There's a place in the world for the angry young manAmericans have a soft spot for revolutionaries. Whether it be George Washington or Luke Skywalker, we love to see the brave, usually young, usually good-looking hero take on the despotic establishment and emerge victorious--or even to fail tragically but valiantly.
With his working class ties and his radical plans
He refuses to bend he refuses to crawl
And he's always at home with his back to the wall
And he's proud of his scars and the battles he's lost
And struggles and bleeds as he hangs on his cross
And likes to be known as the angry young man (Billy Joel)
Such is our romance for heroic rebels that we find them where they are not. Che Guevarra was little more than a murderous thug who helped bring a half century of repressive dictatorship to Cuba, yet his face continues to adorn merchandise as a symbol of some glorious resistance against ... whatever.
This romance extends to the church, sadly, and is the siren's song of the heroic "revolutionary" who is, in many cases, merely a contemptuous and rebellious troublemaker. Revolution of this other sort has no positive vision, no hopeful calling. It is merely the call to be an "Angry Young Man" (or Woman), sniping at the church's faults and treating even Christ's most devoted and selfless servants as if they are merely part of some great Evil Empire. Such wanton destructiveness, as noted by the Presbyter below, disrespects many of those we ought most to respect--those who do much good work on behalf of the Kingdom of God at great personal sacrifice. Moreover, it brings discredit to the honest and necessary revolution and reform happening elsewhere.
To illustrate, consider the cultural revolution that began in the 1960s. This revolution marked a critical turning point in the war against racial discrimination which was still so shockingly prevalent across the Deep South. Much good and many heroes marked the period. Yet the same generation so honored with nobility among some also featured shocking and destructive excess among many more. The truth is, those who were the true and necessary revolutionaries often became entangled and confused with and among those who were merely arrogant rebels along for the ride--youths who despised their parents' generation and used the guise of "revolution" as an excuse for self-indulgence.
There is likewise a temptation to arrogantly savage the organized church without issuing--or better yet, living out--any higher calling. In many cases, the self-righteous rejection of the organized church serves as little more than a cover-up for sin. Freed from the "oppression" of the church (or should I say the accountability to the church), there is often a descent into sloth. This is not a spiritual revolution ... it is a temper tantrum.
The church needs its revolutionaries and its reformers. It needs those who will, like Jailbreaker, live out a bold new vision in order to be his witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." But those who merely snipe at the church's faults do the cause no credit and no good service. In fact, they harm it gravely.