Biblical Prosperity: Why the Prosperity Gospel Is Wrong

My grandmother and aunt were both charismatics, and they worked at the local Christian television station. There were many times when I was growing up that I would watch that television station simply out of curiosity. This was before I became a committed Christian, and some of the theology that I saw on this station seemed very strange to me. It was through this television station that I was first introduced to the Prosperity Gospel.

I came across many shows featuring Mike Murdock, Rod Parsley, Jesse Duplantis, and Joel Osteen. I distinctly remember being turned away by their preaching. I was a big fan of Jesus at the time, but I wasn’t comfortable with Christianity. And they were a big reason why. I remember seeing their fame and fortune, and I had a very difficult time reconciling that with the poverty and humility I read about in the Gospels.

Unfortunately, for the last one hundred years or so, the American Church has become captivated by the Prosperity Gospel. This has especially been the case within Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. Continue reading Biblical Prosperity: Why the Prosperity Gospel Is Wrong

Thoughts On The George Floyd Memorial and Racism.

I’m writing this not as an expert nor as one who has been fully formed.  I am what is called in the new term, an anti-racist.  This does not mean that I have it all figured out or that I am not growing in my awareness of my own complicity in this racism that plagues our country.  I am writing what I understand at the moment.

The murder of George Floyd was a catalyst igniting a community in it’s call for an end to police brutality and reform in the way our nation polices it’s communities.  The militarization of our law enforment has had a great effect on our African American community who have born the brunt of the trauma.

Black Lives Matter

My neice Linnea (pictured above), has been an active participant in the many protests taking place in Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota. (Outside of the Clergy march–we were caring for her baby and did not march with her.)  Although cloaked in “Minnesota Nice,” our state is known for being one of the places most plagued with racism.  We have witnessed the murder of not only George Floyd but Philandro Castile.  And there were others who were not filmed.  We are also known for redlining which created neighborhoods for white families segregating Minnesota communities and denying home loans to eligible Black families.  We have a great deal of work to do in our cities and our state–not to mention our nation.

During the protests while the news media covered the riots, (there were some), they failed to cover the ways the Minneapolis community came together to form neighborhood watch groups who protected their own communities.  Churches and other groups formed pop-up food shelves and collected diapers and other necessary items to help the community.

I have watched my neice become aware of the many issues around race in our country.  She has taken bold stands and participated in the neighborhood activities at the George Floyd Memorial site.  Contrary to how this site is depicted in the news, the memorial site has become a place of healing and community.

I asked Linnea what this site has meant to people.  What struck me as I listened to her story was how this memorial brought people together to grieve and process trauma around police violence.  Posted around the George Floyd memorial are notes and letters telling the stories of loss.  Nearly every family has, in some way, been touched by police violence.  There are mothers who lost sons, siblings who lost brothers, uncles and parents due solely to police violence.  Others shared stories about how they too have experienced unjust policing.  The memorial site is a healing place where people are free to share their stories and heal their trauma.

Also at the memorial site many came to join in the grief and learn about their own complicity in racism.  As white people, we can say, “this is too much,” and turn off the news or walk away.  But those facing police violence and injustice every day cannot just walk away.  Families come with strollers and children, learning, listening.  Present often are speakers, leaders who are aware of the history and dynamics of racism.  There is much to learn.

Some thoughts: I wonder if the redlining segregation has created a situation within which in our little white enclaves, we can ignore what is happening because we are not in proximity as neighbors.  The white flight had long range impacts on schools and policing.  Had we stayed and had we integrated, had we become better neighbors, would we be in this situation today?

When Jesus called us to love our neighbors, he called us to live as he did.  Jesus put on human skin and moved into the neighborhood as Eugene Peterson translated John 1:14  He didn’t separate himself from others, he joined the human race.  In this, Jesus spoke truth to power, spoke up for the ones experiencing injustice and ultimately paid with his life.

And I just have to say, that I am so proud of my neice.  The protests have been very effective and she has changed my mind on the value of protest.  The protestors were effective in getting the officers involved charged, effective in starting the conversation of what is known as “defunding the police” which is really about better ways to resolve various community problems through getting the right people involved.  The people involved in the protest have formulated good and creative solutions for the betterment of their community.  I have hope that this movement is bringing good things in the future.

 

Thanks to Carrie Totushek for the photo of Linnea and to Curtis Paul DeYoung for the picture from the Memorial site.

Trump Promotes Pentecostal Doctor Who Warns for Alien DNA, Demon Sex and Reptilian Politicians

Now, there’s a headline you don’t get to write every single day. Nor do you often get to see this trending on Twitter:

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2020 continues to deliver when it comes to weirdness. So does President Donald Trump.

Here’s the story in a nutshell. Donald Trump’s son, aptly named Donald Trump Jr., recently labeled a video with Houston doctor Stella Immanuel a “must watch” since she promotes the drug hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks are unnecessary.

These opinions are in line with things that President Trump has said, even though most other physicians disagree. The president retweeted the video, apparently thinking that this would give medical credence to his corona policies. Madonna has also shared the video, calling Stella Immanuel her “hero”. Continue reading Trump Promotes Pentecostal Doctor Who Warns for Alien DNA, Demon Sex and Reptilian Politicians

Why Not Say “Justice” Instead of “Social Justice”?

Whenever I mention the term “social justice”, many American Christians freak out. They desperately do not want me or anyone else to use that word, as if it had the power to summon a dark lord or something.

Even when they agree with me that the content of what “social justice” typically signifies (economic equality, no oppression, no racism, etc.) is important, they don’t want me to call it social justice. If I should call it anything, it should be just “justice”. Period.

It goes to show how focused our social media culture is on the words we use, rather than the lives we live.

The reason for this censorship is that, apparently, “social justice is socialism in disguise”, “when you put ‘social’ in front of justice, you have an agenda”, “social justice has been hijacked by leftists”, and so on and so forth.

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These claims are always stated without any form of reference or source. Because they are not true.

Evangelical leaders like Billy Graham, John Stott and John Wimber all used the term social justice and deemed it to be central to Christian living. The Lausanne Movement, that helps thousands of evangelicals coordinate for global mission, has tonnes of resources regarding social justice. Continue reading Why Not Say “Justice” Instead of “Social Justice”?

All Things Common: The Economic Equality of Pentecost

For Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, the day of the Pentecost as described in the book of Acts is the gold standard for the life of the Church. There are various types of Charismatics, of course, so there are different emphases, but all look back to Pentecost. The movement that started at Azusa Street about one hundred years ago has spread across the world and has found itself among Christians of all varieties. From Oneness Pentecostals to Charismatic Catholics, they all look back to Acts, to the life of the apostolic church, but many do not look at the full picture.

Most Charismatics love to talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the first couple of chapters of Acts. Speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and repentance are all deeply cherished, but there is another gift of the Spirit that is neglected in many of today’s Charismatic circles – economic equality. Continue reading All Things Common: The Economic Equality of Pentecost

God’s Love Doesn’t Stop at the Border

Our friend Shane Claiborne recently remarked on Twitter:

I can’t imagine Jesus waving an American flag any more than I can imagine him wearing a “God bless Rome” shirt.

Patriotism is too small.

Our Bible doesn’t say “For God so loved America”… it says “For God so loved the world.”

America First is a theological heresy.

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Nope. Doesn’t look right to me either.

Claiborne continued:

Mother Teresa used to say that “the circle we put around our family is too small.”

We limit who we love to biology or nationality.

That’s the problem with patriotism – it’s too small. We are to love as big as God loves.

And God’s love doesn’t stop at the border.

Cover photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

Three Biblical Methods for Handling Conflict

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: Continue reading Three Biblical Methods for Handling Conflict

Why Christians Should Support the Marches Against Racism

by Craig S. Keener, originally published on his blog.

One of my recent posts showed the local protest march in which my wife and I participated, and which our teenage daughter helped organize. One honest question has come up so often in response that I want to address it here.

Would Jesus have attended such a march, some have asked? Marching in parades aside, some feel that marching for racial justice, for the unborn or for other specific causes that suggest protest are inconsistent with proper Christian meekness. (I am assuming that those asking the question are also pacifists, since violence, and especially lethal violence, seems much less meek than nonviolent protests.) So, in consultation with my daughter Keren, I offer the following considerations.

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The Keener family

Why march?

First, it may be helpful to note the purpose of marching. Marching commands public attention in the way that individual voices often cannot. It also provides solidarity for the hurting and fearful. It lets them know that they are not alone; for the sake of the unity of the church that has too long been divided by race, now is an opportunity for non-black Christians to stand with our African-American brothers and sisters. Continue reading Why Christians Should Support the Marches Against Racism

Exorcising the Demon of White Supremacy

[Note: A longer version of this post appears at the author’s personal blog, Just Theology.]

“Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”  Luke 9:1–2, NRSV

“But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” Luke 11:20

Two years ago, near the end of my second year of seminary, I drove over six hours, alone, to attend the Red Letter Revival. I was eager to live into the call to social justice that my school taught, but felt something was missing. Incomplete. Responding to the persistent tug of the Holy Spirit, I drove those long hours to see what that missing piece might be.

At the event, pastor Jonathan Martin delivered a sermon on the evil of white supremacy in the United States. A self-identified “hillbilly Pentecostal,” he named evils at work that I had not heard voiced at my progressive, social-justice-centered seminary. While my school preached against white supremacy, Martin called it out as an ancient principality. Then he spoke a word I would never hear in a sermon at chapel: exorcism. The United States, he preached, needed an exorcism from the principality of white supremacy. Continue reading Exorcising the Demon of White Supremacy

Black Lives Must Matter: A Historical Pentecostal Response

by U-Wen Low, originally published here, reposted with permission.

Many Pentecostal Christians have been divided in how to respond to recent events. The rallying cry for most (as it has been for years) is “Black Lives Matter,” a statement which shocks us with its brazenness; it highlights the fact that African-American lives in particular are at disproportionately high risk in the United States, and has forced many of us to consider our own nations’ treatment of African-American and First Nations people.

Given the complexity of the issues, it can be extraordinarily difficult to formulate a coherent, careful response – so many of us have stayed silent.

However, it is imperative for the people of God to respond, and indeed many church organisations have already added their voices to the conversation. How, then, should Pentecostals seek to respond to these issues in a Godly way, led by the Holy Spirit?

Let us do so by reminding ourselves of the history of our movement. Like many such reflections, we begin in Acts, where the Holy Spirit falls with tongues of fire upon men and women, Jew and Gentile, causing no small amount of controversy.

The early church is prompted by the Spirit to challenge both injustice and domination; throughout the narrative of Acts, we see the early Christians (an underprivileged minority group) given agency through the Spirit, fighting persecution through acts of love and kindness – and solidarity with the poor and oppressed, to the point of martyrdom.

Of course, let us not forget that Jesus himself died alongside criminals, viewed as a criminal and disproportionately punished, murdered by an oppressive system. Continue reading Black Lives Must Matter: A Historical Pentecostal Response

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice