Shane Claiborne’s Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg, Virginia, was a success. Not only did it gather 300 people celebrating Jesus and justice, but it also caught a lot of media attention thanks to Jerry Falwell Jr’s Liberty University.
It’s ironic, to say the least, that a Christian University will arrest and prosecute those who pray – I’m telling you, pray – at their campus. It’s also ironic that Falwell Jr. killed the campus newspaper story about the Claiborne incident while claiming that free speech is a core value of his school.
One of my favourite Pentecostal saintsof all times is Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), Indian activist, evangelist and holy roller. Over a hundred years before Malala she campaigned for women’s right to education, and she was extremely active in helping the poor and discriminated.
Born in a Brahmite family in what is now the state of Karnataka, she started to study at an early age and learned Sanskrit along with sacred Hinduist texts, astronomy, physiology and more. This was controversial since she lacked a penis, but her father encouraged her as she learned more and more about society, religion and activism.
In 1883 she went to England and taught Sanskrit at an Anglican monastery in Wantage. There she was saved. “I realized,” she later wrote, “after reading the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, that Christ was truly the Divine Saviour he claimed to be, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden women of India.”
Let’s start with the song, which can be listened here. Music-wise it’s basically a very simple folk song in an American style, so simple that anyone who has had a few lessons on a guitar can easily play it (please do! It’s only G, C and D). The lyrics are a simple retelling of a story in the gospels that is often called ‘the rich young ruler’ in English, a passage found in all three synoptic gospels (Mark 10:17-27, Matthew 19:16-22, Luke 18:18-34): Continue reading Sell Everything You Have, and Give It to the Poor!→
Generosity, in Christian understanding, goes further than simply the wallet – it reveals the condition of the soul. There is a natural selfishness in our conditioned responses, which instinctively says spend and not give. But is this really the mindset that we want to pass on to our children? As someone has said, “we must teach them the greater joy of giving before they figure out the lesser joy of receiving.”
One very early Christian text can back this up. The ‘Didache‘ (pronounced “didder-key”, it’s Greek for “teaching”) is of uncertain date, but internal evidence leads most commentators to place it at the latest AD 100. It is a short handbook of moral and practical governance for churches, perhaps in Syria, and it is anonymous. Continue reading The Early Christian View on Generosity Was Incredibly Radical→
In 2013, I visited Iris Global in South Africa. On the third day of my trip, I was helping the men and children to cook food on a women’s conference. Suddenly a jeep with the Iris logo appeared, and out stepped a man whose big smile I recognized so well. “Surprise! Wow, I’m so glad to meet you! I’ve read your book!!” The smiling apostle shook my hand, told me I was welcome, guided some ladies to the jeep and then pointed at me: “Micael, get into the car!”
We dropped off lady after lady until we arrived to the house of the last one, where all three of us entered. There was a very, very thin and weak man. I didn’t catch what condition he was suffering from, but I eagerly joined Surprise in praying for his healing. Then we left, and Surprise drove me back to the conference.
I met this man’s wife some weeks later. He has had severe problems with his liver and kidneys as well as TB, and has not been working since October last year. However, now he started to feel much better, he went to the doctor last week – and the doctor pronounced him 100 % well. He started working again last Wednesday. Glory to God!
The original movement behind modern Charismatic Christianity is Pentecostalism. The name “Pentecostal”, as we all likely know, comes directly from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. In that chapter, on the day of Pentecost (referring to the fiftieth day after Passover), the early church received an amazing gift (charism): the Holy Spirit descended upon them. The Bible says:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability (Acts 2:1-4).
The story of Pentecost is powerful. It testifies to us the importance of the Spirit in the church. However, we in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement have a tendency to stop reading the chapter not long after this. We heavily emphasize spiritual gifts and revival, but we ignore the following verses in this chapter, in which the early church’s social dynamic is described to us. Continue reading Community of Goods: Economics According to the New Testament→
Review originally published at the LSE Africa Blog. Reposted with permission.
Gregory Deacon of Oxford University says that the book Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa (edited by Dena Freeman) provides some compelling answers regarding Pentecostalism and development.
With its noisy churches and high profile media presence, Pentecostalism is religion writ large and exciting. Dramatic claims are made – for example that it is ‘redrawing the religious map of the world’. Dena Freeman’s edited volume tackles head on whether this is good or bad for development. This is done in the context of 30 years of neoliberalism and an explosion in numbers of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as Pentecostal churches. The role of both in alleviating poverty and improving living conditions for Africans is considered.
Over the past three decades, Pentecostal Christianity has exploded across Africa. At the same time many secular development agencies, including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), have been struggling to incorporate religion and faith based organisations into their policies and processes. As a research fellow at the University of Oxford looking at religion and development, I have similarly found Pentecostalism impossible to ignore. Continue reading Is Pentecostalism Doing More for Africa’s Poor than International NGOs?→