Written April 2, 2020 by Douglas Crew
I am seeing posts going around that are, while trying to step around it, defending Rodney Howard Brown’s choice to hold church services in Tampa Bay, FL. If you recall he was arrested for this. In the post they say things like, “I am not going to judge his ability to hear God or what God told him.”
Then there is a list of “precautions” his church took. I put that word in quotes because the obvious precaution was to not have service. The ACLJ has even said government has the right to cease church services in this situation.
Here is what is happening. These people exist in the age of the culture war. They raised their kids on I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Acquire the Fire conferences and Turmoil in the Toybox. They hate abortion and birth control at the same time demanding that everyone, even non-believers, practice abstinence until marriage at all cost. We see how well that has worked. They see the world as us and them and “them” will burn in eternal conscious torment forever.
Now, we are in a place where God truly is doing something new. It’s not the next wave, 11 means transition, new thing that regularly streams across Elijah List’s home page. There is something huge happening. But they are stuck in an old wine skin, if you will. God is bringing the church to a place of transcendence. No, we aren’t going to float away. But, if we will look to him we will have insight for the world. Not rules, demands, and control. Not even answers. We will have insight into the human condition and we will speak life to the souls of men.
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This is what Jesus did constantly in the gospels. When his detractors attempted to drag him into binary arguments about issues of the day. He spoke beyond it allowing them to reflect on the condition of their heart and soul if they had ears to hear.
This idea isn’t new. I just believe we are seeing it’s time arriving in great measure. I was reading in Divine Discontent: The Prophetic Voice of Thomas Merton by John Moses and a couple of quotes jumped out at me.
Merton Wrote in Conjecture of a Guilty Bystander:
“I do have questions, and as a matter of fact, I think a man is known better by his questions than by this answers.”
And in Raids on the Unspeakable:
“You are not so much concerned with … traditional answers to traditional questions, for many men have decided no longer to ask themselves these questions. Your main interest is not in formal answers or accurate definitions, but in difficult insight at a moment of human crisis.”
“’You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent. You are in no position to issue commands, but you can speak words of hope.’
John Moses says; It was here that the monk, the contemplative and the writer come together. What connects so much of Merton’s writing – his experience of contemplative prayer, his critique of the contemporary scene – is his desire to draw people into depths which may not have been previously identified or explored.”
It is questions we must ask ourselves. We must be inquisitive about our own nature. If we do we will understand the power of a question delivered in humility and authority to give society the answers they are presently reaching for. It is in the questions we will find “difficult insight at a moment of human crisis.” People ask external questions looking for internal answers. If we ask enough questions of our own we will learn to see the question they want to ask.
Then the body, though in dissent, will not accuse, will not issue commands, but speak words hope to a world that needs it.
So what do we say about the Rodney Howard Browns of our country and world? Church is closing, the culture war you perpetuate to validate your actions, to validate “your” church is being shut down not by the government, but by your God. Your wine skin is cracked and can not hold this new wine.