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.
It is not simply a racial issue but primarily a theological one. Following the lead of their dear leaders, many in the fold decided that Trump was their Cyrus that would defend them against the rising tide of secularism in the US.
The more I reflect on this predicament and reminisce on my experience, I realize all the ingredients for this turn to Christian Nationalism were there all along. I just either tolerated, denied, or simply chose to look the other way. My allegiance to the Charismatic experience blinded me to the gross contradictions our burgeoning tradition carries.
All the exuberant worship, vibrant growth, and unrelenting faith have an ugly underside. It often manifests itself in pervasive cults of personality, a penchant towards authoritarianism, and a dangerous disregard for intellectual scrutiny. The combination of these three made possible the ungodly alliance with a narcissistic, authoritarian, corrupt leader. Let also not pretend that with all our talk of God’s power we were not interested in human power. We were and still are dangerously seduced by it. In a tragic Faustian bargain, they traded the soul of our faith for access to the most powerful man in the world.
Yet, my goal here is not to simply express a personal rant but to turn it into a plea. Despite my disappointment with the movement, I know the God that P&C worship. He is larger and broader than all our petty theological illusions. Kings and kingdoms will pass yet God’s love remain. That is why I plead with my fellow believers to examine themselves and turn.
In a biblical prophetic tradition, I ask that they reconsider their destructive political allegiances. Listen to what the Spirit is speaking through the voices in the margins, for God does not live in expansive white houses but in the disruptive screams of the oppressed. I pray you turn your political engagement to the enduring work of creation care, equality, and justice.
If you live in the US, I believe that rejecting Trump in this election is an important step towards this direction. If you live in Brazil, the same applies to Jair Bolsonaro. They are false messiahs trying to manipulate your faith to their own gain. Resist the temptation to gain access to power and hold on to your perennial faith.
If you are in other parts of the world, continue to support the work of care, equality, and justice locally and globally. Resist political narratives that promise order in the exchange for freedom. Reject those who speak of an idyllic moral past when our faith is forward-looking. Above all, run from political leaders that demand unquestioning loyalty and attack the media when it holds them accountable.
Plant a tree. Encourage the downcast. Speak for the voiceless. Give to the poor. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in humility that we honor the Prince of peace.
The world has yet to witness what God can do when spirit-filled Christians wok for peace. What if the movement would become an unrelenting voice for justice, anointed to preach the good news to the poor, and release the bonds of the oppressed? This is the Kairos time of God for our generation. Will we hear the call or let it pass us by?
May the Spirit of God make us bold for a time like this.
Elias Kruger is a Data Science manager with an MA in Theology from Fuller Theological seminary. Born in Brazil, he now lives in the United States with his wife Priscila and their three children. He blogs at AI Theology.
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!