With support from American pentecostal and charismatic Christians, President Trump has officially announced that he is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Siding with Israeli intelligence reports over his own intelligence agencies, all confirming that Iran is in compliance with the deal, the President has adopted the talking points of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who offered no new information, and used the same logic he used before when he persuaded the American government to invade Iraq. It seems that history is repeating itself. Again.
The invasion of Iraq was a mistake on every level. Not only was it a moral disaster, it was also a strategic disaster that paved the way for ISIS and served only to strengthen Iran’s position in the region, something that the U.S. has been trying to counter ever since. The President has stacked his cabinet with the same people that got us into Iraq, and are now pushing to do the same thing with Iran. While it’s possible that Iran may continue to comply with the deal in cooperation with the other parties to the deal, the United States has now shown the world that it can not be trusted to honor our agreements. Because of this, the influence of the United States in world affairs has been incalculably diminished.
Throughout the history of the Church, revival movements that emphasize the restoration of apostolic and prophetic ministries, signs, wonders, and miracles, and a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit accompanied by physical manifestations, have all trended toward a rejection of militarism and an embrace of social justice in their beginning stages. Pentecostalism is no exception. Like the Quakers and the Anabaptists before us, along with the early Christians for the first three hundred years before Constantine, the early pentecostals were largely pacifist. We rejected war and violence in all forms, and were skeptical of Christians participating in the military. As the movement gained traction over the first few decades, the pacifism of the early pentecostals faded as we started serving as chaplains in the military, leading most pentecostals and, later, charismatics, to embrace just war principles, which were originally laid out by Saint Augustine as a means to limit the use of force, not perpetuate it as a first response.
If we examine like a detective the history of revival movements that have had a lasting impact on society, it would seem that the Spirit favors pacifist leanings, because nearly every major revival movement, including the New Testament church, starts out that way. The problem, however, with the pentecostal and charismatic movement today isn’t necessarily that we embrace just war principles, but that we have largely abandoned just war principles in favor of militarism.
Since the second half of the 20th century up until the present, we pentecostals and charismatics have consistently championed every major war the U.S. has been involved in. From Vietnam to Iraq, and every invasion, intervention, aerial bombardment and drone strike before, after, and in between, we pentecostals and charismatics have largely bought into the same lie that God chastised the ancient Israelites for: the idea that we owe our freedom to our military might.
Martin Luther King identified the three root sins of America as poverty, racism, and militarism. By supporting the U.S. violation of the Iran nuclear deal, and consistently mocking politicians that favor a diplomatic approach to world affairs, we pentecostals and charismatics can no longer credibly say that we favor war as a last reproach after everything else as been tried, or that we insist on a reasonable chance of success, or minimizing harm to civilians, or that we care about proportionality or any other just war principle. As a movement, we’ve gone from peace to war, and our loss of prophetic witness is directly proportional to our embrace of militarism.
As leaders in the global pentecostal and charismatic movement, we the undersigned, call upon our brothers and sisters to reject militarism, embrace diplomacy, and rediscover the prophetic mantle of our spiritual forefathers who spoke truth to power in their day. We call upon every believer who claims a second blessing, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or a belief in the ongoing gifts of the Holy Spirit, to examine our hearts and ponder the question of what it means to follow the Prince of Peace who taught us to love our enemies, and made no distinction between personal enemies and national enemies. As a people who claim to have tasted the powers of the age to come in the here and now, may our lives bear prophetic witness to the age to come: to a time when the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven, when swords are turned into plough shares, and nations don’t lift swords against nations, and neither shall they learn war anymore.
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