Those words come from “Revolution,” one of the Beatles’ hit songs of 1968 — a tumultuous year of mass protests, student demonstrations and demands for change across Europe, America and beyond (listen to the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vJMmpJYDF8). It was a heady time for idealists, particularly on the political left. Many insisted on the nonviolent tactics so effectively adapted by Martin Luther King Jr. and the U.S. civil rights movement from the strategy Gandhi used to end British rule in India.
Others, less patient and more militant, advocated using “any means necessary” (read: violence) to overthrow what they saw as oppressive systems. Some supported or even joined Marxist guerrilla movements across Latin America and Asia.
Pop stars aren’t known for their political sophistication. But in “Revolution,” the Beatles warned of the dangers involved in rapid political and social change — even as they led the charge:
“[W]hen you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out. …You tell me it’s the institution, well, you know, you better free your mind instead. …”
Wise words for those leading the movements for change now shaking societies across the Arab world. Many worldly institutions are rotten, corrupt and long overdue for tossing into history’s dustbin. But what will replace them?
The institution most in need of transformation is the human mind.
“It’s a dangerous time, because the youth are full of anger,” says an Arab Baptist pastor in one of the Middle Eastern countries rocked by protests. “This is not something new. The youth get this frustration from their parents when they can’t afford what they need to live or to get education. And even for the ones that do graduate, they have the same frustration: no jobs. They take loans from banks and then they don’t find work. That causes them to go to drugs, to steal, to be dishonest, to prostitute.”
Arab Christians, he adds, deal with all of those stresses, plus the added burden of oppression as a religious minority — “especially the evangelicals.”
“As an evangelical church, what we are doing now is praying for more awareness for the people and what they should do at this time,” he says. “At the same time, we are trying to find more [connections] between us, between Christians and Muslims. Pray for policies to change — for more freedom, more human rights, more freedom for the people to choose what they want.”
He is hopeful, but realistic. He places little hope in human institutions — democratic or otherwise.
“My hope is in God, not with people,” he states. "I'm a good reader of [Arab] history."
A Christian representative based in the region believes the current cascade of events constitutes a “perfect storm,” under God’s sovereign control, to spread His glory throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
The peoples of the region are experiencing “an ever-widening sociopolitical discontent that is moving like a tsunami wave across their communication networks,” the representative says. “Whether they live in the thick of demonstrations occurring in Libya, Morocco or Yemen, or in an apartment complex in Dallas-Fort Worth or Los Angeles, they are anxious and rightly concerned about what is happening across their homelands.
“This visceral dissatisfaction makes people either run from God or run toward Him. Let’s pray the majority of our peoples run toward Him!”
Specifically, the worker asks for prayer that God will be honored and glorified in each country as governments shift and change; that the Gospel will spread to millions of families; that disciples of Christ among peoples of the region will multiply; and that believers will “be of one mind and one heart to carry out God’s purposes on earth” during this historic moment.
Revolutions typically take one of three courses, according to geopolitical analyst George Friedman:
* They fail.
* They falter, but sow seeds that bloom for decades afterward.
* They succeed — and create a new order in a nation, a region, even the world.
Pray that the revolutions now sweeping across the Arab world will create a new spiritual order in the minds of men and women, regardless of what happens to their political institutions.