In talking with a number of people about the possibility of lasting social change, I mostly encounter pessimism. People often shake their heads, shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, what can we do? Jesus does say that the poor and oppressed will always be with us.” Thankfully, there is a growing movement of Christians who are imagining a brighter future for the world.
I’ve nearly finished Brian McLaren’s new book, Everything Must Change and so far have found it to be a very good read. Later I hope to present a more complete review but for now I would like to share some quotes from the 29th chapter of the book, entitled A New Kind of Question. These are not McLaren’s thoughts but those of others who have influenced Brian’s writing.
McLaren quotes John Stott, who the fairly conservative journal Christianity Today has called the ‘Guardian of God’s Word’ saying that he has been ” preeminently a steward of God’s truth and a herald of the biblical message”. (September, 1996)
“What will posterity see as the chief Christian blind spot of the last quarter of the twentieth century? I do not know. But I suspect it will have something to do with the economic oppression of the Third World and the readiness with which Western Christians tolerate it, and even acquiesce in it. Only slowly is our Christian conscience being aroused to the gross economic inequalities between the countries of the North Atlantic and the southern world of Latin America, Africa and most parts of Asia. Total egalitarianism may not be a biblical ideal. But must we not roundly declare that luxury and extravagance are indefensible evils, while much of the world is undernourished and underprivileged?”
“Many more Christians should gain the economic and political qualifications to join in the quest for justice in the world community. And meanwhile, the development of a less affluent lifestyle, in whatever terms we may define it, is surely an obligation that Scripture lays on us in compassionate solidarity with the poor. Of course we can resist these things and even use (misuse) the Bible to defend our resistance. The horror of the situation is that our affluent culture has drugged us; we no longer feel the pain of other people’s deprivations. Yet the first step toward the recovery of our Christian integrity is to be aware that our culture blinds, deafens and dopes us. Then we shall begin to cry to God to open our eyes, unstop our ears and stab our dull consciences awake, until we see, hear and feel what through his Word he has been saying to us all the time. Then we shall take action. “
He also quotes Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton from their book “Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be”:
“It is only when we can imagine the world to be different than the way it is that we can be empowered to embody this alternative reality which is God’s kingdom and resist this present nightmare of brokenness, disorientation and confusion…..A liberated imagination is a prerequisite for facing the future…If we cannot have such a liberated imagination and cannot countenance such radical dreams then the story remains closed for us and we have no hope.”
It’s about being pro-active versus re-active, isn’t it? Not a call for more charitable giving, but a call for changing systems that create these problems. Blaming the flaws (even when they are real) in the systems of other cultures tends to take our focus off of the systemic flaws of our own culture. We need to ask ourselves the hard question of how we personally are benefiting from the suffering of others. Just asking these types of questions is a start and worth the little effort it takes. At least more worthy than throwing up our hands over the world’s despair. I am glad that people like Brian McLaren , John Stott and others are encouraging me to think about my complicity as well as offering me a vision of hope for the future.
How will future generations look back on the Christians of this age?