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21 July 2007

FYI: Revitalization Movements

Since I cannot seem to finish (or come to an acceptable conclusion) this essay, I've labeled it "FYI." I hope it is as interesting to you as it is to me. Be Well!

 
In the middle of the last century (1900s) Anthony F. C. Wallace, the historian and anthropologist, developed the concept of "Revitalization Movements." Here are a few of his ideas:
  • A revitalization movement is defined as a deliberate, organized, conscious effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture. Revitalization is thus, from a cultural standpoint, a special kind of culture change phenomenon: the persons involved in the process of revitalization must perceive their culture, or some major areas of it, as a system (whether accurately or not); they must feel that this cultural system is unsatisfactory; and they must innovate not merely discrete items, but a new cultural system, specifying new relationships as well as, in some cases, new traits.
  • ...Cultures can change within one generation; and the process...is the revitalization process.
  • The term "revitalization" implies an organismic analogy.
  • "Stress is defined as a condition in which some part, or the whole, of the social organism is threatened with more or less serious damage."
  • "Messianic Movements" emphasize the participation of a divine savior in human flesh in the mazeway transformation.

The presence of these movements are seen throughout history, and it can even be argued that the Scriptures make reference to language and events that are Revitalistic in nature. For example, Isaiah 30:19-23 (vs. 21, "...the is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left").

Wallace coined the term "revitalization movements" to explain some particular historical phenomena that have taken place in the past, and according to Wallace, revitalization movements have specific identifiers:
  1. When a culture has reached its lowest point a prophet/statesman will arise to help the people gain what has been lost.
  2. This leader makes a plea and call to return to the conservative and fundamentalist ideas of the past.
  3. The result is the formation of a religious method that renews the culture and continues to grow even after the prophet dies.

Some examples would be:
  • Handsome Lake, the Seneca Prophet (1799), called for an end on reliance of European goods, and a return to traditional ways.
  • Jonathan Edwards preached "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" at a normal tone of voice at a wicked and perverse time in New England and universal repentance erupted in the audience.
  • John Wesley and his methodism was a call to renewed holiness.
  • Jesus Christ formed a new method that hearkened back to some of the principles and spirit of the Old Testament (i.e. Golden Rule) and boldly declared, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6) while establishing Himself as the only "divine savior in human flesh."

Moses reminded the Hebrews of Jehovah's directive to them concerning their responsibility to Him and their reward for obedience and faithfulness: "Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess" (Deut. 5:32-33).

Unfortunately, Jewish history is rife with stories of their backsliding and falling headlong into idolatry and depravity. They did not cherish their faith, not wholly, which is why the Lord said, "All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people" (Ro. 10:21).

The Old Testament prophets even took pains to draw the backslidden people of the Divided Kingdom back to Jehovah through language that echoes the idea of what Wallace called "a religious revival." Jeremiah does so with this portion of text: "...stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein" (Jer. 6:16). the problem here was that the call was made for revitalization but the people did not want it. The result for their rebellion was captivity and dispersion.

Thankfully, God had another plan and through His prophets prepared a way out of captivity and a return to Jerusalem for a remnant, who would help to usher in the arrival of the only true Savior of Mankind -- Jesus Christ. This God-man divested Himself of His Heavenly glory to manifest Himself in flesh and become the Savior, but even He spoke out when he addressed Jerusalem and said (Matt. 23:37), "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"

In today's society it is vitally that we continue to move forward without letting loose of core faith values. This can only take place when each generation of Oneness Pentecostals has a first generation experience, which, I think, will continue the march of revitalization and revival in our movement and the world. The Apostolic Movement is more than a subculture. It is a counter-culture - - a new culture based on the teachings of our Messiah.