Earlier this year we saw the Arab Spring, but now it’s happening here, too. On Wall Street and all over America, people are dissatisfied with the performance of the governing institutions and the powers-that-be.
It’s understandable when you see how Washington has responded to the grave challenges facing us: unemployment, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the mortgage crisis, homelessness, and a widening income gap; unregulated banks and unprecedented corporate influence at all levels of government; climate change, extreme weather, and environmental degradation; the breakdown of the family; the paralysis of our two-party political system and ruinous foreign wars.
Not everyone may agree with this laundry list of ills, but everyone feels the pinch somewhere. Aside from the details, it’s clear that many people in our country are very unhappy with the way things are, and so they are expressing their dissatisfaction with urban “occupations.”
Sadly, these protestors lack any coherent or unified vision of what might replace our unbridled capitalist economy. They pointedly proclaim that theirs is a grass-roots phenomenon – one not led by top-down ideologies or organizations – and this certainly has its merits. But their agendas vary so widely – as widely as my laundry list above – that you wonder how any one person or government could possibly meet their demands.
The historical trouble with revolutions is that one group of people often ends up replacing another, with very little significant change or development. To put it more baldly: to have a group of blue-collar robbers replace a group of white-collar robbers has never accomplished what the blue collar robbers wanted.
What’s needed instead is a sea-change of motivation. Hitler used Nationalism as a gathering banner, and the Marxists claimed the interests of the working class. But in both cases, the result was dictatorship by a brutal, ruling elite.
What about other, more enlightened revolutions, such as the socialist-styled governments of Europe since World War II? Have they achieved harmony, justice, and peace? And if so, why are those countries then experiencing their own autumn protests?
Is the Kingdom of God possibly relevant to all this social ferment? Here’s what one pastor, C. F. Blumhardt (1842-1919), said one hundred years ago:
In the deepest sense, the faith of the working-class striving for a new order of society is faith in the kingdom of God, as promised to us by Christ. Thus the cry and the struggle of the masses truly becomes the sign of Jesus Christ. The social struggle of millions today is not accidental; it is connected to the fight the apostles fought. The unrest of the nations, the seething turmoil of the lower classes, the cry for the right to live – a cry put into the mouth of the most wretched, which cannot be silenced – that is the sign of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As long as the citizenry of any country allows wealth, power, and privilege to be unequally distributed, there’s going to be suffering, discord, and instability. What, then, is the answer? A society based on justice and love is the only kind that’s going to experience peace, and peace has to begin in the hearts of individual people.
All this may sound out-of-reach, but it can happen in small communities, as starting examples, and then spread to more and more people and nations. It is already happening in small communities around the world where men, women, and children live and work together in the spirit of Jesus, and in the certainty of God’s coming Kingdom. Little pieces of the Kingdom of God are already here in such places.
Such living communities have the obligation to get the word out: a life of justice and peace is possible, and is happening here and now. We call on everyone interested in this vision to join with us, in the urgent work for our very survival.