On April 24, 1971, I marched in one of the largest anti-Vietnam war protests in Washington D.C. Along with up to half a million other protesters, we made our way up to Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. Here's a CBS News report about the march in this YouTube video. I'm somewhere in that crowd. I was a freshman at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and moved by the anti-war fever pitch of the time. Me and a few others drove down to Washington, slept in the basement of a local church, and joined the massive crowd to stand "together" as part of a movement to stop what we considered an unjust war. April 24th was peaceful.
But nine days later May 3rd, a different demonstration hit Washington D.C. A group called the "Mayday Tribe" staged violent protests and civil disobedience throughout the city. They tried to shut down the capital. Police arrested more than 7,000 of those protestors. Their motto: "If the government won't stop the war; we'll stop the government." Their goal: Revolution.
April 24th – peaceful and May 3rd – violent – differed in their tone but did have a lot in common. Even in the quiet UNH dorms back in Durham, New Hampshire, you didn't have to go far to find calls for revolution. Bulletin boards carried the message of radical groups like the Weather Underground, Black Panthers, or the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that spread an ideology to overthrow the government. These messages looked to men like Che Guevara for inspiration and looked to men like Saul Alinksy for strategy who wrote his manifesto Rules for Radicals in 1971 outlining his plans for a revolutionary change in the United States.
Nearly fifty years later, America is once again rocked by protests. But this time, it's not just Washington D.C. but Portland, Seattle, New York City, and more. In his book In Their Own Words, former FBI Counterterrorism Deputy Director Terry Turchie says there's a direct line between the radicals of then and now. "They have resurrected the battle cries of radical revolutionaries of the 1960s and 1970s who sought to topple the United States Government and replace it with Communism."
But he believes their goals go higher. He reported they want to "attack and dethrone God." Salinsky's Rules for Radicals echoed that goal when he gave recognition to the "first community organizer," Lucifer.
"Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins— or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer."
Yet, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah described Lucifer's "community organizing" this way:
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.'" Isaiah 14:12-14
The church - and the country - face a direct assault and the question confronting the church is how does it respond? For me, one answer lies back in Washington D.C. Not in 1971 but 1977.
On May 8, 1977, I was again in the nation's capital, this time not marching to the Capitol but having lunch at McDonald's. I was a young man in search of the meaning of life with questions roiling in my soul like "What happens when I die?" and "What is life all about?" A pastor who I had met arranged for me to meet a young Christian man about my age to discuss these profound life issues. Over a lunch of a filet-o-fish sandwich, french fries, and a vanilla shake, I peppered my newfound friend with those life questions and also ones like: "What does it mean to be "born-again?" "How do you "invite Jesus into your heart?" Long after the filet-o-fish and french fries were gone and the vanilla shake finished, we left and said goodbye. But on the way out, I noticed the theme of "Jesus Christ Superstar" – then a famous rock-opera – was playing on the McDonald's speakers. It felt like a sign.
From the Golden Arches, I walked to my home on D Street NW that I shared with several other young adults all struggling to make it in DC. But something happened on the way. Suddenly what I had hoped for, searched for, longed for became real. Jesus did actually "come into my heart." I suddenly knew what it meant to be "born again" and Jesus became real. By the time I got to D Street, this young searcher came home and questions like "What is life all about?" were answered. From that day to this, He's been my faithful companion, Lord, and Savior. I long for the day when I'll see Him face to face but now there's more work to do.
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Today there's a war going on for the destiny of America where the seeds of revolution sown in the soil of 1971 are sprouting in the soil of 2020.
In the New Covenant, the Apostle Paul said this war transcends flesh and blood:
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Ephesians 6: 10-13
He added that the weapons of this spiritual warfare are not of this world.
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God …" II Corinthians 10: 4-5
So how does the church respond in 2020?
Once again, the solution takes me back to Washington not to protest a war but pray for a country. On April 29, 1980, I joined hundreds of thousands of Christians for "Washington for Jesus." Founded by John Gimenez, a young Puerto Rican pastor from Virginia Beach, Virginia it was backed by national Christian leaders like Pat Robertson. It became a rallying cry for God to intervene in the affairs of America during a time of economic malaise and foreign crises. Prayer for God's mercy resounded on the Washington Mall that day.
Forty years later - with America in the throes of a cultural civil war - there's another call to cry out to God in the nation's capital. It's called The Return and based on the call by the Hebrew prophet Joel for a solemn assembly and on II Chronicles 7:14 that says:
"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
So one of the mightiest weapons in the spiritual arsenal Paul mentioned is repentance.
Like Pastor John Gimenez forty years before them, the founders of The Return, Jonathan Cahn and Kevin Jessup are calling America to the Washington Mall. Again, Pat Robertson is supporting the gathering along with his son Gordon. Ann Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham and Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King will participate.
On their website, Cahn and Jessup say the moment is dire and the hour late:
"We stand at a pivotal moment in American history and world history. A juncture, that can permanently seal our nation's course and the course of world history, for bad or good, for calamity or redemption."
They say the Return is a call to all:
"The Return is for all believers who love the Lord from all denominations and backgrounds, black, white, Spanish, Asian, men, women, youth, children, Jew and Gentile, everyone."
And the time is now:
"The movement begins now – then in September, we set forth ten days, known from ancient times as the Days of Awe, of September 18 to September 28, as a special time to intensify our prayers, intercession, repentance, and revival. It all begins on the Feast of Trumpets and concludes on the Day of Atonement, the Day of Return, on Saturday, September 26."
It's a call to repent, pray for revival and return:
"In view of the moment before us, let us rise to that call, let us take God as His Word, let us do what He has called us to do, let us believe for great and mighty things, and let us each return and seek to live in revival and become messengers of revival – It is time to break up our fallow ground – It is time to seek the Lord as never before. The moment and chance we have before us now may never come again. It is time to return."
1971, 1977, and 1980 in Washington were scenes of personal revival and national repentance. In light of our national 2020 crucible, it is "time to return."