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Trump or Jesus: We Do Have to Choose

Originally posted at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice.

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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…)

Jesus Isn’t Post-Truth

Originally posted on Jesus Army’s website.

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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”.

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Bill Johnson’s Support for Trump Doesn’t Make Any Sense

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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Why Won’t Most Americans Care About The Rest of the World?

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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…)

Christian Trump Supporters are Increasingly Selling Their Souls

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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…)

Why You Shouldn’t Vote for Trump Even if You Agree With Him

So there are a lot of Americans who have started to support Trump the last couple of months, not because they are so enthusiastic for him as such but because he is the only alternative to Hillary Clinton. Stephen Colbert went to the Republican National Convention and asked people how many of them have supported Trump from the beginning and they were very few – lots of Republicans wanted to see another candidate. Evangelical leader Wayne Grudem has made an effort to portray a vote for Trump as a “morally good” choice, describing the billionaire’s scandalous rhetoric and lies as “flaws” that’ll hopefully go away, but it’s painfully obvious that he would have preferred to have another Republican candidate.

Then there are of course the enthusiastic Trump supporters who sincerely agree with him. They can’t find the racism in falsely claiming that African Americans commit almost all violent crime or in treating Muslims as Nazi Germany treated Jews in the 1930’s, because that’s their actual opinion. They’ll constantly point out the misbehaviour and errant views of Clinton, and for them her lies and changed opinions are way worse than Trump’s lies and changed opinions.

But here’s why even they shouldn’t vote for Trump. Here’s why a person who agrees with every word the Donald utters still shouldn’t try to elect him to the White House. He’s totally unpredictable. You have no idea that what he says corresponds in any way to what he wants to or will do as President. (more…)

Converting a Trump Supporter

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.

Azusa Now: Massive Miracles and Radical Reconciliation

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On Saturday, over 100,000 people will gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the 110’th anniversary of the Azusa Street revival and passionately pray for a new revival to break lose. The event is called Azusa Now and is arranged by TheCall. Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson and Daniel Kolenda will speak at the event, so expect it to be huge! It will be streamed online for those who can’t attend.

Jennifer Miskov has been laying the ground for the event by authoring a book called Ignite Azusa: Positioning for a New Jesus Revolution. Being a Vineyarder from John Wimber’s own church in Anaheim, she has a heart to combine charismatic fire with worship and compassion. She knows Heidi Baker and Bill Johnson well and she has founded an amazing charismatic intentional community called Destiny House in Redding.

Last weekend I got the opportunity to interview Dr. Miskov for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice. Here’s an excerpt:

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Why the Prosperity Preaching at Bethel Church is a Huge Problem

Kris Vallotton at Bethel Church recently held a sermon called “Poverty, Riches and Wealth” which is nothing less than pure, economic prosperity preaching. His conclusions are basically that all Christians with some few exceptions should be rich and that wealth isn’t a problem as long as it multiplies and grows exponentially. In this video I respond to his arguments and show why they don’t work:

As you may know, I’ve argued that Christians should not be rich in my God vs Wealth series and I recently did a Holy Hangout on prosperity theology with some friends where I criticized the “health and wealth gospel” for being unbiblical and hurtful.

Now, some people have told me that Vallotton’s position actually is “balanced” and even close to my own, that he’s not that off after all. I strongly disagree. I was surprised to hear how radical his prosperity thinking was and how deliberately he ignored or distorted relevant Bible passages.

Vallotton starts off in 1 Tim 6, arguing that love of money isn’t the root to all evil but a root to some evil (the text actually says a root to all evil). He does not mention verses 5-9 at all, probably because they crush all forms of economic prosperity theology. Verse 5 talk about “people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (more…)

Holy Hangout: Prosperity Theology

Does a strong faith in God lead to a prosperous life filled with health and wealth? Since the 1950’s, several Pentecostal and charismatic preachers have been arguing that followers of Jesus should be rich and successful. Oftentimes, they have put their teachings into practice by possessing expensive jet planes and huge mansions.

In this Holy Hangout I talk with design student and Vineyarder Friederike Berghauer from Germany and former Vineyard pastor and blogger Joshua Hopping from the United States. We discuss what prosperity really is, the historical roots to why “Health and Wealth” teaching originated, why it’s popular in Latin America and Africa, Biblical texts that challenge traditional prosperity teaching and the role of contentment and suffering in a Christian’s life.

If you have a suggestion on a topic for a future Hangout and/or want to join, just contact me!

Would Republicans Vote for Satan if he Ran for President?

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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:

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Jets vs Jesus

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A Cessna 550b, one of Copeland’s jets according to the Christian Post.

So it’s no secret that several American prosperity preachers are ridiculously rich. When I’m out speaking about the importance of combining signs and wonders with simplicity and community of goods, my favourite bad example is charismatic Word of Faith leader Kenneth Copeland, who owns a mansion worth six million dollars, two private jets and his own airport, the Kenneth Copeland Airport, where he keeps his jets close to his million-dollar mansion. Most of his money is from ordinary people, who donate thinking that they’re doing something good for God’s Kingdom and that God will bless them with riches as well.

In a recent video, Copeland and Jesse Duplantis give some horrible reasons for why they “need” their luxurious jet planes: they need to stand up and pray, avoid people who want them to pray for them and who are filled with demons, sleep on the plane and travel long distances across America basically every single day. Now, you can stand up and pray on a commercial airline, or sit doing it; ministering to people is obviously a good thing and if you tired just tell them; and rather than spending millions of dollars on these pieces of luxury, I think it would be healthy for these men to travel less and sleep in normal beds more often.

Not only are private jets incredibly expensive when you buy them, but as J. Lee Grady has pointed out, maintenance costs about four million dollars per year, and a flight costs about 100 times more compared to using a normal plane. Flying is very harmful to the environment, and that harm increases enormously when using a private jet instead of a plane that many people fit into; just like buses are better for God’s creation than cars.

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How Can We Worship One Refugee and Despise Another?

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José y Maria. Amazing image by Everett Patterson

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there’s been a lot of hostility towards refugees in the minority (so called “Western”) world lately. In Europe, country after country are closing their borders and argue that they don’t have capacity and resources to welcome refugees, even though the EU is the world’s richest political entity and development countries receive 86 % of the world’s refugees. In Australia the government is pushing back boats of refugees and put refugees in horrible detention camps, and in the United States there’s a guy called Trump who wants to ban Muslims from entering the country and build a wall against Mexico.

The two latter examples are extremely confusing since the white population there are obviously descendants of immigrants themselves… I read in Bob Ekblad’s book A New Christian Manifesto recently about some Scandinavian Americans who were protesting against native Americans’ claims of land, and the Scandinavians’ argument were that they had owned that land for such a long time.

The Bible says: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Lev 19:34). The Israelites had then been in Egypt for 400 years. Most American and Australian families have lived in their colonies for less than that, which means that they surely are immigrants from God’s perspective, and this Bible passage is naturally very relevant to them. They have no moral grounds for deporting immigrants when they are rich and themselves have benefited from migration. (more…)

How Do American Christians Deal with Martyrdom?

Another horrible school shooting has occurred in the US, this time in the Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and according to some reports the shooter targeted Christians or was at least interested in whether his victims were Christian or not. the Washinton Post writes:

In one classroom, he appeared to single out Christian students for killing, according to witness Anastasia Boylan.

“He said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,’” Boylan’s father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying his daughter’s account while she underwent surgery to treat a gunshot to her spine.

“And then he shot and killed them.”

Another account came from Autumn Vicari, who described to NBC Newswhat her brother J.J. witnessed in the room where the shootings occurred. According to NBC: “Vicari said at one point the shooter told people to stand up before asking whether they were Christian or not. Vicari’s brother told her that anyone who responded ‘yes’ was shot in the head. If they said ‘other’ or didn’t answer, they were shot elsewhere in the body, usually the leg.”

Some Christians have argued that this shows that they are clearly persecuted in the US, which I would say is a big exaggeration when comparing with our brothers and sisters in Iraq, China and North Korea that are persecuted for real. But not only that, in an American fashion many Christians have argued that this shows that more guns are needed! More Christians need to arm themselves to be able to kill new shooters that inevitably will pop up on American soil. (more…)

Why Wealth is Wrong: The Bill Gates Argument

Bill Gates. Photo: UK Department for International Development, creative commons

Bill Gates. Photo: UK Department for International Development, creative commons

When (rich) Christians defend mammonism, the idea that Christians may or should be rich, they often include arguments that aren’t necessarily based on Bible study – such as the arguments I discuss in my God vs Wealth series – but rather in philosophy or economics. These are the sorts of arguments I tackle in my Why Wealth is Wrong series. You can also read my discussions on the economic argument and the mathematical argument.

The Bill Gates argument for why it’s OK to be rich is a variant of the mathematical argument that involves billionaires. Look at Bill Gates, the mammonist says, he’s so generous! He has his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that does so much good for the world’s poor. This is because Gates is the richest man in the world, with his net worth of 75 billion US dollars. His abundant wealth allows him to be abundantly generous, and thus he as a rich man should not be condemned but celebrated both for his skills in computer invention and business, and his philanthropy.

The problem with the argument is that it tries to eat the cake and give it away at the same time: wealth is good, because you can give it away. This is the same error as the mathematical argument makes. Saying that wealth is good because billionaires can give lots of money to the poor, is like saying that it’s good to be fat because then you can lose a lot of weight. It’s trying to rationalize a phenomena by arguing that you can get away from it. (more…)