Pentecostals vs the Empire

by Luis Aranguiz Kahn.

It is a known story that some group of radical Jews wanted to go against the Roman Empire fighting for the independence of the land of Israel. In such a context, the figure of Jesus was at least contradictory. He claimed to be a king though without a land to rule, he said his realm was not of this world and he proclaimed freedom for the slaves, but not Israeli independence. It was understandable to see some Jews rejecting him, because why should we follow a liberator that can’t give political freedom?

This story has a different meaning depending on the place where it is remembered. For instance, it is not the same to speak about it being a Christian of a first world country like England -that was a big Christian empire until just some years ago- or United States -that still looks to be like a kind of empire for many parts of the world-, than to reflect on it from a third world country like a Latin-American one.

Our countries are peripheral, always at the back of the world powers. Most of our history has been about being conquered, exploited and slighted. So then there have been two main trends: one that has strongly tried to go further on economic development, and the other that also strongly has tried to find liberation from the foreign powers. Chile is an extreme case of it. After the fall of Allende’s government, we affronted a harsh dictatorship that finally handed over the country to neoliberal politics, making the country like an experiment lab.

All Continent was divided among those who were trying to have fruitful relations with first world powers, and those who fought for independence from these powers. In this context emerged a strong liberation theology, recognized among the entire world as a Christian proposal to fight against the injustice. Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, of course, were not out of the debates this theological trend brought.

Though Liberation Theology is very useful to make a critical analysis of social and economic reality from a Christian point of view, with the fall of the Berlin Wall it seems that it lost strength. What against could we fight after the so-called end of history? Was the hegemony of United States the end of all liberation fight? Of course, it is not a simple issue. The point is that as Hardt and Negri put it, the Empire is not just a nation, it is a whole system that tries to move the world according to very specific economic interests.

We are precisely living in this tension right now. From the periphery, we can see more clearly how the powers of this Empire cause precariousness, poverty, social injustice and so on. In such a context, we have developed a lot of theories; there are many political efforts to achieve freedom (Think in cases like Venezuela and Bolivia). At the same time, there are stronger forces that want to maintain and even strengthen the imperial politics over our land (Chile or Argentina).

What can say Pentecostalism about it? I think that is a very difficult question, but an unavoidable one. In the recent past, it appears that there were strong liberationist voices that in more or less extreme versions, tried to support fights. Other groups of course intended to help to maintain a new status quo. Pentecostals were mainly on this last side. However, in the present, there seems to be a joint that well used can help us to go beyond the traps of our recent past, being conscious about the complexity of it.

The strong faith of Pentecostals on the power of the Holy Spirit can nurture new generations with a renovated social and political commitment. I don’t know if this can derive in a strong liberationist way of thinking, but I’m sure that this is currently providing a new critical sense of reality that, I hope, will be not only a beautiful discourse of social transformation as it has occurred with other groups in the past.

Perhaps, in the times of this new Empire, Pentecostals have the duty to remind the zealots that the Holy Spirit does not need political power to make amazing things like He did in the past with the early church. But Pentecostalism also has to take the challenge to fight against its own tendency to support the status quo justified by the fact that God doesn’t do politics. Leaders can take their own decisions. It is the duty of our new generation to stand in front of these two tendencies claiming that though the Kingdom of Jesus is not of this world, it has been always in the world.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & 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!

One thought on “Pentecostals vs the Empire”

  1. As a Pentecostal pacifist one of my criticisms of current day Pentecostal pacifists is the social activism taking place today. Romans 12 and 13 speaks to the relationships between Christians and Christians, nonchristians, and the state. My prime directive is found is 2nd Corinthians 5, to be an ambassador of Christ, reconciling men to God. No where do we see Christ or the early Church trying to influence government in social reconciliation. We see Christians working in a conquered empire spreading the Gospel. Its time we return to our prime directive.

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