I flew out of Melbourne Australia 24 hours before planes hit New York and Washington DC in the attacks of 9/11. I was greeted with a warm smile as I went through customs in New Zealand, it felt like I was not flying to another country but another state. However a few days later I flew home, I was patted down by Kiwi soldiers in battle fatigues, my luggage was searched meticulously, the world had radically changed in the blink of an eye. Change can happen just like that!
- Ten years ago environmentalists could not imagine that McDonalds would stock fair trade coffee
- Twenty years ago feminists could not have predicted that today Playboy would make more money selling products to young women 18-35 than through hawking centrefolds to men
- Thirty years ago futurists could not predict the impact that hooking up all the computers in the world to each other would have on our culture
- Forty years ago politicians predicted that the West would be locked in an ideological struggle communism. No one would guess that Communism would fall and that radical Jihadist Islam would become such a powerful force.
- Fifty years ago Christians leaders could not have predicted that a secular Europe would be seen as a missionfield by Christians from places such as Brazil, South Korea and Ghana.
When I moved into my house there were two older people who lived across the road. They had grown up in the former Soviet Union. They had no car, rode bikes, collected fire wood and rain water, they recycled all kinds of things, propagated their own plants and lived within walking distance to their family. They seemed to live in another century. Their lives seemed and anachronism.
However fuel prices have sky rocketed, my state is in the midst of a record drought. All of a sudden my neighbours lifestyle does not seem so out of date, it seems completely relevant.
In his book Nothing Sacred Douglas Rushkoff notes that Jews have always made great futurists. He points out that they had to keep their fingers on the social pulse as persecution and pogroms could just be around the corner. It has always been in the DNA of the people of God to listen for the winds of change. The Israelites even had a role for those who would watch for the culture to change, they were known as Prophets.
Deeply embedded in the biblical imagination is the role of the prophet, the person who’s role is to keep a look out for the winds of change, and to speak out the voice of God. Yet people don’t like change, and thus they don’t like prophets. This is exacerbated today as people live through what Alvin Toffler called future shock.
We as Christians need act as lightening rods, looking out for cultural change and dislocation, not only for the sake of our own congregations and interests but as a gift to our culture.