BLOG 2/21/2016. POLITICS, THE CHURCH, AND THE GIFT OF RE-IMAGINING
In the omni-present political reporting during this presidential campaign season, there is the editorial observation that Generation Z (or the iY Generation) is tending to forsake Hillary for Bernie for the reason that they see this present political establishment totally dysfunctional and they also see Hillary as pretty much captive to that establishment, and incapable of re-imagining it, … while they see the colorful Bernie Sanders as willing to challenge it and to re-imagine it, and so they are making his unlikely campaign for the presidency something of a challenge.
This is not the first time that such a generational and sociological observation has been the subject of studies. Some generations are very defensive about preserving things as they have always been, and then there are others who see beyond the horizons of what is to what would be a much more creative, just, equitable, and desirable state of affairs. There were some rumblings of this re-imagining capacity a few years ago in the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest, which was primarily to work of a younger generation seeing economic injustice, and caused rumblings across the political and economic landscape.
I, for one, see the gift of prophecy in scriptures as something like a gift of holy re-imagining. Jeremiah’s calling from the Lord was to: Root up, pull down, overthrow, and destroy, then to build and to plant. (Jeremiah 1:10). It had both an irreverence for decadent religious structures, and a clear vision of something creative and new and functional that would facilitate God’s covenant purpose for his people in creative new ways: “I will write my law upon theirs hearts.” Such is true of all of the prophets. God sent them to a dysfunctional Israel in order to expose their failure to be what they had been called to be, … and then to propose new and faithful courses that he had for them. “What does the Lord require of thee, O man, but to love justice, do mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
It is interesting, moreover, that when Paul describes what are the components for the fully equipped people of God, that it includes the capacity to be a prophetic presence of the teachings and incarnation of Christ (Ephesians 4). What is prophecy? Who are these prophets that appear unexpectedly all through the New Testament records? Take it for what it is worth, but I take it that all of God’s people in Christ are to be those who can, with some integrity, exegete the culture. There is a passing reference in the Old Testament to the sons of Issachar who understood the times so they could tell Israel what to do (I Chronicles 12:32). The capacity to understand the culture in which we live, its positive and negative components, is so critical thinking about our cultural setting is essential if we are to be effective in our incarnational presence as the people of God. I know of vital churches whose staffs are studying Charles Taylor’s massive: The Secular Era in order to be alert to the cultural forces impinging upon their congregations. Prophets are often poets and novelists (or as Simon and Garfunkel: “The prophets of the day are written on the subway wall …”).
It is not only in the political arena that many things are dysfunctional. It is regularly true within the church when its participants become captive to iconic forms and practices that are inimical to the mission of God. And it is so very often the younger generation who are free and creative and brutally honest about “what is” who are those agents of re-imagining and change. This is true in the church, in politics, and in society at large. We are in a cultural white-water.
We ignore, or disparage, this youthful or prophetic insistence upon re-imagining to our peril in every component of our society. We are no longer merely isolated tribes. The cultural change, the global interdependence, the information-age connectedness, the widespread abandonment of the presuppositions of a former Christendom era require that God’s people embrace re-imagining (or their role as prophetic) if they have any intention of being fruitful in the present scene.