Random thoughts on the Asbury Revival:

          This event is like a rain barrel. Looking into it, mostly what you see is your own somewhat distorted reflection. Consider the ecstatic reaction from some and the vitriolic reaction from others. It’s not that “You have to be there.” It’s that wherever you are, you’re going to see from that point of view, and nothing is likely to change your mind.

          Yes, it’s God working in the lives of these people. What God is doing, I can’t say.

          The real test of any revival is what happens afterward. If the lives of the people involved are not significantly changed, there was no revival, just a momentary emotional high for those involved. Emotional highs are fine. But revival ought to mean repentance – that is, change of mind and heart.

          The revival started Feb. 8 at Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. It is a Christian college with Methodist roots. It’s across the street from Asbury Theological Seminary, which trains pastors for ministry in the United Methodist Church.

It started after a regular chapel service. Some students just stayed rather than moving on. They sang songs. They prayed. They wept. They shared testimonies. When somebody started preaching, they listened. It appears to have been a joyful but not overly dramatic event.

          The university basically shut the revival down as of Monday afternoon, Feb. 20. Students only from now on. Apparently the university and the town are overwhelmed by the public response. It also looks to me like the typical reaction of university bigwigs to any spontaneous activity of students that attracts attention: “Shut it down!”

          Some people wonder why it’s happening at Asbury. Well, it’s happened there several tunes before, most recently in 1970. You have to recognize that Asbury is a religious university. A revival is far more likely to happen there than at a secular land grant college. It’s a cultural thing. To have a “revival,” there must be something present for you to revive. It’s an organic thing. The Holy Spirit travels where the Spirit wills, but revivals don’t just happen randomly.

          No question that American churches need a revival. Many are reeling from the effects of the epidemic. Many people who stayed home to stay safe are now staying home for other reasons. Maybe they prefer live-streamed worship. Maybe they have concluded that they don’t need church anymore.

          Yes, American churches need a revival. The toxicity of “evangelical” political involvement has turned off millions. Talk of “Christian nationalism” makes many people sick to their stomachs. (It’s a total contradiction. John 3:16 does not say, “For God so loved America that God gave God’s only Son…”)

          Hovering in the back of everyone’s mind: A restless and uncertain present, and shaky visions of the future. A horrible war in Ukraine. Vicious dictators in Russia, North Korea and China. Threats of worldwide terror. Threats of worldwide calamity because of climate change. American politics in torment. George Santos is all too typical.

Yes, we need a revival. Yes, we need God. Maybe some real good can come from this Asbury thing. That’s what I’m praying for. How about you?

          If you want to check it out, try this website:

Lift your voice and sing

Racist trolls have gone ballistic over Sheryl Lee Ralph singing the first verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in the Super Bowl pregame festivities last Sunday.

I will not dignify any of their comments by repeating them. I would point out that though the song is often called the Black National Anthem, it’s mostly known by its formal title. And it’s under that title that it lands as #519 in the United Methodist Hymnal.

Yes, it’s a religious song.

Yes, it’s a patriotic song.

No, it’s not a racist song.

I suspect that if a white woman sang “Dixie,” the Confederates would have cheered.

But a black woman singing a truly patriotic song, not a trashy ditty from our racist past – whoa, that’s another thing.

For the record, here are the lyrics.

1. Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring,

ring with the harmonies of liberty.

Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies,

let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

let us march on till victory is won.

2. Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,

felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet

come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last

where the bright gleam of our bright star is cast.

3. God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,

thou who hast brought us thus far on the way,

thou who hast by thy might led us into the light,

keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee;

lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee;

shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand,

true to our God, true to our native land.

I’m sure the governor of Florida has his troops roaming the land looking for white people who feel aggrieved over this song. Let him. Read the lyrics again. Guess which side God is on. Amen!