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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…)
Trump has won the election, which is nothing less than a disaster for the world. He doesn’t care about climate change and his policies will most likely kill millions of people around the world due to climate inaction. He is anti-immigration and wants to block out people fleeing from poverty and war, which might very well kill many of them too. And his willingness to engage in nuclear war is unprecedented, if his irrational rage makes him go crazy on Twitter, what will he do when he has nuclear launch codes at his disposal?
It’s not a mystery why he’s popular though. The American working class and rural population know that they have been screwed by the urban elite – poor Americans have almost seen nothing of the economic growth of the last decades. Of course, somebody who has benefited from that growth in a very unethical fashion is Trump himself.But people tend to see him as a successful businessman (which he’s not) who can save the American economy (which he won’t) by protectionism and putting America first, making it “great again”.
The fact that his policies are tremendously bad for the rest of the world don’t matter too much to them because it’s America that’s going to be great, not necessarily Mozambique or India. They could say things like climate change being a hoax (“invented by the Chinese” as Trump has claimed) or that Syrian refugees are terrorists. What this shows is not just that they haven’t taken the time to listen to those in the majority world who are already suffering from climate change or those fleeing from war, but also a lack of empathy to these people. (more…)
In debates with Christian nationalists and “migration critics” there’s one Bible verse that keeps popping up all the time: Acts 17:26. Many use it as a proof text for why our nations shouldn’t receive refugees and for why we should be nationalists and patriots, celebrating our own country.
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, my first book in Swedish has just been published! It’s about why Christians should welcome refugees and it has already stirred a lot of controversy among the Christian xenophobic community. Most of those who disagree with us point to Acts 17:26 as the reason for why Christians should be critical to migration. One guy even e-mailed me, providing a link which he said contains “evidence” for why I’m wrong. I clicked it and found a blog post which simply was an angry rant based on one single Bible verse: Acts 17:26.
So let’s take a look at this Bible verse and see if it really says what nationalists want it to say. I actually made a video about Acts 17:26 several months ago as I was in the midst of writing the book. I found the video on my hardrive and published it on YouTube earlier today, so you can both listen to and read my explanation to what the verse is saying. Here it is: (more…)
I’m not American, but due to the enormous cultural impact US imperialism has brought unto the rest of the world, their national day is one of the few that I actually know the date of other than the national day of my own country. Today’s that day, and according to my WordPress statistics, many of you who are reading this blog live in the United States. I have a challenge for you: before you wave the banner of your empire and enjoy billions of dollars being blown up in fireworks, pray that God will help you love all people, including all those harmed by American consumerism, militarism and racism, and that He will help you pledge allegiance to His Kingdom first and foremost. After all, Scripture says that we are foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebr 11:13) and that we are citizens in Heaven (Phil 3:20). We are called to love all people as ourselves (Lk 10:25-37) and while the early Christians didn’t revolt against the Roman empire, they were known for pledging allegiance to another king than the emperor, namely Christ (Acts 17:7). I think Shane Claiborne nails it in his altar call on Red Letter Christians about celebrating interdependence day rather than independence day: (more…)
Today is 70 years since the Nazi death camp Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, and it is also the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We must never forget the horrible attrocities during the world war when approximately seven million Jews, Romas, disabled, homosexuals and others were brutally killed by the Nazi regime and their allies. And as Christians, we must never forget that many who participated in this called themselves Christians, and that parts of the church leadership supported Nazism – although there was a lot of Christian resistance as well.
A lot has been written about the religious views of Hitler himself, and it seems to be a bit self-contradictory and populistic – which isn’t too strange since he, after all, was a Nazi. I’ve heard several neo-Nazis and other racists today declare that they fight for “Christian values” while they also hate religion and, of course, revere pagan gods. This is obviously extremely paradoxical but could be explained by that for many racists religion is merely a suit, which importance is heavily subordinated the nationalist and racist values that one fights for. Hence, the Party Platform of NSDAP read in 1920:
“We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good.”
The state-censored religion proposed here should be unacceptable to any descent Christian, but both Catholics and Protestants started to dance to the Nazi pipe after Hitler became dictator. Paul Althaus, one of Germany’s leading Lutheran theologians, wrote “Our Protestant churches have welcomed the turning point of 1933 as a gift and miracle of God”.
“Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:19-20)
As Scotland is voting for indepencence, many Europeans try to figure out what the consequenses would be if the Scots did say yes (even if the no-side has been leading in the polls). Would other areas like Catalonia or the Basque country gain fuel for their fight for independence as well? Would the nationalism that sparks European fascism and racism just increase, with devastating consquences? Or would everything just proceed as normal?
When I was in the UK, I asked some people from the Jesus Army what they thought about the Scottish independence election. As Jesus people who focus on the Kingdom of God rather than earthly governments, neither had very strong opinions – even though one of them said he could understand the nationalists since he himself was of welsh origin, but he also had studied English history and language and Oxford and explained to me that the UK really is a mixture of so many people groups, linguistic influences and nationalities. And even if the Scots and Welsh are not as pluralistic as the English, they too are children of Adam just like everyone else.
From a Christian perspective, nationalism is very artificial. The Old Testament recognizes that there are different people groups, but they are all related to each other and there’s nothing wrong with Ruth the Moabite to become the grandmother of David or the Gentiles being included into the Kingdom of God. Paul says that we are citizens of Heaven, he is a Jew to the Jew but a Gentile to the Gentiles and he encouraged Jewish Christians to submit to the Roman dictator rather than fight for independence as zealots.
Nationalism is just an idea, and ideas change. In my country, we used to view people differently dependent on which county (which are called “lands”) they were born in, but now we all call ourselves Swedes. In the future perhaps we’ll all call ourselves Europeans, who knows. I don’t find one artificial definition better than the other. What is important is that we belong to the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom is not dependent on race, nationality or language but whether we have given our lives to Jesus Christ.
Love is extremely central to the Gospel: the reason Jesus came to give us eternal life is out of God’s eternal love for our world (Jn 3:16), He said that the greatest commandments in the Old Testament Law are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39) Jesus close disciple John just fell in love with Love, and emphasized it like crazy in his writings:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 Jn 4:7-12)
But all love isn’t good love. In the same letter, John warns us for loving things instead of people, creation instead of God: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 Jn 2:15-17)
Why I Wish I Were a Mennonite
My name is Aaron D. Taylor and I’m a charismatic Christian. If you ever see me driving with my glasses on, I may look dignified, but don’t let my appearance fool you. Throughout my life I’ve been slain in the Spirit and drunk in the Holy Ghost on numerous occasions. I’ve felt the anointing, laid hands on the sick, cast out devils, and been prophesied over countless times. It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my Pentecostal/charismatic skin, but I can honestly say today that I wouldn’t trade my Pentecostal/charismatic heritage for anything. I’ll admit it’s been a very long time since I’ve “shaken under the power” or “danced in the Spirit”, but to this day I pray in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and if I ever need to get the devil off my back, I’ll gladly pull out the “Sword of the Spirit” and start quoting Scripture. We Pentecostals and charismatics have a lot to be proud of. We were a miniscule, lower class fringe movement 100 years ago and now there are over 600 million of us around the world!
So why do I wish I were a Mennonite? Yesterday was my 30th birthday and when I think about the past 30 years of history, on nearly every moral issue that speaks to how Christians are supposed to live as a peculiar people surrounded by a godless culture, the Mennonites have been right and we’ve been wrong. While charismatic leaders were “naming and claiming” plush clothing, fancy cars, and million dollar mansions, Mennonites were teaching their children to live simply so that others could simply live. While charismatic leaders were petitioning the government to keep under God in the pledge of allegiance, Mennonites were warning their children about the dangers of nationalism. While charismatic leaders were building “apostolic networks” to win the world for laissez-faire capitalism, Mennonites were sharing possessions, building communities, and identifying with the poor. While charismatic leaders were putting bowling alleys and coffee shops in their multi-million dollar church buildings”, Mennonites were providing a decent living for third world farmers by setting up international co-ops and selling fair trade coffee.
In his excellent book The Myth of a Christian Nation, Greg Boyd clearly shows that neither the US nor any other state can be Christian:
As we have noted, many Christians believe that America is, or at least once was, a Christian nation. We have argued that this notion is inaccurate for the simple reason that Christian means “Christlike”, and there never was a time when America as a nation has acted Christlike. Indeed, we have argued that it’s impossible for any version of the kingdom of the world to be Christlike for the simple reason that they participate in a system of dominion that necessarily places its trust in the power of the sword.
I totally agree. The church and the state should be seperate since the Kingdom of God is “not of this world”, the cross cannot partner with the tank. No Christian values can be enforced on people because enforcement is contrary to Christian behaviour. Jesus said that unlike political rulers, Christians should be servants instead of exercising authority. (Mt 20:25-28).
Thus, a Christian president is not necessarily a better president than a non-Christian. Rather, a Christian plumber is a better Christian than a Christian president. This is why I don’t see the victory of the Christian Barack Obama over the Mormon Mitt Romney as a giant triumph for the Kingdom of God or something like that. But I know that many American Christians think that church and state should be married and that God’s will is that the US should be a Christian nation. Thus, it is striking how many of them supported Mitt Romney in this election.
When Obama won the 2008 elections, lots of evangelicals tried to “prove” that he was a Muslim. Unlike the citizenship conspiracy theories, the Muslim accusation didn’t try to disprove the president juridically but morally – the underlying assumption was that a Muslim president is a bad president, who is unable to support Christian values (some even argued that he would implement sharia laws). Needless to say, the arguments for the Muslim Obama are horribly bad since he’s been a practioning Christian all his life, but still 20% of Americans believed it in the end of 2008.