Trump has said that refugees the US is receiving legally are “illegal immigrants”. He’s not the only one misusing the term though, I can’t count how many times American Christians have told me that the biblical commands to welcome and care for the stranger don’t apply to “illegal immigrants”. It’s time to stop using those words and treat everyone equally as human beings created in the image of God.
Micael Grenholm is editor for Pax Pneuma. Having studied theology as well as peace and development studies in Uppsala, Sweden, Micael Grenholm’s passion is to combine charismatic spirituality with activism for peace and justice. Apart from editing the Pax Pneuma website he vlogs for the YouTube channel Holy Spirit Activism and is active with evangelism and apologetics both locally and online.
Mark 11:12-22 tells us the remarkable account of the fig tree and the temple. These stories are strung together to teach us a number of things about how our faith might be hi-jacked to represent not the character, image and heart of God but nationalism and earthly systems of power, oppression and corruption.
As Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, he notices a fig tree and examines it to see if there is fruit. Finding no fruit, he curses it, saying, “may no one eat fruit from you again.” What’s going on? Why would Jesus do this? What does he have against fig trees? The cursing of the fig tree is a prophetic act that hints at what might happen in Jerusalem.
When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem he makes his way to the temple. Actually, if you look at verse 11, you will notice that Jesus had been to the temple the night before but returned to where he was staying because it was late. I find this curious, wondering if he took note of what was occurring in the temple and what it stood for and returned home to consider what he saw.
In the morning we see Jesus entering the Temple and driving out the animals and money changers and those who were selling animals for sacrifice. And Jesus says this, “My house will be a house of prayer for all nations but you have made it a den of thieves.” Was he concerned about selling stuff in the Temple? Was he concerned that the activity would disrupt prayer time? Seriously, this is how the account is often taught.
Extremely few Protestants live in a community of goods similar to that of the apostolic church in Acts 2 and 4. In fact, many Protestant denominations don’t have a single community connected to them. Just like charismatic, supernatural gifts used to be a rarity within Protestantism due to cessationism, something that has drastically changed over the last century, so is having everything in common. Both miraculous power and community life are biblical practices that many Christians simply don’t want, and both charismatic cessationism and economic cessationism have been defended and strengthened by forms of academic theology which quite frankly use very bad arguments.
Mennonite scholar Reta Halteman Finger wrote an excellent paper back in 2004 called ”Cultural attitudes in western Christianity toward the community of goods in Acts 2 and 4” (Mennonite quarterly review, vol. 78, no. 2). It’s a baffling read. An obvious mistake from Catholic and Orthodox theologians during pre-Reformation times was to equate the apostolic community of goods in Acts with the community of goods in the monastic movement, even though the latter is only available for celibates.
When Luther and Calvin protested in the 16th century, they rejected the monastic movement and thereby community of goods. Both argued that the only lesson we should learn from Acts 2 and 4 is that we should give a little gift sometimes to a poor person, not that we should have everything in common with them. They criticized Anabaptists for wanting to live apostolically; Luther argued that it is impossible to do what the apostles did for modern believers. The Hutterites proved him wrong, having lived in total community for over 400 years. Continue reading The Anti-Community Conspiracy in Biblical Scholarship→
Who are the poor in scripture and how are they to be treated among the community of God’s people? As believers and those who believe the Bible is our guide, we might examine the many stories, and passages in the Bible to find our way through the various conundrums our society faces. Especially as believers, we have a great and holy call to be agents of God and healers of a sin-sick world.
The group I wish to examine in the Bible are the widows, orphans and foreigners. They are described as the vulnerable ones who need the extra support and focus from God’s people. They are also the ones whom God has said that He himself would defend.
Who are the widows? Widows often become poor or socially vulnerable due to the loss of a husband. This could apply to women who are divorced and raising small children, to women who are emotionally abandoned through abuse and neglect by a spouse. These are women whose husbands have died and are now vulnerable in the community. Continue reading Caring For The Vulnerable Among Us→
Ebony Adedayo about what the Pentecostalism she grew up in was lacking.
“What will people think
When they hear that I’m a Jesus freak
What will people do when they find that it’s true
I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak
There ain’t no disguising the truth.” – Jesus Freak, DC Talk
If there is anything Christian song that characterized my experience as a young person, it would have to be DC Talk’s Jesus Freak. Released in 1995, it defined what it meant to live a life completely sold out to God. Living a life on fire, as we so affectionately called it, was a big deal for youth like me who grew up in a Pentecostal context such as the Assemblies of God. In the era of the Brownsville Revival and the Toronto Blessing, being consumed with anything else simply wasn’t an option if you were truly a Christian. Continue reading The Social Dimension of the Power of God→
America’s new President is controversial, to say the least. Saying outrageous things concerning women or ethnic minorities to gain massive media attention and popularity, just to then lie about the statements ever being made, sounds like an absurd way to become the most powerful person in the world. But it tragically seems quite effective.
Hillary Clinton was also criticized for being unreliable when it comes to security and honesty, and so during the election, America found itself in a bizarre situation where most people didn’t really want any of the candidates to become President. It was an election about who you dislike the least rather than who you like the most. When people want a leader with dignity, morals and faithfulness, turning to politicians seems to guarantee a letdown.Continue reading Trump or Jesus: We Do Have to Choose→
The Pentecostal and charismatic movements have a bad reputation among Christian anarchists and activists. There are too many examples of healing evangelists who control the masses through manipulation and hysteria, with promises of supernatural encounters only to gain money and status for themselves. Furthermore, many Pentecostals and charismatics support nationalism, war, discrimination and inequalities. They bless the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, they preach a prosperity gospel where strong faith leads to great wealth, they deny climate change and don’t care about the environment.
Yet, I am totally convinced that every Christian activist should embrace the gifts of the Spirit and pursue signs and wonders. Why? Because the mess I just described is of course not genuine a fruit of the Spirit, it is a result of what I call the Corinth Syndrome, when charismatic Christians portray their own crazy ideas and practices as divinely inspired.
The church at Corinth was experiencing charismatic chaos; they loved spiritual manifestations and everyone spoke in tongues simultaneously, but they showed no care for the poor and some were living in sexual immorality. Paul’s solution to the Corinthian problem is not commanding them to be less charismatic; on the contrary, he urges them to seek the gifts even more! However, he emphasizes that this must be done in order and in love.