“Kill them all, and let God sort them out” – Why Evangelicals’ Reaction to 9/11 Went so Wrong

20 years ago, Al Qaida killed 3,000 civilians through terror and fire. That was a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

In response, the USA started two wars that have killed 70,000 civilians in Afghanistan and 200,000 (!) in Iraq. Thousands of them were children.

That was also a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

Shane Claiborne is an activist and theologian who had wise things to say concerning the violent aftermath of 9/11. From his book The Irresistible Revolution (2nd edition, pp. 185-187):

When Kingdoms Collide

Shortly after September 11th, I traveled to speak to a large congregation in the Midwest. (And no, it wasn’t Willow Creek.) Before I got up to preach, a military color guard presented the US flagat the altar. The choir filed in one-by-one, dressed in red white, and blue, with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” playing in the background. I knew I was in big trouble. The congregation pledged allegiance to the flag, and I wished it were all a dream. It wasn’t. I got up to speak, thankful I was standing behind a large podium lest anyone try to pelt me with a pew Bible. I went forward to preach the truth in love with my knees knocking and managed to make it out okay with a bunch of hugs and a few feisty letters.

This is a dramatic (though painfully true) illustration of the messy collision of Christianity and patriotism that has rippled across our land. I thought this was an exceptional and dramatic example, but l’ve had same zingers since this. I spoke at a military academy where they had a full-on procession of military vehicles and weaponry. They fired cannons and saluted the flag, and then I got up to speak. I felt compelled to speak on the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), the things Scripture says God is like and we should hope to be more like.

I talked about how the fruit of the Spirit take training and discipline and are not always cultivated by the culture around us. Afterward, one young soldier came up to me, nearly in tears, and told me that as he heard the list of the fruit of the Spirit, it became clear to him that these were not the things he was being trained to become. We prayed together, and I think of him often. I know that young man is not alone.

I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, “Kill them all, and let God sort them out.” A bumper sticker read, “God will judge evildoers, We just have to get them to him.” I saw a T-shirt on a sold’ that said, “US Air Force … we don’t die; we just go to hell to regroup.” Others were less dramatic-red, white, and blue billboards saying, “God bless our troops.” “God bless America” became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, “God bless America–$1 burgers.”

Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles.

This burst of nationalism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thirst for intimacy that liberals and progressive Christians would have done much better to acknowledge. September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community–for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to be alone in their sorrow, rage, and fear.

But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallied around the drums of war. Liberal Christians took to the streets … Many Christians missed the opportunity to validate both the horror of September 11th and outrage at war as a response to September 11th.

In the aftermath of September 11th, many congregations missed the chance to bear witness of God’s concern for the victims of the attack and God’s concern for the victims of the imminent war. Many of us hunkered down into familiar camps rather than finding a more creative way of standing with all who suffer. Many of the antiwar activists would do well to visit the memorial in NYC. And many of the war hawks would do well to visit the Ameriyah shelter in West Baghdad. Every life lost is reason for grief and outrage.

The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound.

A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God.

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President. His newest book is Executing Grace: Why It is Time to Put the Death Penalty to Death.

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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 become a member!

The kingdom of God – a dance parade

This text was originally published on PCPJ:s Swedish sister blog Hela Pingsten, and translated from Swedish by Karin Ranieli.

I see a people dancing along a long, straight road. Their voices form a chorus of praise to the king who gave his life to set them free. 

Along the road there are lots of little stalls and shops. They are all arranged in such a way that the dancers can look inside and see all the thrilling goods and shining things for sale. The salesmen are also turned towards the throngs of people and have exciting offers: ”Take a thing now, pay later!” ”Have a look around!”, ”Come, satisfy and fulfill all your dreams!”.  Beautiful clothes of the latest fashion. Sparkling jewels. Delicious foods as far as the eye can see. But strange things were also for sale. High positions. Power. Glory. Bodies.

Entrances were made to walk into, but not to find one’s way out. The shelves in the shops lead you into alleys, backstreets and sidetracks. And there, people live in darkness.

Some people in the jubilant parade get curious and stop at the sight of something interesting. Others take a few steps further in. Still others try on different things and even start shopping, but some of them soon regret it all and find their way back to the parade. Because they have seen something far better than every tempting thing trying to get their attention. They have their eyes fixed on the destination: the horizon far ahead, the shining bright sun with sunbeams shining on the road they are walking on. They know that it gives far more joy and deeper peace than anything the world has to offer. You can tell it by their looks!

Those still living in darkness now and then see the light in their faces and repent. Sometimes greedy salesmen can see their sincerity and are drawn to them. People are caught up by the whirl of happiness and leave all their possessions behind. Even those whose families want to stay on, still choose to leave. Some dancers have to endure mockery, beatings and persecution from those who remain, since they love darkness. But it rarely keeps the dancers from continuing. For the light carries them!

And it does not stop there. The people are not just dancing for themselves. The light that they are receiving wants to shine into the darkest backstreets. And so many dancers let themselves be led there. Once there, they share their plasters, their food and drink and their shoes with all those in need. They chant out stories of what they have seen and experienced and invite those listening to dance with them. Whenever someone joins them, they are met with rejoicing. And all around them beauty is bursting forth where beauty has not been seen before, life is born from what used to be dead and darkness is driven away by light. 

The parade consists of all kinds of people: women and men, rich and poor. But they are all broken. They all have scars – some have many scars and others just a few scars and they long for the complete healing. Some are heavily burdened, while others have let go of their burdens along the way, received lighter clothing from above and so can dance more quickly and easily. But the most important thing is not how fast one can move but in what direction. If you try a move that has not been given to you, one which is too difficult or too fast, you are in danger of stumbling and falling. But if you stay on the road, there is always strength to get up. Indeed, sometimes you need help, even a lot of help. Hands reach out, eyes see and ears listen. The wind caresses cheeks, opens lungs and breathes in new life. And when you raise your eyes once more, you can brush off the dirt.

Love is what most of all characterizes them. It sets their hearts on fire and encourages them to give their lives for each other.  It shapes them into one people under one and the same king, one family with one and the same Father, one temple for one and the same Spirit, one bride to one and the same Christ. 

————

A year ago or so I had a vision of the coming of the kingdom of God, born out of a longing to see the church transformed. The above text is an attempt to share what I remember from my vision with some creative additions. I hope this will inspire you!  

Why People Look for the “Mark of the Beast”

by Ramone Romero.

I’ve written before about the “mark of the beast”, but it seems that every few years, especially around election cycles or the advent of some new technology, some Christians see circumstances that they believe will lead to “the mark of the beast” from Revelation 13. 

So here are some thoughts about “the mark” versus the gospel of Christ’s love. Because the common understanding of “the mark” is not compatible with the gospel. One will invariably overtake the other in the end.

Did Monster Energy Drink Hide Satanic Symbols on Their Cans?
Attempt at showing that the Mark of the Beast is energy drinks

1. The Dividing Issue

Firstly, the crux of “the apocalypse”, the central issue, the great “controversy”, is about Christ’s love.

It’s not about some overlooked ritual, the knowledge of a more correct doctrine, name, or command.

Instead it’s what sounds so simple, too simple, too elementary. It’s what the apostles proclaimed from the beginning, and what they wrote “we are nothing” if we do not have.

It’s not about the mere profession of the name of Jesus Christ, for he said that in the end many will call him “Lord, Lord” but will not do what he commanded them to do. (And we’ve seen that all too often throughout history, up to the present day.)

It’s not about proclaiming the doctrines of the gospel *unless* that gospel is backed up with living out grace in love for others. Of course many of Christ’s statements about himself offended religious leaders, and his miracles offended them, too. But what upset and offended them most was in all of those things he was giving grace and mercy, proclaiming God’s justification and love for the “sinners” that they felt above, for people they believed were undeserving.

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Will Jesus Wage a Literal War According to Revelation?

By Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog ReKnew.

In an interview several years ago for Relevant Magazine, Mark Driscoll (well known pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle) said,

“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” (You can find the original interview here).

I frankly have trouble understanding how a follower of Jesus could find himself unable to worship a guy he could “beat up” when he already crucified him. I also fail to see what is so worshipful about someone carrying a sword with “a commitment make someone bleed.”  But this aside, I’m not at all surprised Driscoll believes the book of Revelation portrays Jesus as a “pride fighter.”  This violent picture of Jesus, rooted in a literalistic interpretation of Revelation, is very common among conservative Christians, made especially popular by the remarkably violent Left Behind series.

The most unfortunate aspect of this misreading, as Driscoll’s comment graphically reveals, is that the “pride fighter” portrait of Jesus easily subverts the Jesus of the Gospels who out of love chooses to die for enemies rather than use his power against them and who commands his followers to do the same (see e.g. Mt 5:43-45Lk 6:27-36). In fact, if you read these passages carefully you’ll notice that Jesus makes loving enemies and refusing all violence the prerequisite  for being considered a child of God! Loving enemies like Jesus commands (and like the rest of the NT teaches, e.g. Rom. 12: 1417-211 Pet 2:21-23) requires that we crucify our fallen impulse to resort to violence, while the model of Jesus as a “pride fighter” with a “commitment to make someone bleed” allows us to indulge it. If we can dismiss the peace-loving Jesus as a “hippie, diaper, halo Christ,” then we’re free to wish and even inflict vengeance on our enemies all we like — and feel righteous about it!

Continue reading Will Jesus Wage a Literal War According to Revelation?

Critical Race theory and faith

When my children were in grade school and high school I wanted to get involved in their learning.  I had been fearful of some of the new things emerging in education and with little understanding, I ran for a seat on the board of education.  Some of the issues at that time were similar to the issues that are being discussed today except they had different names.  At the time I served, one of the big issues was multi-culturalism.  Critics were concerned that their children would be exposed to diverse views in History and that what we needed to do was return to a Western view of History.  Today, when the term Critical Race Theory is tossed about, I am reminded of my time on the board of education.

What is Critical Race Theory?

Here is a description from Education Week:

“Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

What is curious to me is that critics of CRT believe that no injustice exists within our legal systems and policies.  As a Christian who takes sin seriously, it is logical that sinful humans can create structures and systems that are also unjust and oppressive.  The Bible is full of stories within which real humans experienced injustice at the hands of cruel leaders and within nations that were oppressive.  We see this most clearly in the Exodus narrative when God’s people were enslaved for 400 years. 

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How Jesus Challenged Nationalism

By Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog ReKnew.

Nationalism lies at the heart of the Old Testament narrative. This concept is intimately wrapped up with the law-oriented covenant God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, for at the heart of this covenant is the promise that obedience would bring national security while disobedience would bring national disaster (Deut. 27-28).

What we shall now see is that the nation-centered portrait of God in the OT is also a mask that our humble, incarnational God condescended to wear. This correlates with the Principle of Cruciform Accommodation that I introduce in Crucifixion of the Warrior God.

To grasp the nature of this concept, we first need to appreciate how intense Jewish nationalism had become around the time of Christ. Jews had been oppressively ruled by pagan nations for centuries and was at this time lorded over by the Romans. The longing to see Israel restored to the “glory days” of King David was at a fever pitch. Many believed this restoration would happen when an anointed descendent of David would lead Israel in a violent uprising to overthrow their pagan oppressors.

This was not only a yearning for political autonomy; it was, much more importantly, a yearning for theodicy. The fact that God’s chosen nation was being ruled by pagans in their own Promised Land was for many an assault on the distinctive Jewish claim that Yahweh was the one true God and the Lord of all the earth.

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The Economy of the Holy Spirit

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”  Acts 2:42–45, NRSV

How often do Christians think about radical sharing as a miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power? Pentecostals and charismatics believe that the Holy Spirit endows believers with spiritual gifts and that signs and wonders continue to be part of Christian experience today. Sometimes the “flashier” gifts, like tongues, healing, and prophecy, can take precedence over more seemingly “mundane” gifts, like forms of assistance (1 Cor 12:28). This is understandable. If Christ is really present with us through the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit empowers us to heal and perform miracles, why wouldn’t we be out demonstrating the amazing works of God? One thing we must take care to consider is our motives, and the passage above shows us why. When we hold a distorted view of “signs and wonders” that separates us from how Jesus calls us to live, we fall into a warped practice of the gospel.

Continue reading The Economy of the Holy Spirit

The Gospel is a Social Gospel

An article recently appeared in the Christian Post entitled, “Why is the country moving left? The social gospel”. In this article, Nathan Cherry argues that the American church and society has moved to the “left” as a result of mainline churches embracing what is known as the “Social Gospel”. He also states that the Social Gospel is a “reimagining” or “replacement” for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr. Cherry says:

Many years ago, mainline Protestant churches began to embrace what is now understood as the social gospel. This reimagined understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ centered on social and economic equality, as well as racial reconciliation and poverty. This new gospel replaced the atoning work of Christ on the cross for the sins of people with a politically charged version of the gospel in which correcting social ills was the highest good and ultimate goal.

I want to offer a brief rebuttal to Mr. Cherry’s article. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has and will always be partially political or social, and the Social Gospel is not a replacement for the Gospel.

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The Only American Who Prophesied the 2020 Election Accurately Has Some Harsh Words for Trump Supporters

While over 25 American Christian leaders prophesied that Trump would win the 2020 presidential election, only one predicted the opposite. It turns out that he has been involved with Bethel Church in Redding – and he’s not very happy with how prophecy is being misused these days.

His name is Eric Rossoni and I got to speak with him a couple of months ago. He actually used to support Donald Trump and was convinced in 2016 that God was using him. But when the Stormy Daniels scandal blew up and almost no Christian leader condemned the president for sleeping with a porn star and paying hush money to hide his sin, Eric realized that something was terribly wrong with the Christian Trump movement.

In 2020, he received a prophetic word that Trump would lose, something he also wrote about on Twitter (several hours before the election results were announced):

Eric seems to be the only American prophet who got the election prediction right, but he’s not the only one worldwide. Nigerian pastor and self-proclaimed apostle Johnson Suleman also prophesied that Trump would lose back in March 2020. However, he viewed it as a tragedy, while Eric Rossoni is thankful that Trump isn’t president anymore.

Eric is convinced that Trump has revealed the hearts of many Christians, and it’s not pretty. He hopes that Christians should abstain from strongly aligning with political parties and leaders even as we try to make the world a better place.

In order to remain politically and prophetically sharp, the church must avoid Trumpism at all costs.

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author, and editor for PCPJ.

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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 become a member!

The Lasting Impact of Night Raids

This article is cross-posted from Churches for Middle East Peace.

It’s midnight. There’s a knock on the door. You yell that you are coming to open it in hopes that the soldiers don’t blow it open. Moments later, dozens of soldiers invade your house. Your children wake to masked soldiers with guns pointed directly at them, yelling in a language your children don’t understand. They force your family into one room and tear your house apart without explanation. This is the reality that many families have faced across the West Bank.

Night raids are one of the most devastating acts of the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank. The violent raids occur between midnight and 5 AM, often without the families getting an explanation. According to the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, 1,360 night raids are executed every year, the majority within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of a settlement or near roads that settlers frequent. 

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