Why Pentecostal Churches Managed to Fight COVID-19 Better than the United Nations

Why are many American Pentecostals disobedient regarding efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19? Are Pentecostals and Charismatics in other parts of the world behaving differently? How was the strong faith in healing that characterized early Pentecostals impacted by the pandemic known as the “Spanish Flu”?

A few weeks ago, PCPJ gathered a panel of scholars and Pentecostal leaders to discuss these important questions. The panel consisted of:

Jörg Haustein, doctor of World Christianities, University of Cambridge.
Erica Ramirez, president of PCPJ, director of applied research, Auburn Seminary.
Daniel Isgrigg, director for the Holy Spirit Research Center, Oral Roberts University.
Niclas Lindgren, director, PMU Interlife.
Andrea Johnson, Assistant Professor of History, California State University DH.
Micael Grenholm, pastor, editor at PCPJ.

Everybody brought interesting food for thought to the table. Isgrigg compared Pentecostal reactions to the Spanish Flu with what we see today. Ramirez spoke about what aspects of the Pentecostal faith makes it vulnerable to conspiracy theories. Haustein pointed to the nuance between different Pentecostal and Charismatic groups even in the same country. Johnson gave a historical backdrop to how American Pentecostals view politics.

Continue reading Why Pentecostal Churches Managed to Fight COVID-19 Better than the United Nations

Evangelical Hypocrisy extends far beyond Jerry Falwell Jr.

I’m sad to say that I wasn’t surprised when I saw that Jerry Falwell Jr. resigns as the president of Liberty University after posting a sexual photo from his yacht on social media and allegedly having approved of an extramarital affair between his wife and a business partner (including watching from a corner while they were having sex).

The allegations concerning the bizarre sex games are disputed, but the photo alone gave Liberty University enough reason to question Falwell’s leadership, as the evangelical university has some very strict guidelines concerning sexuality, dress code and alcohol consumption (Falwell is holding a drink in the photo, writing in the caption “I promise it’s just black water in my glass”).

If a student at Liberty University had posted the same photo, the consequences would likely have been more than $9,000 in school fines and 900 hours of required service, and possible expulsion.

There’s one word that people keeps coming back to when describing this situation: hypocrisy. The very thing that Jesus warned his disciples against over and over again. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”, the Lord said. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:1-2). Continue reading Evangelical Hypocrisy extends far beyond Jerry Falwell Jr.

The People that Brought Me to Jesus Betrayed Me

I was born into Christ’s family through a Charismatic church as a preacher’s kid and was deeply involved in churches of that type until my early 30s. Today, while grateful for the home the introduced me to the God of the universe, I can barely recognize her.

The people that brought me to Jesus betrayed me.

They exchanged the genuine gospel of love for the allure of success. At times, I am even ashamed of my heritage. What brought me joy and comfort became memories of disappointment, manipulation, and hypocrisy.

While not solely because of it, this predicament came full circle when I witnessed leaders I respected enthusiastically vote and support a candidate that was the antithesis of the Christ they taught me. Have I been deceived all along?

While there are no statistics on P&C (Pentecostal and Charismatic) support for Donald Trump, I would not be surprised if that number was north to the often quoted 81% of white evangelicals who voted for him in 2016. And as a diverse group as few in the US, the vote is not limited to whites only but probably cuts through a majority of Hispanics if not even African American P&C.

Continue reading The People that Brought Me to Jesus Betrayed Me

Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?

The topic of the pacifism in the early church is something I have written about before for PCPJ. However, in our world it often needs repeating and restating. The Church has often fallen into the temptations of politics and militarism. This is clearly seen in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement, which leaned towards pacifism in its early years, but became tolerant towards nationalism and militarism within only a few decades.

In the United States, we are in the midst of two events that make the topic of Christian pacifism relevant: 1. We are in the midst of a very brutal election season, and 2. We are approaching the 19th anniversary of the War on Terror, specifically the war in Afghanistan (which officially began October 7, 2001). It is the longest war in American history. Of course, PCPJ is an international organization, just as the Church is an international organization, but I think these are universal issues, and the war in Afghanistan includes many countries (including all of NATO). Additionally, PCPJ was founded in that time and context.

Considering that we have been in constant war for almost 20 years, I think it is time for Christians in the West to look back to our roots again and to not be seduced by politics or nationalism. What would Jesus say and do if He was here today? What would He say to a supposedly “Christian nation”? What would the prophets, apostles, and church fathers say in this time? Specifically, we should look at the early church. After all, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is primarily about revival – an attempt at recovering the Christianity of the apostolic age. Continue reading Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?

Politicians Conflating the Kingdom of God with America

Tiffany Trump said at the 2020 Republican National Convention:

“God has blessed us with unstoppable spirit. His spirit, the American spirit. My dad has proven to be driven by that spirit.”

Vice President Mike Pence paraphrased Hebrews 12:1-2 but replaced ”Jesus” with the American flag and Christians with Americans:

“So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents. Let’s fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire.”

Just one year ago, President Trump called himself “The Chosen One”, and thanked someone for ”the very nice words” of calling him the “king of Israel” and like ”the second coming of God”.

If this isn’t blasphemy… what is it?

I’m reminded of Shane Claiborne writing in his excellent book ”The Irresistible Revolution” about when some kids insisted that he should play Jesus in a church play when he did missionary work in a Latin American country.

”Why don’t any of you play Jesus?” he asked.

”You must do it!” the children said, ”because you’re white and come from America!”

Continue reading Politicians Conflating the Kingdom of God with America

Biblical Justice: Making Things Right

by Katie McRoberts. Originally published at the blog of Churches for Middle East Peace, reposted with permission.

Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. 1 Kings 21:7-10, 15-16

While many consider the stories of the Old Testament, often framed by punishment and retribution, to be an example of God’s justice, the reality is that a comprehensive picture of justice is much more complicated. The Bible shows justice as not only an appropriate consequence for sin but also as an expression of appropriate concern for others. Righteousness before God means being in right relationship not only with God but others as well. Continue reading Biblical Justice: Making Things Right

When National Anthems Become Worship Songs

by Ramone Romero.

Some years ago I learned about “Kimigayo”, the Japanese national anthem. It’s about the emperor, and due to its use in the war, many people from Asian nations object to it, as well as some from various religions (including many conservative Christians) who feel that it comes too close to worshiping the emperor.

Sometimes people show their objection to the anthem by sitting while it is playing. Some teachers have refused to stand or play piano for it at schools, and as a result have gotten in trouble with officials.

Knowing about things the Japanese army did during the war, as well as the nationalist propaganda that led up to it, I’ve always felt people should have the right to not stand up for Kimigayo. Especially if they want to protest in view of the atrocities committed by the army across Asia.

I feel the same about America. No one should be forced to stand for the anthem, especially if they are protesting the atrocities committed by America — such as those against Black people and Natives, and from endless American wars abroad. Continue reading When National Anthems Become Worship Songs

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

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice