The allegations concerning the bizarre sex games are disputed, but the photo alone gave Liberty University enough reason to question Falwell’s leadership, as the evangelical university has some very strict guidelines concerning sexuality, dress code and alcohol consumption (Falwell is holding a drink in the photo, writing in the caption “I promise it’s just black water in my glass”).
There’s one word that people keeps coming back to when describing this situation: hypocrisy. The very thing that Jesus warned his disciples against over and over again. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”, the Lord said. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:1-2).
Sadly, 62 percent of millennials think that hypocrisy is one of the main characteristics of the church. Why? Some evangelicals would push back, claiming that these kids have a lot of prejudice and are hypocrites themselves. But hold on a second. What if there are objective, factual reasons for non-Christians to perceive evangelicals as hypocrites?
Jerry Falwell Jr. was one of the earliest Christian leaders to endorse Donald Trump. It may be hard to remember nowadays, but Trump was hardly any evangelical’s first choice. Republican candidates like Ted Cruz were far more popular. It’s common today to hear evangelicals say that they simply don’t care about Trump’s curses, rhetoric and playboy lifestyle, as long as he nails conservative policies.
Falwell Jr. helped pioneer this line of thinking. It used to be the opposite of what evangelicals valued in a president.
These statistics show beyond any reasonable doubt that the white evangelical endorsement of Trump has radically changed their values. In 2011, over 60 percent of them said that an elected official who commits an immoral act in their private life cannot behave ethically in their public life. In the Trump era, this conviction remains among less than 20 percent. Falwell Jr. and other evangelical leaders have convinced millions of Christians that a good character simply isn’t relevant when it comes to leadership, despite there being hundreds of verses in the Scriptures that suggest otherwise.
It must have been a comfortable message for Falwell Jr. – he clearly thinks that this applies to himself as well. Other evangelical leaders have at least maintained that pastors need a good moral character, emphasizing that “we didn’t elect a pastor but a president” (which is a ridiculous logic in and of itself – American presidents have access to nuclear weapons!). Falwell Jr. on the other hand compared Trump to Jesus.
Furthermore, I wish we lived in an age where it was obvious to everyone that Trump is a hypocrite. He said that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington making it less corrupt, but has taken no action to do so and instead filled his administration with relatives, people currently under investigation and career politicians. Trump frequently accuses the media for lying, calling it “fake news”, when even his supporters clearly can see that he frequently lies himself. Just watch him deny that he has said things he actually said:
But here’s the really catastrophic part. In the gallup I referenced above, which shows that most white evangelicals don’t care about moral character in their public officials anymore, there was some stunning evidence of evangelical hypocrisy:
Do you see that? The number rises dramatically if the question is asked after Bill Clinton is mentioned, but plummets when it is Trump’s name instead. This clearly proves that at least a quarter of white evangelicals in the US are hypocrites. They disregard God’s teaching: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” (James 2:1). They don’t shape their opinion on this matter based on God’s Word, but on the priorities of the Republican party.
The Constantinian relationship many white evangelical leaders have to whatever candidate the Republicans choose to nominate is having a disastrous effect on their discipleship and obedience to the Word. It is a problem far greater than one single former president at an evangelical school.
“So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents. Let’s fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire.”
Just one year ago, President Trump called himself “The Chosen One”, and thanked someone for ”the very nice words” of calling him the “king of Israel” and like ”the second coming of God”.
If this isn’t blasphemy… what is it?
I’m reminded of Shane Claiborne writing in his excellent book ”The Irresistible Revolution” about when some kids insisted that he should play Jesus in a church play when he did missionary work in a Latin American country.
”Why don’t any of you play Jesus?” he asked.
”You must do it!” the children said, ”because you’re white and come from America!”
Claiborne goes on to write:
“Jesus had a new definition of family, rooted in the idea that we are adopted as orphans into the family of God and that this rebirth creates a new kinship that runs deeper than biology or geography or nationality. Rebirth is about being adopted into a new family – without borders.” (p. 188).
The Holy Spirit is not an American spirit. We should fix our eyes on Jesus, not a flag. There is no god besides God Almighty.
This is true regardless of how many politicians wish that they were the center of the universe.
We are called by Jesus to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), resolving conflicts as we go forth to spread the Gospel about his love. Peace is always dependent on at least two parties, which is why we might experience conflict even when our intention is peace.
This is why Paul writes “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). We try our best on our part, and pray that the other respond constructively.
What does this look like in practice? God seems to be very concerned with us asking that question, since the Bible provides us with several practical tools for conflict resolution and peacemaking.
1. Breaking the cycle of hostility
The first tool is given to us by Paul right after he says that we should seek to live at peace with everyone. He continues: (more…)
You didn’t need an army
You didn’t need a sword
You didn’t need the president
that they are fighting for
You spread your holy Kingdom
with words and deeds alone
And that makes you the greatest King
that I have ever known
You didn’t need a building
You didn’t need a car
The latest tech and fancy clothes
you didn’t need at all
You didn’t need that I were
good-looking, friendly, smart
The only thing you need from me
is just my fragile heart
You didn’t need to suffer
You didn’t need to die
You could have stayed upon your throne
and still be glorified
You didn’t need to save us
You didn’t need to care
But yet you did and that is why
I offer you my prayer
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.
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.
Dr. Jörg Haustein
“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.”
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.
“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…)
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…)
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:
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!