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If a violent man attacked your family, what would you do?
Probably every Christian pacifist has been confronted with this question.
The purpose of the question is to make the pacifist realize that violence is sometimes necessary: no matter how much you want to love your enemies, you may face situations in which refusal to use violence will lead to the harm or even death of people you love.
As John Howard Yoder points out in his book What Would You Do?, the questions is emotional. The attacker is always an anonymous man, and when the family members are specified, they are almost always a mother, daughter or wife.
The one posing the question wants as little emotional bonds to the attacker as possible, while the opposite is true for the one being attacked.
Reality, of course, is not as simplistic. (more…)
Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. We’re very excited here at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice since this is the second time in a row that a Pentecostal is being awarded this prestigious prize.
Some have the impression that Ahmed is hiding his Pentecostal faith for diplomatic reasons: his nation is divided among both ethnic and religious lines. I recently spoke to Dr Jörg Haustein at Cambridge University who is an expert on Ethiopian Pentecostalism. He told me this wasn’t exactly the case.
“I don’t think he de-emphasizes his Pentecostal faith, but he’s very aware of which audience he is speaking to”, Dr. Haustein says. “There are videos on YouTube, not put up by him but by others, where he’s very Pentecostal in his rhetoric. He knows how to employ his faith in a more plural religiously appealing manner, but it’s also empowering him in the bold things that he’s done. He actually feels that he’s doing God’s work, and that this is what he needs to be doing at this time.”
Ahmed is actually not the first Pentecostal Prime Minister of Ethiopia, his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn was a Oneness Pentecostal. Dr. Haustein has previously researched his faith and rise to power. I ask him how Pentecostals ended up as top politicians in the country. (more…)
This sentence from The Guardian has to go down in history as completely unimaginable concerning a U.S. president just a few years ago:
Over an ensuing half-hour rant, Trump trucked in antisemitic tropes, insulted the Danish prime minister, insisted he wasn’t racist, bragged about the performance of his former Apprentice reality show, denied starting a trade war with China, praised Vladimir Putin and told reporters that he, Trump, was the “Chosen One” – all within hours of referring to himself as the “King of Israel” and tweeting in all caps: “WHERE IS THE FEDERAL RESERVE?”
What really concerns me is the “Chosen One” and “King of Israel” part. The Guardian even leaves out something even more disturbing, namely that Trump welcomed the comparison between him and the second coming of God:
A lot has already been written on Trump’s apparent pathological narcissism, and the tweets above provide additional evidence that his view of himself is severely disturbed. Any sane person, regardless of their own religious beliefs, would reject any comparison between themselves and the Creator of the universe.
The only people I can think of who actually view themselves as being on a divine level are authoritarian dictators of modern communist countries as well as ancient empires in Biblical times. We read in Daniel 6 how the administrators of Babylonian King Darius suggested to him that he signs a decree stating that “anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den”. Rather than saying “That’s outrageous! Do you think I have some kind of god-complex?”, Darius finds it to be a reasonable idea and signs it. As a consequence, the prophet Daniel is later thrown into said lions’ den.
Even in New Testament times, we read in the book of Acts: ”On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man.’ Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:21-23 ).
This is obviously not something that happens to everyone who perceive themselves as divine, as we would have got rid of a lot of dictators if that had been the case, but it clearly expresses how serious the sin of pride is. The original sin in the garden was that Adam and Eve appreciated the temptation of Satan, saying that they would “be like God” if they ate the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:5).
I turn now to my Pentecostal and charismatic brothers and sisters who have welcomed and praised Trump, even saying that resisting him is resisting the will of God, and I ask you: where is your condemnation of blasphemy? Surely, that is a sin according to us all? I’m well aware that our views on peace and justice differ, as well as our interpretation of how well the president is promoting such things.
But even if one agrees with Trump’s policies, surely him announcing himself as the chosen one and welcoming the description “like the second coming of God” should be viewed as utterly blasphemous? How could it be anything else?
What does Matthew 10:34 say? Which things are forbidden according to Christianity? Can you describe the sacraments?
If these questions seem hard – even unanswerable – to you, you’re lucky not to be a Christian asylum seeker in Sweden.
Since many years back, the Swedish Migration Board tries to differentiate between “real” converts from Islam to Christianity that risk persecution in their countries of origin, and “fake” ones who only seek a cheap way to gain asylum, by asking various questions.
Sweden being a very secular country, most officials who come up with these questions are not Christians themselves. Furthermore, they don’t have much knowledge about Christianity – even though they might think so themselves. (more…)
In 2016, I released a book in Swedish together with pastor Stefan Swärd called Jesus Was Also a Refugee. We commented the recent migration debate, providing the biblical teaching on loving, welcoming and blessing strangers (Lev 19:33-34, Mt 25:35).
I was not at all prepared for the huge amounts of Christians who would object to the book title. “Jesus was certainly not a refugee!” The same thing happened as the Christian Post published my Christmas reflection, inspired by Shane Claiborne, urging people to welcome refugees as they would welcome Christ. The comment section on CP’s Facebook page overflooded with arguments against the asylum status of our Savior and his parents.
Most of these arguments are bad. I mean, really bad. Here are the five weirdest ones I’ve come across so far: (more…)
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the ”War to End All Wars”: World War One. It directly killed nine million combatants and seven million civilians. Furthermore, it contributed to the spread and severity of epidemics that killed an additional 100 million people.
And here’s the really embarrassing part: with few exceptions, WW1 was a war in which Christians killed other Christians. Catholics fought other Catholics; Protestants fought other Protestants. People who claimed to follow Jesus slaughtered their supposed brothers in the trenches because their leaders – many of which claimed to have been appointed by God – ordered them to.
Madness. Utter, disgraceful madness. (more…)
“How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” – James 2:1.
3,000 people died because of the horrible terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 3,000 people died because of the horrible hurricane of September 2017.
We all know President Bush’s response to the attacks on World Trade Center. War on terrorism. The Patriot Act. Fear.
The attacks were framed as a national tragedy, Muslims were portrayed as the enemy, violence and surveillance were offered as the solutions.
The contrast to President Trump’s response to hurricane Maria couldn’t be greater. Trump recently denied on Twitter that 3,000 people died because of the hurricane. He has described the federal relief as “fantastic” even though the infrastructure on the island still is malfunctioning one year later and many children haven’t been able to return to school. (more…)
Originally posted at PCPJ.
These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:
Charles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.
The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.
The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social.
Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28. (more…)
This weekend, activist theologian Shane Claiborne and his friends at Red Letter Christians will arrange a Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg, Virginia. That’s right, the town where Liberty University, the world’s biggest Christian university whose president Jerry Falwell Jr. is a passionate Trump supporter.
The Revival will be themed “Jesus and Justice” and include sermons, worship and workshops on how to fight Trumpism by going back to the Sermon on the Mount. I got the chance to speak with Shane Claiborne on this historic event.
– The reason we do the Lynchburg Revival is that Christianity and Republicanism have been fused together, Shane Claiborne says. They have become almost indistinguishable from each other. When you have the First Baptist Church in Dallas singing ”Make America Great Again” as if it was a hymn in worship, when the American flag is bigger than the cross, what happens is that you begin to see a discrepancy between the values of America and the values inherent to the Gospel. (more…)
Jesus told us to love our enemies (Mt 5:44). This has been the cornerstone of Christian pacifist theology; whether you look at the early church, or the Anabaptists or the early Pentecostals, they all agreed on that loving enemies is incompatible with killing them, and hence they refused to wage wars or use violence against other human beings.
For this reason, the Christian non-pacifist has to argue for one of the following positions:
- Killing is an act of love towards the one you kill.
- We should not follow Jesus’ command to love enemies when we decide to kill people.
There are serious problems with both of these ideas. Let’s start with the first one.
Killing or Kissing
CS Lewis famously argued that it’s possible to love people that you kill and that this is in fact what we ought to do: “We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating.” Augustine argued in his just war-theory that declaring and fighting a war could be an act of love, even though it admittedly manifests as something different than what love usually looks like.
However, this clashes with the fact that those who are trained for combat are molded into hating and dehumanizing their enemy. An army that actually loves those that it is supposed to kill, isn’t a good army. It’s already psychologically challenging to kill a human being even if it’s just a stranger to you, and loving them only makes it worse. (more…)
It’s time for Pentecostal and charismatic leaders that are critical to Trump’s bizarre presidency to speak up.
We call upon all sorts of leaders – pastors, scholars, CEOs, politicians, NGO representatives and others – that are part of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement to sign our open letter to president Donald Trump. The letter will be sent to the White House on the anniversary of his inauguration, January 20th.
This is not a partisan letter. Regardless of our political affiliation and opinions, we feel that Trump has taken politics to such extremes that Christians on both the right and the left of the political spectrum together should say “No!”.
The areas we at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice have identified as important to speak up about are:
- The demonization of immigrants and minorities;
- the reckless nuclear war rhetoric;
- the loosening of environmental protection;
- the belittling and abuse of women;
- the disrespect of indigenous people;
- the inequalities between rich and poor; and
- the dishonesty and lying.
To read the letter and sign it, go here.
Together, we and the Holy Spirit can change the world.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please join our Facebook forum, and sign up for our newsletter!
A lot of great content is being published at PCPJ right now, including this piece by professor Cecil M. Robeck Jr. on the history of women leadership in the Pentecostal movement, and this personal post by Rachel Stella on what a “good Christian woman” is supposed to be. But I want to repost our amazing writer and artist Ramone Romero’s article on American football, patriotism and racism:
Black Lives Don’t Matter As Much As the National Anthem
by Ramone Romero.
It seems sometimes that in the national debate about #TakeAKnee the focus has become about “the flag” and “the anthem”, and it is often being forgotten that #TakeAKnee is a protest about the systemic injustices of law enforcement against people of color.
Yet even if that is forgotten in the news and chatter, this is still intensely about race.
The #TakeAKnee protests in the NFL (and spreading across the sports world) are offensive precisely because they began with black athletes.
The offense people are taking as disrespect to the flag, the anthem and to “America” itself comes because these are black athletes protesting.
How dare they interrupt the anthem?
How dare they not salute the flag in the way we want?
How dare they draw any amount of attention to themselves?
How dare they interrupt our holy moment of nationalistic worship?
Rick Joyner is Executive Director of MorningStar Ministries and a prophetic minister who has cooperated with various charismatic churches. He has in a recent Facebook video stated that “serious judgment is coming upon our media”, that “Trump has a divine purpose” and that nobody will be able to put him our of office because of that, and in yet another video claimed that Black Lives Matter is a hate group of the worst order and that the rise of white supremacy in America is Barack Obama’s fault.
These comments led Rick’s daughter, Anna Jane Joyner, to post a Facebook video of her own where she in tears apologized to her African American friends and promised to stand by their side:
[People like my father have] in the last couple of weeks not stood up for what Jesus stood for, and are perpetuating some very dangerous and hurtful narratives and ideas. I wish I could change it. I’m trying my best.
I just want you to know that you aren’t alone, and that I hear you… I’m absolutely standing with you in this very serious sort of battle for the soul of our country.
The video has gone viral, with currently over 70 000 views and almost 1000 shares. In response to this Anna Jane writes: (more…)
Originally published at PCPJ.
I was holding my breath the other week when Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump – probably among the most unreliable political leaders of this age – were waging a war of words. Trump said that if Kim continues to threaten the United States they will be met with “fire and fury”, a statement he later said “wasn’t tough enough” (but what could be tougher?). The North Korean leadership almost immediately responded with threats of nuking the American colony of Guam, which likely would start the first nuclear war ever.
Thankfully, Kim later announced that he’s standing by, waiting for the next move by the “stupid yankees”. And I was able to breath again. But I’m taking short breaths, and pray that these madmen will come to their senses.
And then I stumble upon the comments by Southern Baptist Megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who as this crisis was at its peak boldly proclaimed that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un”. So how does Pastor Jeffress defend this claim?
“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”
Now, it’s important to understand that Jeffress isn’t claiming any personal revelation here: he claims that based on the Bible alone, specifically Romans 13, one can reach the conclusion that God wants Trump to kill Kim. But Romans 13 emphasizes that all governments have the same authority: (more…)
Originally published at PCPJ.
Quite a few media outlets have recently claimed that science has disproven the Bible. They point to a recent study showing that the DNA of modern Lebanese people match 90 % with the DNA of five Canaanites that died 3 700 tears ago. They then go on claiming that the Bible says that all the Canaanites were killed as Joshua and the Israelites conquered their land.
The titles of the articles show that their authors think that according to the Bible, Canaanites were “wiped out”. The Telegraph states “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out”. The Independent agrees: “Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon”. And the Daily Mail argues “Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out: Study says their genes live on in modern-day Lebanese people”
There’s only one problem. The Bible doesn’t say that the Canaanites were wiped out.
Judges, you know the book that comes right after Joshua, clearly states that there were “Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills” (Jud 1:9) and “Canaanites living in Hebron” (v. 10). Canaanites were around in Israel around the time of Solomon (1 Kings 9:16) and even in the time of Jesus (Matt 15:22). (more…)