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, possibilities for a revival are at our doorstep. Only we need faith to see them and the heart to seek them.

The bad news of the world is only one side of the coin. On the other side is the gospel of Jesus, the good news. Amid the distress and crisis in the world God has been active. God has been actively working to change us and lead us on the path of peace and justice. Even now God is preparing a Way in the wilderness. A secure and fruitful Way is prepared for us. There is indeed hope for a revival. In fact, the Way is ready now. That is, God is ready and all is prepared. But something seems to be missing. What could it be?

If regressive times do not prevent a revival and if God is fully ready then on what does a revival depend? Not to be evasive, but the answer to the above question depends, in part, upon which revival we are hoping for.