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Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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Shane Claiborne: The Gospel of Trump vs the Gospel of Jesus

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Originally posted on PCPJ.

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…)

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Sign Our Open Letter to Donald Trump

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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:

  1. The demonization of immigrants and minorities;
  2. the reckless nuclear war rhetoric;
  3. the loosening of environmental protection;
  4. the belittling and abuse of women;
  5. the disrespect of indigenous people;
  6. the inequalities between rich and poor; and
  7. 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!

Trump’s Nuclear Threats to North Korea and a Horrible Way to Read the Bible

Trump, Jeffress and Kim

Trump, Jeffress and Kim

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…)

Trump, “Illegal” Immigrants and the Bible

Trump has said that refugees the US is receiving legally are “illegal immigrants”. He’s not the only one misusing the term though, I can’t count how many times American Christians have told me that the biblical commands to welcome and care for the stranger don’t apply to “illegal immigrants”. It’s time to stop using those words and treat everyone equally as human beings created in the image of God.

 

Trump or Jesus: We Do Have to Choose

Originally posted at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice.

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America’s new President is controversial, to say the least. Saying outrageous things concerning women or ethnic minorities to gain massive media attention and popularity, just to then lie about the statements ever being made, sounds like an absurd way to become the most powerful person in the world. But it tragically seems quite effective.

Hillary Clinton was also criticized for being unreliable when it comes to security and honesty, and so during the election, America found itself in a bizarre situation where most people didn’t really want any of the candidates to become President. It was an election about who you dislike the least rather than who you like the most. When people want a leader with dignity, morals and faithfulness, turning to politicians seems to guarantee a letdown.

Jesus was skeptical to the political way of leadership. He said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). At one point, the crowds that followed him wanted to crown him as king after he had done a miracle, at which point Jesus mysteriously disappeared like Batman (John 6:14-15). (more…)

Worship as a Revolutionary Act of Resistance

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Article written for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice. Visit our updated website!

The charismatic revival has not just been about signs and wonders, but about worship and music as well. Similar to previous revivals like Methodism and Salvationism, early Pentecostalism had a lot of zeal and passion in their hymns, with a renewed focus on the Holy Spirit and miracles. The African American influences and inspiration from the mission field also impacted the tone of the music so that it became more inspirational.

Things changed even more during the Western charismatic renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, as the Jesus movement incorporated popular, hippie tunes into their worship. This in turn impacted the Vineyard which combined the contemporary style with a focus on singing to God rather than just about him. Today, charismatic churches like Hillsong in Australia and Bethel in California are without doubt the main influences when it comes to contemporary worship music and are really popular especially among the youth.

This style of worship is not without criticism. Songs are commercialized, the concert-like performances are expensive and the worship leaders may receive too much focus. Popular worship lyrics that emphasize God’s majesty and power are criticized for portraying him as too distant and dominant, while songs about human struggles and doubts are rare. (more…)

Jesus Isn’t Post-Truth

Originally posted on Jesus Army’s website.

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Recently Oxford Dictionary announced that the word of the year is “post-truth”. It’s an adjective used when describing how facts and truth take a backseat position in favour of emotions and personal opinion.

During just the last six months people have been increasingly talking about “post-truth politics” and a “post-truth world” as several politicians in the UK and the US have blatantly lied and ignored facts, quoting their own feelings or the feelings of their supporters as sufficient evidence for their positions.

An example of this was when American politician Newt Gingrich argued that the crime level in the US has gone up because “the average American… does not think crime is down”. When challenged by a reporter who quoted FBI statistics that showed the opposite, he simply responded “That’s your view”.

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Bill Johnson’s Support for Trump Doesn’t Make Any Sense

Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson has written about why he thinks a Bible-believing Christian should support President-elect Donald Trump. He fails miserably. In this video I go through his list of things that he has “found” in the Bible that would defend the goodness of a Trump presidency, and points out why Johnson has an obvious bias for Trump that makes him twist the Scriptures like crazy. I deeply respect him and his charismatic ministry, but his political views are astonishingly off.

For more videos, subscribe to the Holy Spirit Activism YouTube channel.

Why Won’t Most Americans Care About The Rest of the World?

maga

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…)

Why Capitalism Will Never Save the Climate

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I often hear that the Biblical views on the sinfulness of wealth, the need for simplicity and the universal calling to economic equality are radical ideas. But they’re actually extremely realistic, in contrast to the mammonistic and neoclassical ideas of the necessity of wealth, growth and inequality. Not only because the Biblical ideas, if put in practice, fights poverty much more effectively, but also because they’re the only ones that can reduce the devastating impacts of the upcoming climate change catastrophe.

The other day I listened to a very interesting lecture by professor Kevin Anderson from Manchester University. He talked about the really dangerous form of climate change denial, which isn’t the goofy ideas that the planet isn’t warming or that its warming but we’re not the primary cause and so on. Those views are rejected by the vast majority of scientists and most ordinary people don’t believe in them either. No, the real problem is when scientists adjust or deny their results in order to communicate that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change without too much reduction in economic growth and without adjusting our economic system. He writes on his website:

In several important respects the modelling community is self-censoring its research to conform to the dominant political and economic paradigm. Moreover, there is a widespread reluctance of many within the climate change community to speak out against unsupported assertions that an evolution of ‘business as usual’ is compatible with the IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets. With specific reference to energy, this analysis concludes that even a slim chance of “keeping below” a 2°C rise, now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy. Such a rapid and deep transition will have profound implications for the framing of contemporary society and is far removed from the rhetoric of green growth that increasingly dominates the climate change agenda.

(more…)

Christian Trump Supporters are Increasingly Selling Their Souls

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I’m glad to see that evangelical theologian and leader Wayne Grudem has withdrawn his previous endorsement of Donald Trump due to a realization that he is a perverse sexist. As you might remember, Grudem called Trump a “good man with flaws”, something I and many others were quick to criticize. The recently revealed footage where Trump brags about kissing women without consent and groping them caused Grudem to research Trump’s views on sex, and he came to the not very surprising conclusion that it’s very, very sinful.

What Trump was doing in that video was not just describing how he wants to sexually assault women, but how he has actually done so. Indeed, Jill Harth has testified of how Trump has groped and even tried to rape her. These horrible sins cannot be excused as past misfortunes of a changed man, because the sexist, degrading view of women that makes these actions possible have been manifestly evident in Trump’s presidential campaign. Even after he was proclaimed as a newly born-again “baby Christian” by an evangelical leader, he Tweeted in the middle of the night about a former Miss Universe he didn’t like and told people to check out a “sex tape” she allegedly was in.

In fact, when the groping video was brought up in the latest Presidential debate, Trump’s response was bizarre. Calling his bragging about sexual assault “locker room talk”, he went on claiming that “nobody has more respect for women than I do” which is clearly false and started talking about how ISIS decapitates people and how he wants to stop them, a not-so subtle attempt to switch topic and relativise sexual assault. He’s completely crazy, and we ought to pray for him since his billionaire playboy life has made him unable to act normally or think straight. (more…)

Converting a Trump Supporter

It’s official: Donald Trump has become the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Even though his campaign started as an unserious PR stunt and even though (or perhaps because of) his blatant racism, sexism and authoritarianism, Trump has become very popular. I have encountered several Trump supporters in my social media feeds. And they’re really hard to talk to. I and Sarah illustrate what a conversation with a Trump supporter feels like in this sketch:

It is as if arguments don’t work very well when it comes to Trump supporters, or any supporter of racism and fascism. I have spent a lot of time trying to combat xenophobia here in Europe, and it is just as hard as Americans now find converting Trump supporters to be. Whatever one says, whatever what evidence one presents, it is as if they’ve already decided that racism and bigotry is what will make a country great. And just a few months ago they didn’t think that way, and it’s so hard to see why Trump’s hateful message could be so attractive.

As a charismatic Christian, however, I know that no one is outside God’s miraculous power and that no one is unable to be transformed into a sanctified disciple of Christ. We shouldn’t give up on the Trump supporters. Continue to feed them arguments, and do so with love and compassion as well as a listening ear to what troubles them. And welcome God’s Spirit into your life so that His voice and power can guide you into leading people to repentance and holiness.

Would Republicans Vote for Satan if he Ran for President?

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Rachel Held Evans nails it when it comes to describing the incompatibility of the Gospel and Donald Trump’s racist message. The greedy white supremacist has tweeted lies describing black people as inherently violent and has said that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”. Many of the Afro-Americans and Mexicans that he attacks with his KKK-rhetoric are Christians, mind you. Yet suddenly he gets to speak at the Christian Liberty University and evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him. Held Evans writes:

You would think it would be a hard sell given the fact that the real estate mogul and reality star has boasted about his extramarital affairs, profited off casinos and strip clubs, said he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness, called for targeting innocent civilians in war, mocked a reporter with a disability, threatened the religious liberty of minority groups in the U.S., and gained wide support among white nationalists for consistently lying about and demeaning blacks, Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and Syrian refugees. But polls show that despite all of this, Trump remains favored among evangelical voters.

Interestingly, only 5% of Republican pastors would vote for Trump, so there’s a gap here between the pew and the pulpit. Noting that, we still have to admit that there is a lot of racism among white evangelicals and so they like Trump not despite his racism but because of it. Held Evans points out that Liberty University did oppose racial integration in the past and fellow MennoNerd Ebony spoke about the evangelical racism in the US a few months ago:

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Should Christians be Conservative or Progressive? No.

Left-wing or right-wing? Why not upwards!

Left-wing or right-wing? Why not upwards!

There are many problems with the dualist expressions “conservative” and “progressive”, and this political discourse should be left out of the church altogether.

As you may know I’m part of a vlog series hosted by MennoNerds, and about two weeks ago I responded to a question in our MennoNerds Facebook group on why some Bible-believing Christians support Donald Trump. My answer was that such Christians are similar to pharisees; paying attention to some Bible passages but not those which emphasize love and giving money away.

In the vlog discussion that followed we criticized “conservative Christianity” from various perspectives: its openness to racism and sexism, its stubbornness and judgmental attitude – all which are valid to a large extent. However, Darnell Barkman pointed out the risk of “othering” conservative Christians. And this got me thinking about why we use this political discourse – conservative, progressive, liberal etc. – when it comes to us Christians. So in my new vlog I argue that Christians should neither be conservative nor progressive:

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Why Jesus Wouldn’t Attend Anti-Muslim Demonstrations

A Cross painted in German colours at a Pegida anti-Muslim demonstration in Dresden

A Cross painted in German colours at a Pegida anti-Muslim demonstration in Dresden

Jesus came in contact with several people who weren’t orthodox Jews, but rather were heretics or idolaters. We have the Samaritans, who had mixed Judaism with pagan influences, and who were forbidden to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. The Romans were colonialist immigrants from other parts of the empire, and even if some had become proselytes (like Cornelius, Acts 10), most of them worshiped the Roman idols of Jupiter, Mars and others. There were also adherents of other religions in the areas of Decapolis, where Jesus did some miracles (Mark 5).

How did Jesus relate to these idolatrous Gentiles? Well, He simply took control over a state, became President and deported them. Wait, He didn’t? Then at least He commanded His disciples to take control over a country and deport all the idolaters? Huh, He didn’t do that either?!

Not that those ideas didn’t float around in Jesus’ time. The Zealot movement and other radical Jewish groups wanted to fight against the Romans and drive those stupid colonialists back to Europe (which they also tried in 70 and 135 AD, and failed miserably). Many believed that this was what the Messiah was supposed to do. Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (Jn 4:9), and vice versa, and when some Samaritans heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, they forbade Him to enter their village. Enraged, John and James suggested that Jesus should order a heavenly genocide from above, burning those heretics alive (Lk 9:51-54).

But Jesus rebuked them. He didn’t come to barbeque idolaters but to save them. He loved Samaritans, shared the Gospel with them and used a Samaritan as the good example in His famous parable about loving everyone indiscriminately (Jn 4, Lk 10). He told His Jewish disciples to love the Romans, pray for them, and walk the extra mile with them (Lk 6). Do to them as you would have them do to you (Mt 7:12). He didn’t fight to kick the Romans out of Israel. Instead, He was crucified by them, dying for their sins. On the cross, He shouted: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!” (Lk 23:34).  (more…)