300 years ago a movement of revival started within British and later American churches. This movement called the Church to return to the Gospel. It called the Church to share the message of Jesus with others and to follow Jesus more boldly. This movement was very diverse for its day. It affected most Christian denominations in the English-speaking world, and it touched many Christian communities. It was an international, interracial, intercultural, and interdenominational movement.
This movement promoted education, social reform, and inclusion in the Church. This movement was one of the main forces behind social justice movements for much of its history. Abolitionism, poverty-relief efforts, the Social Gospel, Labor Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and many other important causes were at least influenced by this movement.
The movement that I am talking about is Evangelicalism, but despite Evangelicalism having such a long and noble history, most don’t recognize it today – at least not in the United States. There are a number of factors that contributed to this:
First, Evangelicalism has always had a white supremacist wing. Even though Evangelicalism was indispensable in the abolitionist and civil rights movements, there was also always a segment that opposed those movements. On the one hand, you had John Wesley who argued strongly against slavery, but on the other you had Jonathan Edwards who owned slaves. There are still schisms in American churches over this exact issue. The Southern Baptist Convention is an example of an American Evangelical church founded on white supremacist principles. Continue reading It’s not Evangelicalism Anymore→
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.
Some years ago I learned about “Kimigayo”, the Japanese national anthem. It’s about the emperor, and due to its use in the war, many people from Asian nations object to it, as well as some from various religions (including many conservative Christians) who feel that it comes too close to worshiping the emperor.
Sometimes people show their objection to the anthem by sitting while it is playing. Some teachers have refused to stand or play piano for it at schools, and as a result have gotten in trouble with officials.
Knowing about things the Japanese army did during the war, as well as the nationalist propaganda that led up to it, I’ve always felt people should have the right to not stand up for Kimigayo. Especially if they want to protest in view of the atrocities committed by the army across Asia.
These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:
Charles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.
The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.
The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social. Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28.Continue reading Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism→
I have a challenge for my American readers this day. Before you wave the banner of your empire and enjoy billions of dollars being blown up in fireworks, pray that God will help you love all people, including all those harmed by American consumerism, militarism and racism, and that He will help you pledge allegiance to His Kingdom first and foremost.
After all, Scripture says that we are foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebr 11:13) and that we are citizens in Heaven (Phil 3:20). We are called to love all people as ourselves (Lk 10:25-37) and while the early Christians didn’t revolt against the Roman empire, they were known for pledging allegiance to another king than the emperor, namely Christ (Acts 17:7). I think Shane Claiborne nails it in his altar call on Red Letter Christians about celebrating interdependence day rather than independence day:
Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of us all being bound up in an “inescapable web of mutuality.” He talked of how we have encountered half the world by the time we have put on our clothes, brushed our teeth, drunk our coffee and eaten our breakfast, as there are invisible faces that make our lives possible every day. That’s why I’ve always struggled with “Independence Day.”
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.