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OPINION

Is the Asbury Awakening the Real Deal?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Manuel Balce Ceneta

Recent reports tell of a spiritual awakening at a small Christian college, Asbury, in Wilmore, Kentucky.  An initial chapel gathering became an intense meeting of praise, prayer, and repentance lasting 12 days.  As news broke out, people from across America participated in what is hoped to be a new spiritual awakening.  There was a similar spiritual outbreak at Asbury in the early 1970s, with reports of prolonged gatherings of praise and repentance among thousands of students and members of the public. 

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Occurrences of spiritual renewal happen periodically.  When I was in law school at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1976, a Billy Graham Crusade was held for eight nights in the newly built 63,000-seat Kingdome. My then fiancé (and now wife of 45 years) joined me to serve as counselors for the event.  Media coverage was mostly positive and reported about many who responded to the nightly invitation to make major changes in lifestyles, relationships, and ultimate futures.

At this time, there was also a movement -- the Jesus People Movement -- where counterculture hippies were leaving lives of drugs, sex, and rock and roll to follow Jesus.  The beginnings of this movement are now featured in the recently released movie, The Jesus Revolution. 

These spiritual manifestations brought great hope that a major national revival was occurring and a new era of social reform and healing to a wounded nation was being birthed. While many good things have come from this, the lasting results have fallen far short of true revival. 

The Jesus People Movement touched lives but also turned into chaos as many were eventually lured into destructive cults.  Some leaders openly embraced a cult called the “Children of God,” which broke up families and promoted drug and sexual promiscuity.  To this day, Church attendance and membership in Seattle remain among the lowest in the nation, and the embracing of Christianity, according to Pew Research, is at its lowest in our history.  My native home of Seattle has become a place of violence, drug addiction, and homelessness. 

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 Why did the spiritual awakenings of these times not take a permanent hold on our nation? Why did they not build a culture where all human life, born and unborn, is seen as sacred and killing the innocent on a massive scale is unthinkable? Abortion became legal in this country when these revivals were happening.

Outbreaks of spirituality have had a positive impact but have not brought long-lasting transformation to the nation. America continues to slide into an abyss of decay and decadence, especially when connecting spiritual awakening to the protection of the most innocent among us: the unborn. 

Is the current Asbury awakening the beginning of a turnaround from our current course towards destruction?” I hope so.  However, it is very important to distinguish between “revivalism” and true spiritual revival.

“Revivalism” is driven primarily by emotion and evidenced by such.  Emotions are important and a part of our humanity.  They provide us with moments of joy, happiness, and newness in our spirits.  However, emotions alone will not bring about a revitalized culture because emotions change quickly and are subject to highs and lows. Depending upon a change in circumstances, the height of ecstasy can easily crash into deep despair. 

True spiritual revival is driven by repentance from the people of God for the wickedness in which they are involved. Repentance, while accompanied by emotion at times, is primarily driven by a determination of the will to turn away from evil and embrace righteousness. 

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A study by Lifeway Research indicates 7 in 10 women who have abortions identify as Christian. Further, in my over forty years of working in the pro-life arena building pro-life pregnancy centers and medical clinics, I have heard many stories from pastors, elders, deacons, and Christian leaders about their own involvement in abortion. 

The shedding of innocent blood among the people of God is real.  How can the Christian church today expect to remove the speck of dust from our unbelieving neighbors’ eye when there is such a log in our own? Pastors and other Christian leaders have many reasons for not talking about abortion, but from my experience, I believe a primary reason for some is that they themselves have not been healed from their own involvement. 

What is needed from pastors and Christian leaders is not a condemnation of those involved in abortion.   It is not ranting and raving from the pulpit about the evil of abortion and God’s coming judgment.  Rather, what is needed is brokenness, sorrow, contrition, and repentance for their own involvement.  Church members will follow this to do likewise, for when the Shepherds lead the sheep will follow.

Unless repentance from Christian leaders for their involvement in the shedding of innocent blood is part of any new awakening then what is happening at Asbury is simply “revivalism.” The Christian church and her leaders must repent from abortion within our midst and of involvement in this heart-breaking shedding of innocent blood. This will be the beginning of true revival and a cultural transformation. 

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Is the current Asbury Awakening the real deal that will lead to the healing of our nation? 

Time will tell.

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