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Manufactured dissent and fake authenticity

12.22.07 | 11 Comments

In the circles I grew up in, “Revival” meant a grand moving of the Holy Spirit. The lame walk, the blind see, the lost are found. God moves in mysterious ways, and the Holy Spirit at a Revival does New Things.

Revivals, in practice, are a series of evening worship services, one after another for several nights in a row. Participants sing the same songs they sang last year (more or less), hear the same sermons they heard last year (more or less), and sit in a sanctuary with the same people as last year (more or less).

And not the same as just last year. The same as every year going back to the year when God actually did do a New Thing. “Remember that year?” they think. “We’ve got to make that happen again.” Every few decades a real Revival happens, and the little revivals play off of it for decades, basking in its half-life glory.

We liberals have prayer meeting revivals just like the evangelicals do—we just call them protests. Once upon a time, Protests spoke Truth to Power. The captives were freed, the war ended, the public’s consciousness raised. The power of the people caused New Things to happen. And we have been trying to make the same thing happen over and over again.

Manufactured dissent is as real as fake authenticity. You can buy it and stick it on your bumper sticker. Or you can organize your little prayer meeting protest that speaks your little truth to either (a) a little power with no power to change things or (b) a Power who isn’t listening because your little protest has no power to make it do so.

A request of revivalists of both camps: Throw your revivals every year, just the same as last, but be honest about what you’re really accomplishing. You’re not making God do a New Thing, and you’re not speaking Truth to Power. You’re reminding yourself of what you’re about, which is a good and fine thing.

So quit acting list the rest of us are a hindrance to Revival or Social Justice because we don’t want to cry when you play funeral or dance when you play wedding. We know the songs too, and we remember the sermons. We just don’t want to rehearse the last New Thing over and over while we’re looking forward to the next New Thing.

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