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Talking About a Revolution

Two books are at the top of my reading list right now:

The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical

Talk of revolution is very dangerous. In China, it will get you imprisoned. In America, it can get you ignored.

The word 'revolution' has become safe, as these two books show. America is a country founded on a revolt and shaped by free market consumerism, and now we’ve commoditized revolutions as well. My capstone course for my history major was entitled, “Radicals, Riots, Revolutions and Rebellions.” We spent a semester and wrote our theses on groups and individuals who sparked change in America. If nothing else, the history of this country can be told by the voice of the dissenters and those who got mad enough to change the crap that made them mad.

The danger is in making revolution more palatable. Usurping the powerful connotation of the Civil Rights movement or the American Revolution to sell books is a sin. However, if these books truly point to a deeper revolution, then I hope they outsell that book about Jesus and the art museum. It is clear that a revolution is needed to wean American Christians off their dependence on power, selfishness, and indifference. In short, we still need the revolution that only the coming of the Kingdom of God could bring about.

What are the marks of revolution? If I could find my notes from three years ago, I could give you a concise formula. But personally, it seems to me that like philosophy, revolutions can’t earn their names until they’re done. This opens an entirely new can of revolutionary worms, because then we can debate how the civil rights revolution is still ongoing because old bulwarks of racism still frame our society. Then we could talk about what makes something a movement as opposed to a revolution and on and on until everyone is sitting around arguing about semantics and very little revolutionizing is actually happening.

For me, the most defining characteristic of a revolution is that it is. It exists. It moves. It lives, changes, breathes, and even dies. It is a living organism that must be fed, taught, nursed, raised, righted, led by the hand, picked up, and promoted. And, like the wise proverb reminds us, it takes a village.

The best revolutionary, therefore, was Jesus. Seeing the plight of his people, the exploitation of the less fortunate, and the darkness of the human heart, he came to show a completely different way. His way sought to infuse notions of revolution into each human heart. Once cultivated there, he believed this revolution would spread into the hearts of others. This change could not remain private; societies and systems would then feel the necessary effects of such a revolution as well.

His revolt was peaceful, his methods were personal and affirming, and his passion was contagious. His revolt is still ongoing, springing up everywhere people demand justice and equality.

I have a feeling that the two books above hit on this notion of revolution. Instead of using revolution as a marketing tool, perhaps the authors aptly name their themes, seeking to plant a seed of true revolution into the hearts of those of us long won over by consumption and solitude.

May the revolution continue.