Posted by: Brian Musser | October 9, 2017

Which Red Revolution

For a while, National Collegiate Week for Baptist Campus Ministries was split between two locations.  The one in the west at Glorietta, NM is still around.  But there was also a sister site in Ridgecrest, NC.  Since it was so much closer we could take groups of students to it.  It was always an adventure bringing students from Philadelphia into the South and having them connect with southern ministries.

I remember this one time when the cultures seemed to be in conflict.  There was a tall, young African American pastor on stage talking about his ministry in Memphis, TN.  From what I was hearing it sounded like a great thing.  But the more he talked, the more agitated the two students next to me became.  I started listening closer.  In my mind there was nothing wrong with what he was describing.  He was describing an inner-city ministry that was both changing people’s lives and winning people’s souls.  What was making these students so uncomfortable.  And then it hit me.  I heard it through their ears.

The ministry was called the Red Revolution.  It was about how the Red blood of Jesus Christ leads to personal and social changes that can only be described on the scale of a Revolution.  You see that was a great way to talk about things in inner-city Memphis, TN.  However; the two students next to me weren’t from TN, they were with us from Philadelphia.  But they weren’t even originally from Philadelphia.  The two students next me had been born in the Ukraine and immigrated to Philly.

The Red Revolution in a former Soviet State meant something entirely different.  It meant something to these two students that was antagonistic to what this pastor was describing.  The combination of hearing words historically associated with communist propaganda linked to a Christian message was creating extreme cognitive dissonance for them.  The language of their culture was preventing them from accurately hearing what the pastor was saying.

Now, to be honest, the two students sitting next to me were probably the only immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the crowd of 1500 students that day.  And it is my understanding that Memphis, TN does not have a large Ukrainian or Russian population either.  So this pastor wasn’t being insensitive within his context it was just a case of two different contexts crossing for a moment.  What we say and what people hear can be two drastically different things.

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