“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
Good news! Zondervan just decided to stop the publication of this Bible. Activism does work!
A white Christian nationalist Bible compilation called the God Bless the USA Bible is set to be published in September. Religion Unplugged reports that Zondervan, an imprint of HarperCollins and prominent US Christian publisher, has authorized its publication. (The document uses the NIV translation, all uses of which are licensed and approved through Zondervan in the United States.)
The document touts itself as “The Ultimate American Bible,” and alongside the NIV Bible translation will include text from the song “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and Pledge of Allegiance.
Continue reading Zondervan: Stop the publication of the white nationalist “God Bless the USA Bible”
(This article also appears at Just Theology.)
Christians who take Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats seriously understand that we are called to serve “the least of these” in love. In addition to individual acts of mercy, many have come to understand that providing aid to “the least” means addressing the systems of inequality that skew our collective resources toward “the most” instead. This leads to various expressions of justice activism.
I am by no means a fervent activist. While I have attended some protests, I am more likely to express my convictions through letter writing, phone calls, donations, conversations, prayer, and service. Yet I know members of my seminary, friends, and those in local activist communities give more of themselves and take much greater risks. And I know activist efforts take a toll. My friends have suffered compassion fatigue, burnout, and shame and guilt at not being able to offer more when community demands are pressing. Working for justice takes a physical and emotional toll. It takes a spiritual toll as well.
Continue reading Why Justice activists need spiritual healing
Following the 2021 Society for Pentecostal Studies Annual Meeting, Pentecostal leaders released a statement calling on the global Pentecostal movement to denounce all forms of sexual violence, reclaim faith communities as safe places of healing, and hold perpetrators accountable. Titled Pentecostal Sisters Too, the statement references and borrows its name from the #MeToo movement. At the SPS’s 2018 meeting, in response to the hashtag #pentecostalsisterstoo, survivors, both men and women, shared their own stories of sexual abuse.
The theme of the 2021 meeting was This Is My Body: Addressing Global Violence Against Women, a topic that could not be more timely. The past two weeks have seen the exit of Beth Moore from the Southern Baptist Convention (in part due to her vocal support of sexual abuse survivors), the murder of Sarah Everard, and the murder of eight people at massage parlors in the United States—including six Asian women. The man who killed these women blamed his actions on a “sex addiction,” claiming that he committed murder to prevent temptation. An active church member, the shooter expressed “extreme self-loathing, guilt and public confession” after visiting massage parlors. He expressed his fear of “falling out of God’s grace.” In response, a statement from his home church says it will remove him from membership, since it “can no longer no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”
Continue reading Pentecostal Leaders Call on Church to Address Sexual Violence
Last week I got an invitation from one of my online communities to join a group called “Christian Patriots.” When new groups are formed, the platform’s algorithm decides who might be a good fit for it. Because I am a member of other Christian groups, the algorithm chose me.
Here is how the “Christian Patriots” group describes itself:
“A caring group of people who love Jesus and our beloved America…. We believe in God and Country, and we celebrate all that God has blessed us with. Our guiding principle is: We serve God our Father, and His son Jesus, who died for our sins. Our guiding documents are the Holy Bible and the U.S. Constitution. The symbols of our beliefs are the Cross and the American flag.”
Many such groups exist in the United States today. As a Christian who is also a United States citizen—a country in the midst of a white nationalist resurgence—I felt called to blog about this expression of it here.
Continue reading Pentecostals and Patriotism
[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
Within the span of weeks, the United States has gone from having a handful of cases of COVID-19 to leading the world in cases of infection. This has left much of the world bewildered. Seeing how the virus was affecting other nations, with months of notice, we were still left unprepared. What is it about the structure and function of our country that left us so vulnerable to what should have been a more manageable situation?
For two millennia, in times of turmoil Christians have turned to the Revelation of John for insight. The text has wisdom to share in this time of pandemic as well. By understanding the nature of apocalyptic literature—a type of writing that would have been familiar to the earliest church who experienced Pentecost but is strange to us—American Christians can begin to address difficult questions about our nation’s response. More importantly, we can turn to the biblical text to learn how the church can faithfully respond in this time.
The translation Revelation in the book’s title comes from the Greek apokalypsis, which literally means uncovering or revealing, like removing a veil. In the case of the Apocalypse of John, Jesus Christ has opened something up to the Seer that is meant to be shared. When Pentecostals share a dream or vision with the church, they are engaging in the continuation of this tradition. Paul uses the same Greek term to refer to the spiritual gifts when he writes that “each one of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” (1 Cor 14:26, NIV). In the same verse he names the purpose of these gifts: “that the church may be built up.” And if there was ever a time the church was in need of building it up, it is now.
Continue reading Reading the Revelation in the Age of COVID-19
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
This post was originally published at Just Theology.
When many Pentecostal and charismatic Christians use the word “salvation,” the first image that comes to mind is the gift of personal healing and “coming home” to God that he has made possible through Christ, made known to the believer through the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, when the apostle Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit he is able to proclaim, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NRSV). The change of life that comes through knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior is the core of our faith. But God’s plan of reconciliation expands beyond individuals, and even beyond human beings. So when we look to the biblical witness, we realize the question, “Is salvation more important than the environment?” actually represents a limited view. A better question is, “Why must salvation include the environment?”
A theology that views the environment as somehow separate from salvation stems from the modern Western temptation toward individualism. Many of us inherited a theology in which “being saved” seems like an entirely private affair. But we must remember that, while salvation through Christ is absolutely personally transformative, that transformation is always intended to be lived outward, in community, for the benefit of all creation. Continue reading Is Salvation More Important than the Environment?
The spate of recent headlines about sexual abuse and victimization in the Church have made clear the prevalence of these crimes. The revelation of decades of abuse by Southern Baptist pastors and complicity by denominational leaders is only the most recent example. Willow Creek Community Church is still addressing the reverberations of trauma surrounding accusations of harassment against women. Sexual abuse is rampant outside the church as well. According to statistics compiled by the Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six women in the United States “has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).”Much-needed discussion surrounding prevention and accountability in leadership is beginning to take place. Churches must also address how they treat women who have been sexually abused, both within and without the church.
In addition to these needed reforms, Christians must examine how our underlying theology may continue to damage victims rather than offer redemption. If what is preached from the pulpit, embodied in song and worship, and internalized by the congregation does not offer a message of hope and healing for those who have been abused, it is not the good news of Jesus Christ. In particular, our understanding of atonement—how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus brings us into reconciliation with God—must be examined carefully.
Continue reading Atonement and Sexual Assault: Redemption for the Sinned Against