In C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia it is made quite clear that even though the lion Aslan is good, he certainly is not tame. It was not Aslan’s nature to turn a blind eye to those evidences of the White Witch’s alien agenda in Narnia. I have been thinking about that as we look at another emerging eruption of social turmoil in our society—a populist protest against the unholy wealth of some..

The church, in my lifetime, has all to often tried to be tame, and to turn a deaf ear in the face of obvious aberrations from the agenda of God’s New Creation—his Kingdom of God in Christ. Too much of the church tried to be tame, or to sleep through the revolutions that confronted it, beginning in my own career with the civil rights movement, then the question of legitimate wars (Vietnam, etc.), them the revolt of the restless youth culture in the 1960s and 1970s. Then there was the struggle with the whole realm of sexual identity, the role of women in society, … and now a looming and emerging populist protest against the plutocracy (the 1%) that so dominate the culture in this capitalistic society.

So much of the church is willing to talk about it in the safety of its own enclaves, but hardly to take it into the streets. It doesn’t help that such a venerable as John Stott designated Christ as a ‘controversialist,’ or that missiologists speak of the church as ever being ‘in missionary confrontation’ with the world. So it was too often left to the activists who responded to the zeitgeists of the culture, and to those outside the church who were the champions of justice and of reform to even begin to make it visible.

Still, so much of the church slept through the revolutions. I can reminisce and even get amused at how often I have been accused of being some kind of a radical, some kind of a theological liberal with a social justice agenda—but not so. If anything it is my own orthodox, evangelical, reformed-=-even Puritan—persuasions that have gotten me involved. It is my own sense of Biblical authority that has made me more than controversial, but even radical, because the mandates of Jesus and his message of God’s New Creation begins and ends with a call for social justice that is not the ordinary “do good” stuff. This is not to mention the incredible justice teachings in the Old Testament beginning with the provision in the Jewish Torah right down through the prophets.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Or Jesus message at the introduction of his public ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim liberty the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed [politically, economically, and religiously], to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” [i.e., the Jubilee Year promised in the Torah] (Luke 4:18-19). Or … “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger [immigrant?] and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in [debtor’s] prison and you came to me … come you who are blessed by my Father” (Matthew 25:34-36). This not to mention that if one will take off his/her unreal ‘spiritual and pietistic glasses’ and look at even the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain, that one will realize that it has to be one of the most radical redefinitions of the human community conceivable … I mean, like: “Blessed are you who are poor …Woe to you who are rich” (Luke 6:20-26).

Having said that (are you ready for this), the church so easily become totally accepting and uncritical of economic systems, such as we are experiencing now, that never raises a voice again the individualistic spirit of accumulation, of social irresponsibility and its insensitivity toward human beings. And if a church or teaching-shepherd does?—big trouble. Lord have mercy. Where do we go with that one? That’s where the church becomes counter-cultural, salt and light.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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