Category Archives: Racial Justice

From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit

by Alex Mayfield, originally posted on Engaged Pentecostalism.

The rise of populist and nationalist movements around the world is a fact of our time. A quick survey finds the tide rising the world over: the recent Brazilian presidential victory ofdictatorship-loving Bolsonaro, the many far-right groups gaining ground in European elections, the rise of violent Hindutva in India, and the increasingly abrasive Chinese nationalism fostered under Xi Jinping illustrate that nationalists movements have turned ethnic, cultural, and national identity towards increasingly troubling ends.

Here in the United States, Trumpian politics have risen to power by questioning the legitimacy of a black leaders and stoking fears over Hispanic migrants, and ethnno-nationalist ideas have gained renewed traction among conservative voters. While support of Donald Trump cannot be equated with an embrace of racism, it is no accident that radical white nationalist groups have been growing and becoming increasingly vocal in their support of the president; these groups are ideologically wrong, but they are not stupid.

These trends should be concerning for anyone who is a student of history: rampant nationalism tends to breed war. While undermining the international order is one thing, the rise of Trumpian politics has had a more concrete casualty: the public witness of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. Continue reading From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit

Why Is Sweden Deporting Christians to Persecution?

Sweden is known for its coniferous forests, catchy pop songs and cheap furniture, not for deporting people to persecution, torture and death. But sadly, that’s what the Swedish government is doing to many Christians.

I recently wrote in the Christian Post about the ridiculous questions that the Swedish Migration Board asks asylum seekers who claim to have converted from Islam to Christianity. For example:

  • What does Matthew 10:34 say?
  • Which things are forbidden according to Christianity?
  • Can you describe the sacraments?

Together with some friends, I designed a test and let Christians all around the country respond to these questions. More than 100,000 people took the test. Less than 300 people were able to get more than 60 % right.

One can question the very premise of letting knowledge-based questions be proof of one’s faith. But when most Christians fail to recognize these questions as relevant or even answerable, you should really stop what you’re doing.

Complete Denial

Unfortunately, these questions have been used quite extensively, and when converts fail to answer them they often get deported. Obviously, deporting converts to countries where they are persecuted, such as Afghanistan, oppose Swedish law and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Migration Board walks around this by claiming that the converts’ faith isn’t “genuine”. Continue reading Why Is Sweden Deporting Christians to Persecution?

Overcoming Racial Prejudice: the Loving Labours of African Pentecostal Pioneer Elias Letwaba

Originally posted at Making History Now.

In my research, I am always delighted to discover one of God’s “unknowns” who achieved great things. One such was ethnic evangelist and church-planter, Elias Letwaba.

History failed to note him, and for two main reasons. First, he wasn’t active in the cities; his ministry was out in the remote bush of the Transvaal, South Africa. And he was black, but belonged to a denomination (the Apostolic Faith Mission) which practised racial segregation, even holding separate baptism services for blacks and whites.

Letwaba’s very birth had the supernatural about it. His mother, a nominal Christian, was visited by a man in white robes who prophesied that she would bear a son who would “carry my gospel message to many places” but suffer many trials. She didn’t stay nominal after that! The Letwaba home was a house of prayer. Elias was born in 1870 and even as a boy was sensitive to God and felt tinglings in his hands when he read in the Bible of healings and deliverance. One day he prayed over a lame girl in Jesus’ name – and only found out five years later that she had been healed.

He tried several churches but knew something was missing. His heart yearned for the New Testament “signs and wonders”, and a people joined in their hearts. In 1908 he travelled to Doorfontein to hear the American evangelist and healer John G Lake. The power of God was very obvious in the meeting, with people being healed and set free. Lake sensed something in Letwaba and invited him on to the stage. This caused outrage among the white Christians, who were all for throwing Letwaba out. “If you throw him out, I will go too“, said Lake, which stilled the storm and Elias remained on the platform. The two men became brothers from the heart; Lake invited him into his home, where Letwaba received his personal Pentecost, the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit‘.

Typical round houses of the Transvaal
Typical round houses of the Transvaal

When Lake and his team left for Bloemfontein, they invited Letwaba to go with them. Under Lake’s training, Letwaba began an itinerant ministry, walking hundreds of miles between far-flung villages. He was often beaten, kicked and verbally abused, but when he prayed for the sick, many were healed. From time to time, Lake would come to Letwaba’s home in Potgietersrus and the two would minister to people together – always attended with remarkable divine happenings.

After Lake returned to America in 1913, people began to recognise that Letwaba had, in some special way, inherited his mantle in ‘power ministry’. On one occasion, during a heavy drought, he prayed for rain for one village, prophesying that it would happen that night (there were no weather forecasts in those days!). And the rain came.

Very few images of Letwaba exist, but here is one
Very few images of Letwaba exist, but here is one

In time, Letwaba spoke seven languages, founded and headed a Bible College with a reputation for depth and godliness, and had an apostolic circuit of thirty-seven churches. He insisted that his congregations be tribally mixed, which required up to three interpreters at every service. It has been roughly estimated that 10,000 people found healing as a result of his prayers. For all this, he remained a humble man, writing sermons pleading for personal holiness and humility, and leading by example in those areas. He died in 1959, aged 89, a father of the African church – yet surprisingly unknown outside his beloved Transvaal.

Trevor Saxby is a mentor, friend to many, with a PhD in church history. I love learning from the ‘movers and shakers’ of the past, as I want to be one today!

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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 become a member!

The Mission of Jesus

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

Every great leader has a mission and I believe that Jesus is no different.  No, I’m not talking about Jesus CEO, I am talking about the focus of Jesus as he lived his life on the ground.  And I believe as followers of Jesus, we are invited to join with Jesus in the mission.

Very often churches that are in decline have a singular focus that revolves around its own interests, its own needs and its own preferences and the mission is mostly lost.  Churches in decline also tend to find themselves having their beliefs defined by a favorite news source that they perceive as “Christian” rather than the actual Bible.  Often the church has become more like the world in the ways it colludes with power.  And we lose our focus on the real mission of Jesus. Continue reading The Mission of Jesus

Five Weird Ways People Deny That Jesus Was a Refugee

In 2016, I released a book in Swedish together with pastor Stefan Swärd called Jesus Was Also a Refugee. We commented the recent migration debate, providing the biblical teaching on loving, welcoming and blessing strangers (Lev 19:33-34, Mt 25:35).

I was not at all prepared for the huge amounts of Christians who would object to the book title. “Jesus was certainly not a refugee!” The same thing happened as the Christian Post published my Christmas reflection, inspired by Shane Claiborne, urging people to welcome refugees as they would welcome Christ. The comment section on CP’s Facebook page overflooded with arguments against the asylum status of our Savior and his parents.

Most of these arguments are bad. I mean, really bad. Here are the five weirdest ones I’ve come across so far:

1. They were not refugees, they were traveling LEGALLY for a CENSUS!

This argument is strangely popular. It has even made headline news after conservative activist Charlie Kirk used it in response to Democratic politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Continue reading Five Weird Ways People Deny That Jesus Was a Refugee

Shane Claiborne: Put the “Christ” Back in “Christians”!

A few weeks ago, activist theologian Shane Claiborne held an amazing Christmas sermon at Woodland Hills Church. Here are some highlights:

Shane shares a testimony of a pastor whom God told to get rid of all Christmas decorations in the church and fill it with hay and manure. As a result, the Holy Spirit fell and they had an amazing encounter with the Lord. Shane also points out how radical the original Christmas was, and why it’s time to put the “Christ” back in “Christians”.

47688190_795014677503441_6403092563779125248_o.jpg

Shane went on speaking about his fight against Philadelphia’s anti-homelessness laws: “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?” He also shows why you don’t mess with Pentecostals.

Watch the whole sermon here.

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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 become a member!

Christian Migrants Explaining Why They Flee

by Bob Ekblad, originally published on his blog.

In November, Gracie and I spent ten days with Sub-Saharan African migrants in Egypt and Morocco—most of whom are undocumented. Spending time with these vulnerable and courageous people has refreshed our perspective on life and faith.

I share these thoughts on migration and immigration in response to disturbing news articles I’m reading about anti-immigrant rhetoric in the USA and Europe–and I hope to dissuade people of faith from any collusion with negative attitudes and the promotion of restrictive policies.

This past Sunday I preached at an underground church made up or largely undocumented African immigrants living in Morocco. Morocco is now the preferred crossing point for Africans seeking to enter Europe—though many have no choice but to seek passage via war zones like Yemen, or failed states like Libya.

At the Moroccan-Spanish border, high fences, dangerous waters and strict immigration enforcement are keeping migrants from leaving the African continent. Hundreds of thousands are blocked, settling in a foreign land. Many more are currently en route from countries ravaged by war, political impasses and poverty. Continue reading Christian Migrants Explaining Why They Flee