On radicals and revolutionaries

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by Terry Camsey, Major – 

It never ceases to amaze me how, when least expected, significant insights can suddenly hit—like a blow between the eyes with the proverbial two-by-four. It happened again last night at the Welcome of Cadets, when four seemingly disparate statements all came together. It happened thus…

First, one of the cadets suggested (in a video interview) that, to reach the world outside, we need to be radical in strategy.

Second, Lt. Colonel Ray Peacock cautioned the cadets to step outside the door of the corps they will command and get out into the community to minister.

Then the secretary for personnel confessed, after a couple of items by the WYI Gospel Choir, that he hardly knew when to clap his hands in those pieces.

Finally, Commissioner Bill Luttrell talked about the need to march to the beat of the gospel drum.
As they say, it got my “juices flowing.” For a start, when the cadet said “radical” I wrote that down and the word “revolutionary” simultaneously flashed into my mind. A few years ago, I was privileged to be part of an IHQ “think tank” considering linkages between corps and community. We broke into small groups and the one I participated in used the word “radical” in its recommendation (the word didn’t, I hasten to add, come from me!). When the group leader shared that recommendation in plenary session, there was quite a discussion about the word “radical,” which most present obviously associated with long-haired anarchists.

In fact, radical means arising from a root or source. It implies a moving out from the center in all directions. In a religious context it aligns with the Great Commission and implies no boundaries beyond which radical movement is forbidden. To the ends of the earth suggests as far as is possible to go. That means into a “no man’s land”…as Star Trekkies would say, to “where no man has gone before.” The implication is that, as for pioneers of old, there are no paths (ruts, even) to follow, but plenty of fresh paths yet to be trodden…by pioneers!

I wrote down “revolutionary” because it’s another word that is, automatically (and similarly negatively) associated with long-haired anarchists, who—by definition—buck the system. But, you know, to revolve means to go around and around in a circle…never breaking out of it. So the question I penned on my program was, “Are we radicals or revolutionaries? And what do we need to be to reach the present age?”

Now, what about the clapping business? We used to say in the Army that we couldn’t possibly sing a song without the bass drum playing along. You know, the youngsters of today (illustrated by the Gospel Choir) feel the same…“Ya gotta have a drum…” But, they “march to the beat of a different drum!” The question is whether the beat of a gospel drum is, today, the same as it was for previous generations (who, incidentally used to clap more on the beat than off it—the latter being the preference of today’s generations), or whether that same gospel drum can beat out a variety of rhythms to appeal to a variety of peoples and generations. And, if so, should it?
My final point…talk of stepping outside the door of our citadels, fortresses and barracks (which can be that exclusive, regardless of the labels put on our premises) reminded me of some words penned a number of years ago by Janette Smart:

Open the door and step outside,
See a rainbow of promise spread far and wide,
See a new dimension with Christ as your guide
If you’ll only step outside.

A new dimension…if only.

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