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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.
Originally posted at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice.
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.
Jesus was skeptical to the political way of leadership. He said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). At one point, the crowds that followed him wanted to crown him as king after he had done a miracle, at which point Jesus mysteriously disappeared like Batman (John 6:14-15). (more…)
The charismatic revival has not just been about signs and wonders, but about worship and music as well. Similar to previous revivals like Methodism and Salvationism, early Pentecostalism had a lot of zeal and passion in their hymns, with a renewed focus on the Holy Spirit and miracles. The African American influences and inspiration from the mission field also impacted the tone of the music so that it became more inspirational.
Things changed even more during the Western charismatic renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, as the Jesus movement incorporated popular, hippie tunes into their worship. This in turn impacted the Vineyard which combined the contemporary style with a focus on singing to God rather than just about him. Today, charismatic churches like Hillsong in Australia and Bethel in California are without doubt the main influences when it comes to contemporary worship music and are really popular especially among the youth.
This style of worship is not without criticism. Songs are commercialized, the concert-like performances are expensive and the worship leaders may receive too much focus. Popular worship lyrics that emphasize God’s majesty and power are criticized for portraying him as too distant and dominant, while songs about human struggles and doubts are rare. (more…)
Originally posted on Jesus Army’s website.
Recently Oxford Dictionary announced that the word of the year is “post-truth”. It’s an adjective used when describing how facts and truth take a backseat position in favour of emotions and personal opinion.
During just the last six months people have been increasingly talking about “post-truth politics” and a “post-truth world” as several politicians in the UK and the US have blatantly lied and ignored facts, quoting their own feelings or the feelings of their supporters as sufficient evidence for their positions.
An example of this was when American politician Newt Gingrich argued that the crime level in the US has gone up because “the average American… does not think crime is down”. When challenged by a reporter who quoted FBI statistics that showed the opposite, he simply responded “That’s your view”.
Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson has written about why he thinks a Bible-believing Christian should support President-elect Donald Trump. He fails miserably. In this video I go through his list of things that he has “found” in the Bible that would defend the goodness of a Trump presidency, and points out why Johnson has an obvious bias for Trump that makes him twist the Scriptures like crazy. I deeply respect him and his charismatic ministry, but his political views are astonishingly off.
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Trump has won the election, which is nothing less than a disaster for the world. He doesn’t care about climate change and his policies will most likely kill millions of people around the world due to climate inaction. He is anti-immigration and wants to block out people fleeing from poverty and war, which might very well kill many of them too. And his willingness to engage in nuclear war is unprecedented, if his irrational rage makes him go crazy on Twitter, what will he do when he has nuclear launch codes at his disposal?
It’s not a mystery why he’s popular though. The American working class and rural population know that they have been screwed by the urban elite – poor Americans have almost seen nothing of the economic growth of the last decades. Of course, somebody who has benefited from that growth in a very unethical fashion is Trump himself.But people tend to see him as a successful businessman (which he’s not) who can save the American economy (which he won’t) by protectionism and putting America first, making it “great again”.
The fact that his policies are tremendously bad for the rest of the world don’t matter too much to them because it’s America that’s going to be great, not necessarily Mozambique or India. They could say things like climate change being a hoax (“invented by the Chinese” as Trump has claimed) or that Syrian refugees are terrorists. What this shows is not just that they haven’t taken the time to listen to those in the majority world who are already suffering from climate change or those fleeing from war, but also a lack of empathy to these people. (more…)
I often hear that the Biblical views on the sinfulness of wealth, the need for simplicity and the universal calling to economic equality are radical ideas. But they’re actually extremely realistic, in contrast to the mammonistic and neoclassical ideas of the necessity of wealth, growth and inequality. Not only because the Biblical ideas, if put in practice, fights poverty much more effectively, but also because they’re the only ones that can reduce the devastating impacts of the upcoming climate change catastrophe.
The other day I listened to a very interesting lecture by professor Kevin Anderson from Manchester University. He talked about the really dangerous form of climate change denial, which isn’t the goofy ideas that the planet isn’t warming or that its warming but we’re not the primary cause and so on. Those views are rejected by the vast majority of scientists and most ordinary people don’t believe in them either. No, the real problem is when scientists adjust or deny their results in order to communicate that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change without too much reduction in economic growth and without adjusting our economic system. He writes on his website:
In several important respects the modelling community is self-censoring its research to conform to the dominant political and economic paradigm. Moreover, there is a widespread reluctance of many within the climate change community to speak out against unsupported assertions that an evolution of ‘business as usual’ is compatible with the IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets. With specific reference to energy, this analysis concludes that even a slim chance of “keeping below” a 2°C rise, now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy. Such a rapid and deep transition will have profound implications for the framing of contemporary society and is far removed from the rhetoric of green growth that increasingly dominates the climate change agenda.
I’m glad to see that evangelical theologian and leader Wayne Grudem has withdrawn his previous endorsement of Donald Trump due to a realization that he is a perverse sexist. As you might remember, Grudem called Trump a “good man with flaws”, something I and many others were quick to criticize. The recently revealed footage where Trump brags about kissing women without consent and groping them caused Grudem to research Trump’s views on sex, and he came to the not very surprising conclusion that it’s very, very sinful.
What Trump was doing in that video was not just describing how he wants to sexually assault women, but how he has actually done so. Indeed, Jill Harth has testified of how Trump has groped and even tried to rape her. These horrible sins cannot be excused as past misfortunes of a changed man, because the sexist, degrading view of women that makes these actions possible have been manifestly evident in Trump’s presidential campaign. Even after he was proclaimed as a newly born-again “baby Christian” by an evangelical leader, he Tweeted in the middle of the night about a former Miss Universe he didn’t like and told people to check out a “sex tape” she allegedly was in.
In fact, when the groping video was brought up in the latest Presidential debate, Trump’s response was bizarre. Calling his bragging about sexual assault “locker room talk”, he went on claiming that “nobody has more respect for women than I do” which is clearly false and started talking about how ISIS decapitates people and how he wants to stop them, a not-so subtle attempt to switch topic and relativise sexual assault. He’s completely crazy, and we ought to pray for him since his billionaire playboy life has made him unable to act normally or think straight. (more…)
It’s official: Donald Trump has become the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Even though his campaign started as an unserious PR stunt and even though (or perhaps because of) his blatant racism, sexism and authoritarianism, Trump has become very popular. I have encountered several Trump supporters in my social media feeds. And they’re really hard to talk to. I and Sarah illustrate what a conversation with a Trump supporter feels like in this sketch:
It is as if arguments don’t work very well when it comes to Trump supporters, or any supporter of racism and fascism. I have spent a lot of time trying to combat xenophobia here in Europe, and it is just as hard as Americans now find converting Trump supporters to be. Whatever one says, whatever what evidence one presents, it is as if they’ve already decided that racism and bigotry is what will make a country great. And just a few months ago they didn’t think that way, and it’s so hard to see why Trump’s hateful message could be so attractive.
As a charismatic Christian, however, I know that no one is outside God’s miraculous power and that no one is unable to be transformed into a sanctified disciple of Christ. We shouldn’t give up on the Trump supporters. Continue to feed them arguments, and do so with love and compassion as well as a listening ear to what troubles them. And welcome God’s Spirit into your life so that His voice and power can guide you into leading people to repentance and holiness.
Rachel Held Evans nails it when it comes to describing the incompatibility of the Gospel and Donald Trump’s racist message. The greedy white supremacist has tweeted lies describing black people as inherently violent and has said that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”. Many of the Afro-Americans and Mexicans that he attacks with his KKK-rhetoric are Christians, mind you. Yet suddenly he gets to speak at the Christian Liberty University and evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him. Held Evans writes:
You would think it would be a hard sell given the fact that the real estate mogul and reality star has boasted about his extramarital affairs, profited off casinos and strip clubs, said he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness, called for targeting innocent civilians in war, mocked a reporter with a disability, threatened the religious liberty of minority groups in the U.S., and gained wide support among white nationalists for consistently lying about and demeaning blacks, Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and Syrian refugees. But polls show that despite all of this, Trump remains favored among evangelical voters.
Interestingly, only 5% of Republican pastors would vote for Trump, so there’s a gap here between the pew and the pulpit. Noting that, we still have to admit that there is a lot of racism among white evangelicals and so they like Trump not despite his racism but because of it. Held Evans points out that Liberty University did oppose racial integration in the past and fellow MennoNerd Ebony spoke about the evangelical racism in the US a few months ago:
There are many problems with the dualist expressions “conservative” and “progressive”, and this political discourse should be left out of the church altogether.
As you may know I’m part of a vlog series hosted by MennoNerds, and about two weeks ago I responded to a question in our MennoNerds Facebook group on why some Bible-believing Christians support Donald Trump. My answer was that such Christians are similar to pharisees; paying attention to some Bible passages but not those which emphasize love and giving money away.
In the vlog discussion that followed we criticized “conservative Christianity” from various perspectives: its openness to racism and sexism, its stubbornness and judgmental attitude – all which are valid to a large extent. However, Darnell Barkman pointed out the risk of “othering” conservative Christians. And this got me thinking about why we use this political discourse – conservative, progressive, liberal etc. – when it comes to us Christians. So in my new vlog I argue that Christians should neither be conservative nor progressive:
Jesus came in contact with several people who weren’t orthodox Jews, but rather were heretics or idolaters. We have the Samaritans, who had mixed Judaism with pagan influences, and who were forbidden to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. The Romans were colonialist immigrants from other parts of the empire, and even if some had become proselytes (like Cornelius, Acts 10), most of them worshiped the Roman idols of Jupiter, Mars and others. There were also adherents of other religions in the areas of Decapolis, where Jesus did some miracles (Mark 5).
How did Jesus relate to these idolatrous Gentiles? Well, He simply took control over a state, became President and deported them. Wait, He didn’t? Then at least He commanded His disciples to take control over a country and deport all the idolaters? Huh, He didn’t do that either?!
Not that those ideas didn’t float around in Jesus’ time. The Zealot movement and other radical Jewish groups wanted to fight against the Romans and drive those stupid colonialists back to Europe (which they also tried in 70 and 135 AD, and failed miserably). Many believed that this was what the Messiah was supposed to do. Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (Jn 4:9), and vice versa, and when some Samaritans heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, they forbade Him to enter their village. Enraged, John and James suggested that Jesus should order a heavenly genocide from above, burning those heretics alive (Lk 9:51-54).
But Jesus rebuked them. He didn’t come to barbeque idolaters but to save them. He loved Samaritans, shared the Gospel with them and used a Samaritan as the good example in His famous parable about loving everyone indiscriminately (Jn 4, Lk 10). He told His Jewish disciples to love the Romans, pray for them, and walk the extra mile with them (Lk 6). Do to them as you would have them do to you (Mt 7:12). He didn’t fight to kick the Romans out of Israel. Instead, He was crucified by them, dying for their sins. On the cross, He shouted: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!” (Lk 23:34). (more…)
The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow
to kill the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.
Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. (ps 37:14-16)
Europe has a lot of experience in killing dark-skinned people, and this has by no means ceased. The Mediterranean Sea is a giant graveyard, where 2000 people have been killed just this year, and 25,000 the last 20 years. These are refugees, fleeing from war-torn countries like Syria or impoverished economies like Libya. Italy has had a rescue mission called Mare Nostrum which has saved countless lives that otherwise would have perished, but it has now ended. Instead, the European Union’s border police Frontex will start a mission called Triton, but it will have a much smaller budget than Mare Nostrum and not be allowed to go as far as the Italian operation could.
Just as Italy halted the Mare Nostrum mission, the British government decided to stop its funding of rescue missions in Mediterranean. They will only provide one “debriefer” to Triton. The reason is that they think that the rescue operation is a “pull factor” that gives more refugees incentives to come to Europe.
The Guardian rightly calls this “an outrageous and immoral act. It suggests a government so alarmed by Ukip that it has lost all sense of proportion. The Italian-funded Mare Nostrum exercise, mobilised after 300 refugees drowned off Lampedusa a year ago, has saved thousands of lives.”
Our news media is right now filled with reports and speculations concerning what the army calls “foreign underwater activity” in the Stockholm archipelago. Foreign media like the Guardian and ABC News have also reported on the story, making comparisions with how the Swedish navy were constantly looking for Soviet submarines during the Cold War (and, from time to time, found some). The Swedish military has not conformed that the underwater activity is either a submarine or Russian, but this is what most analysts seem to believe, and several military experts fear that Russia is either spying on Sweden’s defense capacity, or even preparing for war.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Mt 24:6)
Just two months ago, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace. While we do have sent troops to Afghanistan and other places under UN flag, and while we are one of the world’s primary weapon exporters, there has not been a war on Swedish soil for two centuries (it should also be mentioned that Sweden sold iron to Hitler during World War Two to avoid Germany to hit us).
The last couple of days I have been busy, partly with a big evangelistic event and partly with following the Swedish elections. The result was dramatic: the xenophobic and racist Sweden Democrats party doubled their support and became our third biggest party, and since neither the progressive nor the conservative coalitions have majority because of the Sweden Democrats, our new prime minister Stefan Löfven has a lot of headaches in trying to figure out how to govern without relying on the racists.
Sweden is obviously not immune to the sad trend that has characterised European politics the last 20 years: xenophobic, racist and fascist parties are entering European parliaments and gain a lot of influence. There is basically no European parliament left without a party that wants to cut immigration drastically and that point out minorities like Muslims, Roma or Jews as a national problem. Some parties, like Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary, are clearly neo-Nazi and uses the same rhetoric that Hitler used 80 years ago against ethnic, religious and social minorities.
Naturally, many Europeans are worried that history will repeat itself, and countless theories and ideas concerning how we will stop the rise of racism and fascism have been discussed. They often contradict each other: some say we should ignore them, others that we should debate against them; some say we should be more generous towards immigrants, others that we should kick out more immigrants. What way is the correct one? How should we as Christians respond?
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul talks about waging spiritual warfare against arguments and theoretical strongholds that are hostile towards Christ: “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-5)