Dear Revolutionaries – Lenny Duncan

Dear Revolutionaries Lenny Duncan
Dear Revolutionaries: A Field Guide for a World beyond the Church by Lenny Duncan
Published by Broadleaf Books on February 21, 2023
Genres: LGBTQ+, Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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When Lenny Duncan wrote Dear Church in 2018, they had a vision for a church that could and would reform itself into something new. After four years, a pandemic, a global uprising for racial equity, and what Duncan describes as "the death of the republic" on January 6, 2021, we now live in a vastly different landscape than the one Duncan wrote about previously.

Lenny now contends that we no longer need a reformation--we need a revolution. Dear Revolutionaries is a handbook for a new generation that sees, clear-eyed, the series of catastrophes we have inherited, the road that lies ahead, and the improbability of victory, yet are still ready to build the tomorrow we so desperately want to be born in this world. The institutional church is concerned with reviving itself. God is concerned with reviving the community within and beyond the walls of the church. Dear Revolutionaries is a book for the community who is ready to rise up and build something new from the ashes.

Casting a vision for a new spiritual future led by the people, Dear Revolutionaries offers a series of peace-building practices that will give readers the tools to build, guide, and care for spiritual community in a world beyond the church.

I’ve never felt so beat up and so energized by a book all at the same time. Dear Revolutionaries is Lenny Duncan’s invective epistle is a follow-up/corrective to their previous book, Dear Church. Published in 2019 and subtitled “A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US,” Dear Church was a series of letters that pled for the church—specifically Duncan’s Lutheran denomination—to recognize and repent from the sins of racism, nationalism, toxic masculinity, LGBTQIA+ exclusion, and more.

And then…well…a lot happened between 2019 and 2022. The success of their book made Duncan popular in the Evangelical Thought Leader crowd. The ministry opportunities and speaking engagements rolled in, but change was slow or non-existent. Even aligning with the more progressive elements of the church wasn’t having much of an effect. Then there was a pandemic. Then George Floyd was murdered by the police. Then there were protests and riots. On the ground in Portland, Duncan found himself face-to-face with white supremacy, nationalism, and fascism in a very real way. And after some thought, they determined, the church was complicit.

On page seventeen of Dear Revolutionaries, they write: “The church has become a whitewashed tomb housing the mere ghost of Christianity. It haunts us in our sleep and shrieks when we awake to its reality. So, I quit. The church. You should, too. I quit trying to revive the church as we know it. You see, the church is concerned with reviving itself. God is concerned with reviving the community. There is a major difference.”

Throughout the book, Dear Revolutionaries makes the case that the institutional church needs to die so something better can be resurrected in its place. While 2019 Duncan saw hope for the institutional church, 2022 Duncan does not. Their language is sharp. Their conviction resolute. This is someone who has been utterly broken by the institutional church and has found hope outside of it.

Each chapter ends with some suggested practices for readers to do to reflect on their beliefs, their heritage, and their place. These sections really pivot the book away from just being a screed about the problems into offering the beginnings of a solution. Duncan isn’t tearing down for the sake of revenge—even if that would be understandable. They’re tearing down for the hopes that something more Christlike can come out of it.

Dear Revolutionaries is powerful and raw. You can feel the hurt and holy rage. This is book meant to make you uncomfortable. Did I agree entirely with everything Duncan says? No. Would I have expressed the things I agreed with in the way Duncan does at times? Also no. But my experience as a white cishet man is obviously much different and I can’t use my experience to dictate their feelings or beliefs. Lenny Duncan is a voice crying out in the wilderness. That may be unsettling, but it’s undeniably powerful.