Repentance IS the Revolution

Here we are at the start of ‘Green Week’ in which the UK government has decided to ask some experts about whether or not we should amend our target of being carbon neutral by 2050?! Talk about asking a stupid question! In the very same week, Cuadrilla will be allowed to start fracking – drilling for more fossil fuels in Lancashire, whilst those who peacefully protested are sent to prison (a little ironic!) and the Climate Change Minister –  Claire Perry, has declared it is not her government’s job to advise people on a climate friendly diet (despite the evidence, which I regret, showing that we need to seriously curtail our meat intake, especially of beef and lamb). What is the role of government, I am left wondering…….?


We have 12 years! That really isn’t a very long time. 12 years in which to drastically change our minds and our behaviour about how we are living, or face the devastating consequences of the impact of climate change for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.


Gandhi wrote so powerfully about the seven social sins, as he saw them:


1) Politics without Principle

2) Wealth without Work (weird how this has switched in the social conscience to poverty without work….how did poverty become the sin?)

3) Commerce without Morality

4) Pleasure without Conscience

5) Education without Character

6) Science without Humanity

7) Worship without Sacrifice


For the health and wellbeing of people and the planet, we need to change and we need to change now. As my friend Martin Scott says, the facades are down. We can see things clearly for what they are. That means we cannot and must not allow ‘business as usual’ to continue. This is our moment. We cannot simply carry on with the same old, same old. If ever there was a moment for us to change – it is now! Our economic model is literally destroying us. Our politics are increasingly tainted with a rhetoric of blame and fear. Unless we change now, with the backdrop of environmental disasters, food and water shortages, driven by human greed, then within a few short years, we will be facing war and humanitarian atrocities at a truly alarming scale.


Our only hope, is repentance. Repentance, as David Benjamin Blower tells us, IS the revolution. An old, biblical phrase which means to completely change our hearts and minds and instead live utterly differently. It means laying down our consumerism of the world and instead choosing to become good stewards of it, letting go of our own hedonistic selfishness in preference for the ‘other’ and sustainability of the earth. It means recognising that our economic model is broken and unjust, so we need to find a new way that is distributive and regenerative. It means learning to love our enemy rather than hate them, curtailing our excesses and learning to live more simply, caring for the poor instead of scapegoating them, promoting the welfare of children rather than constantly comparing and measuring them. It means breaking the chains of the global slave trade, stopping our appalling pollution now, not in 2050 and finding a way to live in peace.


This isn’t some hippy utopia, it is, I believe, what God always hoped for with us.  Repentance isn’t some weirdo religious experience, it is a gutsy, humble recognition that we’re in a mess and we need forgiveness from God, ourselves, each other and the planet. Repentance is a complete change of heart and mind, away from death to life, from greed to gift, from destruction to renewal, from darkness to light, from hate to love.


I  have found in my journey of faith in the person and teaching of Jesus, that only the love of God really changes my heart and deals with my pride, my greed and my selfishness.  Sadly, (predominantly) white, evangelical Christianity has aligned itself more with nationalism and free-market capitalism than what I read Jesus to teach in the scriptures. A dangerous theology has developed which equates a strong economy as being a sign of God’s ‘financial blessing’ and ‘favour’, giving little thought to the raping of the earth’s resources or the injustice upon which such ‘prosperity’ is built. When Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here”, he wasn’t saying that he was going to replace the Roman Empire with an even more awful and utterly destructive system. He was inviting us to open our eyes and see that the ways of God could not be more different to Empire and are about ‘life poured out love’ or ‘self-giving, others empowering-love’, where all are welcome, all are set free and all can become stewards of this way of kindness and peace. It’s not easy to go against the system – it takes sacrifice – but it is the only thing that can lead to our salvation – something we need more than ever.


I have little hope that any government or system, with all their vested interests, can or will take the precarity of our situation seriously enough. And so it falls to you and me – we the people together. Personal and corporate repentance. It’s time (As Michael Jackson sang) to look at the man or woman in the mirror – and make that change.


It is true, that our work may well feel apparently worthless, futile and achieve no result at all – in all honesty it’s why I’ve made excuses for not changing certain things (like eating beef far too often – though that changes now!)……so as Thomas Merton reminds us, we must focus on the value, the rightness and the truth of the work we must do, itself…….In the end….he says…..”it is the reality of personal relationships that save everything.” So, don’t feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it. Make your own repentance yourself and amongst your relationships and bit by bit, we might just make a difference. Doing nothing is not an option. Repentance IS the revolution – and a revolution is what we need. Grace gives the opportunity to make a fresh start. Are you ready for it? What changes will you make? If not now, when? If not us, who?



Revolution and Spiritual Transformation

Yesterday we were at the house of some of our best friends and I picked up their copy of the New Statesman. Given my last blog, you would think I had already seen it!  So I was excited to read from a selection of contributors what “revolution” means to them. Noam Chomsky starts by quoting Rosa Luxemburg’s ‘eloquent critique’ of Leninist doctrine: “a true social revolution requires a spiritual transformation of the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois class rule”. Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick give a powerful rebuttal of those like Stalin and Mao who stole the concept of revolution in the pursuit of power and control. They are equally scathing of trivialising the very idea of revolution in the west by a pathetic misapplication of the word to things which matter very little. But they show that these things have not discredited the true idea of revolution, just as 2000 years of Crusades, child abuse, warfare and oppression perpetrated in the name of Christianity have not discredited the social revolution of Jesus Christ.

To my mind there has never been and will never be a more revolutionary person than Jesus. And if it is true that revolution requires a spiritual transformation of the masses, in my view, it is to him that we should look. Jesus had no qualms about deliberately setting a political course which utterly undermined the bourgeois class of his day. When he declared himself to be the son of God, he was directly challenging and undermining both the religious and political authorities. He came to declare that God can not be put away in a temple or related to by only a few special people, but is here to be known by everyone, whoever they are and wherever they live. He came to demonstrate that God has nothing to do with empire in any of its forms and is in fact the antithesis of it. He came to reveal the priorities of God lie not with the rich and powerful, but with the poor, the broken, the marginalised, the sick, the refugees and asylum seekers, the oppressed – in particular women and children and those in prison. His life was one of extreme love and his leadership was that of servanthood, quite different to the image of God many of us conjure up in our minds when we think of the divine….

His death was not caused by an angry God needing retribution for all the ways we have offended him. His death was the result of a life laid down, loving other people, which so challenged the status quo that they wanted rid of him. And in the moment of his death, instead of calling for retribution on his oppressors, he makes a public demonstration of how appalling human behaviour and the powers can be at times, calling us instead to the way of forgiveness. In his death we find the forgiveness for all our fallen humanity, all that seeks to control, abuse, and destroy ourselves, our communities and the earth we live in. But in his resurrection, we find hope that love is in fact stronger than death. So, when we set our lives in the way of this revolution of overcoming love, even if we lose our lives in the process, they are not lost. The ‘ruling powers’ have already been defeated by this way and one day all things will be made right, every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more war. And the fruit of our toil, no matter in what arena of life we work will be seen in those days. Jesus never came to found a religion. Nor did he come to make himself emperor. Slowly, after centuries of believing some contrary things about him, we are coming full circle to understand just how utterly radical he is.

His invitation is still there for us to stop living for ourselves, change the way we think and to follow him.  To make his priorities our priorities and in so doing to transform the world we live in. And better still, he doesn’t leave us alone, but has given us the same spirit that is within him, to be in us, so we can also recover what it means to be fully and truly human. We can be healers, reconcilers, forgivers, servants and revolutionaries just like him. As I have followed Jesus, I have found my life has been utterly transformed and I am finding the grace and power to live in this radical way. By no means am I perfect and by no means have I made it, but in him I find the hope for transformation. You can believe whatever you want to and go wherever you want to go, but if we want to see a real revolution that changes the world for good and forever, I commend Jesus as a really good place to start.