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Last weekend, I met some other Christian activists discussing the serious threat of climate change, its effects on the poor and what we should do. We will partake in Act Alliance‘s global climate campaign next year that will urge world leaders meeting at the COP 21 in Paris, December 2015, to finally reach a universal, legally binding agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases, stopping the global warming from reaching more than 2 degrees Celsius. To get some inspiration, we watched an awesome documentary called Disruption, produced by 350.org.
Instead of getting stuck in debates with the skeptics, Disruption simply concludes that the absolute majority of climate scientists agree that this is an enormous threat towards especially the poor and vulnerable. The title refers to “the dangerous environmental tipping points after which the entire climate system could spiral out of control, as well as the need for a mass social movement to disrupt the status quo and business-as-usual approach which is inhibiting the bold actions necessary to protect the planet’s future.” If the current global warming melts the arctic or releases tons of methane in the tundra, climate change may spin out of control. It is urgent to stop this as soon as possible.
Disruption is thankfully not just about the problem, but mainly about the solution. It’s a film by activists for activists, and its main focus is the historic People’s Climate March, the biggest climate manifestation in history. The documentary was released two weeks prior to the actual march, so you may feel a little disappointed after watching it without seeing what is being prepared throughout the film. But fear not, I got the solution: here are some pics from this amazing event that occured on September 21st in New York, Berlin, London, Lagos, Istanbul and many other places:
My blog series God vs Wealth has been quite popular, partly because it’s a bit controverisal, partly because I think many share my ideas about economic equality. In a world where the richer get richer while the poor are dying, many Christians realize that Jesus was critical towards the rich and modeled something that would both abolish poverty and wealth, since the two are dependent upon each other. I have returned to this topic several times on this blog, and a couple of weeks ago I got the idea that I perhaps should collect these texts in one volume. Today, I can present to you my first e-book ever: God vs Inequality!
You can download the whole book as a PDF right here: God vs Inequality. It contains all ten parts in the God vs Wealth series, as well as its sequal God vs Poverty and several other texts published on this blog like Should Christians Wear “Formal” in Church?, It’s Time for All Christians to Become Vegetarians and Seven Reasons Why Inequality Sucks. Everything is illustrated by some beautiful photos I captured when I was in South Africa last year (or, to be honest, random stuff I’ve taken from Google Images) and put into an amazing layout by my dear friend Andreas Lundström.
Feel free to spread the document on, print it out and copy-and-paste, I claim no copyright. If you want it in iBook-format, which is what Andreas used to create it with, just send me an e-mail to micael.grenholm(a)gmail.com. If you discover some typos or have general comments about the content, feel free to comment below.
A lot of Christian activists detach themselves from the Bible, evangelicalism and a devoted life to God. I know of so many Christians that used to be passionate about Jesus, then after they started working for peace and justice, they started to question their faith and it grew colder. I even know of some becoming atheists. I fear that Christian activism is one of the main secularizing movements in the church today.
Of course, it is with pain I’m writing this. As you can tell from my blog title, I’m a Christian activist myself. For over five years I’ve been telling fellow Christians to love their enemies, share all they have with the poor, end oppression and care for the creation. I am very critical to the lack of activism within evangelicalism, but I’m convinced that it isn’t because they read the Bible too much or take Jesus too seriously – on the contrary, they ignore large parts of God’s Word even though they claim to believe in it. Much like the pharisees in the time of the gospels.
If we do take Jesus and the Bible seriously, we’ll sell everything we have and give the money to the poor (Mk 10:21). We’ll never fight back but turn the other cheek(Mt 5:40-48). We’ll give to everyone that asks us (Lk 6:30). And not only that, we’ll heal the sick and raise the dead (Mt 10:8), prophesy and speak in tongues (Acts 2:6-21) and preach the Gospel to the whole world (Mt 28:18-20). If you follow Jesus, you can’t separate peace and justice from miracles, evangelism, Bible study or prayer. It’s all connected.
- There’s a hashtag called #CARcrisis. It’s used on Twitter.
- It has nothing to do with cars. It’s about the crisis in the Central African Republic, a republic in central Africa that has about the same size as Ukraine.
- The CAR crisis is one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophe on the planet right now. Due to the ongoing conflict, thousands have died, hundreds of thousands are refugees, millions need urgent humanitarian assistance.
- The UN fears that the conflict soon will escalate into a genocide. Similar hate propagande that was used in the Rwandan genocide is used in CAR today.
- The people that may commit the genocide are mostly Christians. And the victims are mostly Muslims. Yeah, sorry if I turned your prejudices on their heads there.
- The conflict escalated when the Muslim rebel group Seleka took over the government, but they’re not in the government anymore. They left in in January 2014. But the conflict is still going on by ex-Seleka members fighting the mostly Christian militia anti-balaka.
- The new president of CAR is a chick, and she’s awesome. Catherine Samba-Panza is committed to peace, justice and women’s rights, and urges both the Muslim and Christian militias to drop their weapons and stop planning genocide.
- You can save lives in CAR. Just give a generous amount to World Food Programme and spread the word.
A friend who is working with missions in Asia told me the other day about a Pakistani Christian girl, Samariya Nadeem, from Punjab in Pakistan, who was abducted by a Muslim landowner and forced to marry him after conversion to Islam. There is a petition directed to the Chief Minister of Punjab that asks him to free Samariya and make sure that freedom of religion and the freedom to marry volontarily is protected in Pakistan.
So far, police have failed to pursue any legal action against the local wealthy Muslim landowner who abducted the girl because of the influence he wields. Police investigators were also unable to talk to the bruised and terrified victim. Anonymous police sources confirmed that the girl was “abducted” and forced to marry. However, an Islamic cleric involved in the affair said that it was “not illegal to abduct and convert non-Muslims”.
Civil society groups and human rights activists have appealed to Punjab’s chief minister to take action and return Samariya to her parents and bring her abductor to justice. Kidnappings and forced marriages are a major issue in Pakistan, especially in Southern Punjab and in the interior of Sindh province. It is common in the region that young, religious minority, women and girls are forcefully converted and married away to influential landlords who keep them as slaves.
This is the fifth and final part of my God vs Poverty series.
Once we start praying and working for a better world, there is a risk of struggling in our own strength and power. And since everyone are sinners (Romans 3:10-18), the human way lined with failures, accidents, discouragement and fatigue. The Bible says that through the power of God, we are able to more than in our own force (Philippians 4:13). And that can sometimes be a little bit more dramatic than getting some extra energy as by an invisible vitamin kick. Sometimes, it means walking on water or raising the dead.
The ministry of Jesus and the apostles not only included human deeds but also acts of God, things that only God can do. While they gave money to the poor (John 13:29) and they also used the miraculous gifts of the Spirit to help them. As they combined action with prayer, there was suddenly no limit to what their aid work was able to do.
For example: Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead, which besides being extremely joyful in itself saved her from economic misery (Luke 7:11-17). Jesus also did food miracles out of His compassion for the hungry (Matt. 14:13-21; 15:29-39). His healing miracles had an activist dimension as well; in Mark 10:46-52 He heals a blind beggar, who thus is rescued not only from a life in darkness but also from a life in poverty.
Wow, wow, wow. Compelled by Love is seriously one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It’s radical, passionate, moving, inspiring and awesome, it combines joyful happiness with serious pain and sorrow, and in the end I just sat in awe agreeing completely with Heidi Baker when she said that it’s all about Him – what this film portraits is nothing else than the life of Jesus today in one of the poorest nations in the world. It’s a film about an amazing missionary couple and their organization, yes, and for that very reason it is a film about Christ, because Christ is all they stand for in an amazing way.
The film is 100% Iris. It’s emotional. It’s beautiful. It’s messy. Some professional film makers would perhaps react to the patchwork-style; the film is chronological for only 30 minutes or so, and then holy anarachy is released with a multitude of different messages, themes and stories presented, some of which have already been published in YouTube clips. I love it! Shara Pradhan and her team simply takes the best Iris have directly from the field.
The Bethel and Iris culture (those ministries are basically “married” by now) talk a lot about honor, and this film truly wants to honor the life of Heidi and Rolland Baker. Bill Johnson is interviewed when he states that he simply knows no one who has constantly said “yes” to God the way Heidi has, and while she and Rolland are so extraordinary in that they always, continously, give everything to Him, their passion is multiplied to so many others that see that they are not superheroes but carrier of the divine presence of the Holy Spirit that are available for all of us. The film carefully emphasizes both sides of this paradox – the Bakers are amazing saints and should be recognized as such, but their gifts are not excluded to them but constantly multiplied to those who follow their example as they follow Christ. After all, it is the Mozambiqan bush pastors that have raised over 100 dead people within Iris, not the Bakers.
In Acts 12, when Peter is sitting in prison for having preached the Gospel. God sends an angel to free him from his chain, blind the eyes of the guards and open the gates. Now that’s serious criminality. If you have a friend in jail, you have to respect the legal procedures and hope that s/he is freed in court – you’re not allowed to send a supernatural being to crush some chains and doors. That’s not legal. That’s not obedient. Still, God does that. According to divine law, evangelism is not a crime. For the same reason, Jesus was crucified as a criminal even though He is sinless according to the divine law.
Thus, Christians aren’t supposed to follow the law at all time. If the law says that we cannot preach the Gospel, or that Jews should be killed, or that whites and blacks have to be separated, we have to disobey in order to be obedient to our Lord. This is why I have been a strong supporter of civil disobedience.
Recently, I have been forced to think a bit extra about this though, because of this blog post at Jesus Radicals. In it, some anonymous people write about how they took 200 sexist calendars from a local kiosk and replaced them with signs like “Misogyny is out of stock” and “The female body is not a commodity”. They also give some tips of how to rob stores effectively.
Several news media have written about the event and many thought that the post simply meant that Jesus Radicals is behind the crime, while they argue that it was sent to them anonymously and they just posted it to encourage debate. Putting that aside, is the action moral? Obviously, stealing is wrong both according to human law and divine law – “You shall not steal” is a command that is repeated both by Jesus (Mark 10:19) and Paul (Eph 4:28). But what is stealing then?
I finished my bachelor’s thesis Holy Spirit Development earlier this fall. Here’s an excerpt:
It is an interesting phenomenon that the Pentecostal and charismatic movement grows rapidly among the poor, something that has been explained with the charismatic promises of healing, prosperity and answered prayers (Togarasei 2011, Pfeiffer et al 2007). But how do charismatic churches in developing nations tackle the poverty of their members? In 2007, Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori published a book called Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement. Originally the authors wanted to write about churches in general that work with social justice in developing nations, but when they, to their surprise, discovered that the vast majority of churches that did so were Pentecostal, they decided to study this movement further.
According to the authors, the stereotype of Pentecostals being so caught up in eschatological expectations and evangelistic focus that they are not “wasting time” on social and political change (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p. 21), is not very relevant for Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity in the global south. Instead, the authors come up with the term “Progressive Pentecostals” to describe what they believe is very common: Pentecostals seriously involved in social action. Throughout the book, they give examples of how Pentecostals and charismatics run charities as well as mobilize political campaigning for social justice as a result of their faith.
This is as the title suggests the fourth part of my God vs Poverty series.
“Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach him to fish and he has food for a lifetime.” We’ve all heard that, haven’t we? It’s a good proverb about the importance of empowerment and long-term solutions in aid giving. But what about the lake? What if the man cannot fish even after we taught him because the lake is polluted by a multinational corporation, or illegal to fish from because of an unrighteous regime? In other words, are there structures that are blocking development and poverty reduction?
The Bible is well aware of structures that oppress the poor. It is very common that the Old Testament not only talks about giving to the poor but treating them fair in court (see for example Prov. 22:22-23), so that they will not be discriminated. When Isaiah prophesies about true fasting, he doesn’t just talk about giving food and clothing to the ones in need but he also says that it includes “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Is 58:6). In order to fight poverty effectively, we have to identify oppressing structures and crushing them.
I told you he would be a good pope! Francis has become extremely popular both within and outside the Catholic world. He both teaches and practices simplicity and mercy; he wears simple clothes and refuses to live in the fancy apostolic palace while emphasizing the duty of Christians to embrace the poor, wounded and lost. Recently, his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium has received a lot of attention in the media. It is mainly about evangelism and missions, but what has caught the attention of many is his criticism of capitalism:
“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.
“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
Many are quite surprised by this and speculate whether it is an influence of Latin American liberation theology, since pope Francis comes from Argentina. However, while Francis definitely has a stronger emphasis on social justice than his predecessors, this thoughts should probably by no means have been alien to them. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical letter Centesimus Annus:
“It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are ‘solvent’, insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are ‘marketable’, insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish.”
Today the 10th global assembly of the World Council of Churches starts in South Korea. The assembly will gather hundreds of Christians from a multitude of nations and denominations to discuss the theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”. In other words, many of the world’s most influential Christian leaders, representing 500 million believers, will gather to learn how to be activists.
I really like the WCC. I like how they recognize how global Christianity is and that they want to learn and bless each other in order to be able to celebrate communion together. And I really like how they emphasize peace and justice. What I hope is that they also will inspire to global revival.
What the Holy Spirit has done in the 20th century through the charismatic movement is truly ecumenical. On Asuza Street, people from all denominations were welcome to experience the baptism of the Spirit. After creating its own distinctive denominational movement, Pentecostalism, the fire started to spread into mainline churches. Today, charismatics can be found in basically all Christian traditions and in all nations were Christianity is found.
As promised, here comes the first part of the new official sequel to God vs Wealth, creatively called God vs Poverty. While the former video series discussed whether a Christian should be rich or not (and found out that the answer was “not”), this series will look at what the Bible says about poverty reduction. It was filmed when I visited Iris South Africa (with a lot of wonderful children “helping” me with the shooting) and consists of five parts:
In this first part, I argue that poverty reduction must be based on love and that one of the main economic problems in the world is that the rich don’t know the poor. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world and the reason is of course that the rich separated themselves and refused to get to know the poor. When people from different socio-economic classes become friends, it will be impossible for the wealthy to ignore their needs and problems of the needy. Our generosity should not be excluded to people we know of course, but if we only know people with our own socio-economic status, something is terribly wrong. (more…)
The other day, my American friend Robert Martin tweeted “Hey, @micaelgrenholm… Sweden is 5th happiest country in the world… congrats!” I jokingly responded “5th?? Now I’m definitely not happy!!” and he wrote “Well, at least 4 of the top 10 are Scandinavian… check it out. US is # 17″ Yup, Denmark was in fact number 1, and Norway number 2. All I could think about at that moment was actually racism and xenophobia.
How come? Well, a couple of years ago a Swedish journalist published a book called “The Happiest People in the World“ about racism in Denmark. While citizens enjoy a high standard of living with extensive welfare and social security, it’s very, very hard for non-whites to become such citizens. In fact, Denmark is probably the most xenophobic country in northern Europe. Even though the racist Danish People’s Party has not been part of a government, other parties have used similar rhetoric and even policies in order to prevent more people from joining them. The result is of course that DPP’s ideas of a multiethnic Denmark being a “national disaster” has formed national policies.
How about Norway, then? The day before Martin tweeted his message to me Norway had their parlamentarian election, and as the Conservative Party won they proudly announced that they would govern together with the xenophobic Progress Party. This is the first time a racist party has entered a Scandinavian government.
How do I know that they are racist? Well, for instance, they want to ban Romani people from the country. Furthermore they have all the traditional charesteristics of xenophobia: they are hostile to islam, they want to decrease immigration, they are patriotic and wants to defend “Norwegian values” against multiculturalism, etcetera.
Today is 50 years since Martin Luther King‘s extremely famous “I have a dream” speech at Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. He has inspired countless people through the decades to passionately work for justice and freedom using non-violence, and also to seek the God he so zealously followed. The problems he adressed – racism, injustice and violence – still exist in various forms, and so we should take his example and keep up the good fight against it. Here are three areas I think needs special concern:
Racism and Xenophobia in Europe
The ugliness of racism sadly exists in most places arounf the world, and even though the situation for African Americans have become better it is far from optimal. Yet, as a European, I think what we are seeing here sometimes are even far worse. In Greece a neo-Nazi party got 7 % of the seats in the parliament. In Hungary, a neo-Nazi party got 12 % of the seats in the parliament. Hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Blacks, homosexuals and other minorities are on the rise. Just a couple of weeks ago, a Muslim woman here in Sweden got beaten by a racist for wearing a hijab. The event caused a massive protest where thousands of women weared hijab in solidarity. Then, a new group of racists found the woman and beat her up again. What can we do? Use the example of Luther King: be a light in the darkness, use nonviolence in the midst of violence, be loving in the midst of hate, welcome the stranger in the midst of xenophobia. (more…)