Finding My Prophetic Voice
Modern Protestant circles, especially the moderate ones, spend a lot of time talking about being prophetic. Now I imagine there are many who think of future-telling when they think of prophecy, but that’s not right. Prophecy is not foretelling the future, but rather a proclamation of justice and a warning of the wrath of God upon the unjust (cf. the entire book of Amos for a great, succinct example of this). We say that we are called to be prophetic. We say that the Church has a responsibility to the poor and downtrodden. Heck, we can even quantify about it, and point out that INFJ’s (according to the Myers-Briggs personality type) are more likely to see themselves in prophetic roles. Many of us are on board. The Church needs to have a more prophetic witness, we claim. We want to be prophets. But how many of would be willing to take that challenge to the streets?
Last week, I was out prayer walking in the west London community of Ealing. With me were my friends and co-workers from K180, an evangelism organization I am interning with this semester. As we walked, we encountered the LA Confidential strip club (gentlemen’s club, which it calls itself, is too nice a name), an organization we often pray for, and even evangelize near. Armond, my mentor/supervisor, suggested we pray for the club to close, as we often do, but specifically asked that we pray for bankruptcy. I must admit that in that moment I was shocked. I wasn’t sure I could ask God to close the club down, let alone actively cause financial harm to the owner. I continued to pray for the girls inside and the men who came to watch, lured by the lies that booze and flesh could bring satisfaction, but I could not pray that the club close down.
I think, deep down inside, I didn’t want to pray like that because I was afraid of becoming the prude that so many detractors of Christianity paint us as. And sure, I want to be open to legitimate, healthy, wholesome ways of exploring and understanding human sexuality in the context of what it means to be Christian, but I think in this instance, the pendulum swung too far. My desire to not be branded as a buzz-killing, prudish, stifled, asexual Christian loser perhaps made me ignore the reality behind Armond’s prayers: justice.
Armond could passionately beg for the club to close down because he saw the injustice that I couldn’t see, blinded my desire to not be a prude. Armond saw the need for the God of Amos where I only saw the need for truth and light, not justice. Armond understood that the way the girls inside that club were being treated was not just, not right, not fair.
In the end, it was the prophet Amos who reminded me that I serve a God who demands that “justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” And the next time I stood before the LA Confidential strip club on Ealing Broadway, I prayed with all my hear that the club might close down. I prayed with everything I could muster that God would do justice by his people there. I prayed that he might use as instruments of his justice, and that as we prayed, things might begin to change.
But I still couldn’t (and still can’t) pray for bankruptcy. I cannot ask my God to actively harm people. I cannot take that step. So how do I think LA Confidential can close down? Not through public policy or lack of funds. Banning strip clubs or praying for bankruptcy won’t change the heart of the matter. No, what we need now is for the Church (as small as it may be in England) to step forward and be the Church. We need to take active steps to show the world there is a better alternative to these clubs. We need to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ outside the doors of LA Confidential. We need to speak to the young women who leave the club feeling used and abused and let them know that Jesus loves them. We need to be there, every Friday night, bothering people for justice. We need to confront the owners of the club with the God of Justice. We need to inform the young men of the lies that flesh will satisfy and drink will sate. We need to take in ex-strippers who maybe have nowhere to go if they leave the club. We need to do everything necessary to see that LA Confidential closes down not because the club goes bankrupt, but because the Church is now full of strippers, bouncers, pimps, bartenders, club owners and club-goers. We have something different, something powerful, and we need to show it off.
Thankfully, I’m glad to report that a lot of this is already going on. K180 and various Ealing churches send teams out on Friday night to talk to the bouncers and the club goers and the girls when they leave the club. Justice is already coming. So let’s all raise our prophetic voices and see that it gets done.
“…your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”