Would We Vote For Jesus?

Would We Vote For Jesus?

In times of presidential elections, the question that is usually asked is “Who would Jesus vote for?”

However, if that’s the main question we ask, then we’ll most likely just end up making Jesus look like a Republican or a Democrat. He will just fit neatly into our American two-party system.

Seeing as Jesus is King, I don’t imagine he’s terribly interested in voting or joining any existing political party.

Perhaps the better question to ask is this: if Jesus was running for President, would we vote for him? Continue reading “Would We Vote For Jesus?”

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The (Im)Possibility of “Christian Conservatism”

The terms “Christian” and “conservative” have almost become synonymous to most people, especially in America. It’s hard for most people to picture Christianity in our context without having a certain, “conservative” image in their head—and vice versa. Not only are many Christians considered conservative, but most conservatives are in fact Christians.

This is taken to be the norm for Christianity. But what if, in fact, the idea of “Christian Conservatism” is antithetical to the very nature of Christianity?

First of all, let us define “conservatism”. To be “conservative” is, as the word suggests, to want to conserve something—for something to remain as it has been. Usually, this has to do with a number of things: politics, morality, method, ideology, etc. Thus, you have people who choose to be conservative, as opposed to being progressive—those who want to “progress” forward, rather than retain something that has been.

So, why is this harmful for Christianity? I’ll give three main ways: Continue reading “The (Im)Possibility of “Christian Conservatism””

5 Things I Love About Pentecostalism

I have a weird relationship with Pentecostalism.

I was raised in a church that was basically Pentecostal, in that it broke off from a church which was Pentecostal, though never officially entering a Pentecostal denomination. Then, I moved to the Pentecostal church that it broke off from and spent my formative years as a teen until recently there, now attending another Pentecostal church. Though I never denounced Pentecostalism, I navigated through numerous branches of theology and traditions. However, I ended up back in Pentecostalism, both through some awesome Pentecostal people who taught me the truly incredible nature of Pentecostalism, and through a number of other non-Pentecostal people (including Anglicans, Anabaptists, Eastern Orthodox, and more).

However, I am extremely proud to claim Pentecostalism. Most people, when they think of Pentecostalism, only think about speaking in tongues, corrupt money-hungry televangelists, and a number of other things. In the words of Pentecostal preacher, Jonathan Martin, “Pentecostals are not fundamentalists who speak in tongues.” Pentecostalism has a rich beginning, legacy, and worldview. Some Pentecostals may have deviated from its beauty, but it is inherent within the movement.

I’m not saying Pentecostalism is the only way to go or that it’s better than anything else. There are just some beautiful things about it. As Pentecostals could definitely stand to listen to the voice of the larger Church throughout the centuries, there are definitely elements which Pentecostalism is speaking that the larger Church should listen to as well. So, here are some of the things I love about my Pentecostal heritage. Continue reading “5 Things I Love About Pentecostalism”

The Head and the Heart—Integrating Affections and Reason

“I can’t stand that girl…”
“Why?”
“She trusts her feelings too much; it’s like she never actually thinks things through.”

Have you ever heard a conversation like this?
I have.
Conversations where people bash feelings and exalt thinking.

Well, I have personally come to think that feelings aren’t the bad guy. However, thinking doesn’t have to be villainized to arrive to that conclusion either. The head and the heart aren’t enemies—they’re friends.

People always seem to present this false dichotomy. It’s either thinking or feeling, reason or affections, logic or passion. Even one of my favorite personality indicators, Myers-Briggs, splits people into two groups. There’s the people that make decisions based off of cold hard data (thinking) and then the people who decide what to do based on how they feel that they themselves and others may respond to the decision (feeling). It seems that human beings seem to be hardwired to be this way. Like the example at the beginning, there’s people like the girl who “trusts her feelings” and people like the one who believes people should “think things through.”

But, what if it’s not either/or, but both/and?

I think that thinking and feeling are a lot more interconnected than we may believe. Continue reading “The Head and the Heart—Integrating Affections and Reason”

In Favor of Women in Ministry

Of course, there’s a continuing debate on whether women should be preachers, pastors, evangelists, etc. Is this just a role that’s set aside for men? Or is it a role that is gender inclusive? I used to be a part of the camp that thought this kind of role should only be for men. After all, Paul said for women to keep quiet and not to have authority over a man! Also, the requirements for a deacon and elder are in the masculine, not the feminine! That’s surely enough, right? Actually, it’s not. While I’m not going to get into those arguments, I think it’s clear that Jesus supports women preachers, teachers, evangelists, and the whole nine yards.

It’s interesting that whenever Jesus rose from the dead, the first person to witness it was a woman. Mary Magdalene was the one to whom the news of Jesus’ glorious rising from the dead was first entrusted. She ran to tell the rest. This is also pretty good evidence that the gospels weren’t fabricated. You see, people generally saw women as inferior. Who in the Jewish first century would fabricate something that had a woman being the first one to experience an important event?  Especially if the author wanted people to believe it was true! However, it is true and a woman was the first to witness it. This isn’t by accident either. It was to challenge the misogynistic atmosphere in the Jewish culture during Jesus’ time and shoot it to the ground. If a preacher’s job is to announce the gospel, the news that Jesus has died, was buried, and then rose for our sins, isn’t this is exactly what Mary Magdalene did? And she was the first person to do so! If that doesn’t rest the case for you, here’s a little more fun facts.

In Acts, the record of the early Church, there were women involved with all of the crazy things that were occurring. Acts 8:3 and 9:2 record both men and women being persecuted for being a part of “the Way”. They were also baptized and considered full members of the kingdom of God. Acts 8:12 records, “But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Whatever the Church was experiencing, whether growth, persecution, etc., there were always women along every step of the way, spreading the gospel and sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

Phoebe, a woman mentioned in Romans 16:1-2, was considered a “deacon” or a minister at the church in Cenchreae. Paul spoke highly of her and she is actually the one who he commissioned to deliver the letter to Romans, arguably Paul’s greatest letter. Usually, the person who delivered the letters would be the first ones to read the letters aloud to the church and then answer any questions that they may have concerning it. So, in reality, Phoebe was probably the first person to not only read Romans aloud, but the first one to expound on and preach  that great letter from the apostle Paul. Women were definitely essential in the early Church as preachers of the gospel.

In fact, later on in that chapter of Romans, another woman is mentioned. Her name is Junia and Paul says in verse 7 that she and Andronicus were “prominent among the apostles”. This doesn’t simply mean that the apostles knew a lot about them, but that they themselves were apostles. So, Paul considers Junia, a woman, to be an apostle of the Lord, and a prominent one at that. For a woman to be a leader in a “Jewish sect”, as some thought of it, was unheard of to a lot of the people around that time. However, following in Jesus’ footsteps, the early Church did an incredible job of breaking down the misogyny that had infiltrated the culture of that day. Junia would have been preaching and teaching a lot if she was considered an apostle.

To me, that makes it clear that women definitely had the authority in the early Church to preach and teach the gospel. Even the things that seem to contradict this position has to be interpreted in light of these things. If it was the case in the early Church, why do we marginalize women today? Why do we withhold from them the office of preacher, pastor, evangelist, etc.? That’s not something the Church did back then. And it certainly wasn’t something that Jesus did. If we want to mirror Jesus, then I believe we should allow the full inclusion of women into the ministry of the Church.

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This is an excerpt from my book, “Church Kid: Restoring Your Faith After Being Raised in Church,” now available for purchase here.

Hate Your Enemies and Bomb Those Who Persecute You

As Jesus sat on the hillside, he told his Jewish listeners, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven… except for Rome. Since they are oppressing Israel, our native nation, we have every justification to declare and support a bloody, violent revolution against them!”

Obviously, the bit after the ellipses is a fabrication and not found in the Sermon on the Mount. However, how many modern Christians would read this addendum into the text? This question is all the more relevant considering the recent events involving Syria. What are Christians to think in times like these? Think about it: how ironic is it to be a faith that emphasizes God’s love for the all the nations of the world and yet be citizens of a country that is possibly about to bomb one of those nations? What are we to think about this, being both American and Christian?

Ultimately, we know that Paul teaches us in Philippians that our citizenship is not of this world, but from heaven. Our allegiance for the gospel overrides our allegiance to any country. What does that mean though? The Philippians knew exactly what that meant. They were a colony who had full citizenship of Rome, even though they were not located there. However, Rome came and brought their culture into a foreign land. Philippi was Roman in every way, except for location. The point, I believe, is that Paul wants us to live in this world, but change the very culture of it, to “colonize” it, and influence it with the character, lifestyle, and ethics of Jesus Christ himself. To be in the world, but not of the world or drawing from its influence.

Thus, no matter what the opinion our country holds about what to do in situation like the one the U.S. is facing with Syria, our opinions and personal convictions should be those which reflect the character, lifestyle, and ethics of Jesus Christ. So, what does that look like? The mission of Jesus makes it very clear how he feels about his enemies. The passage at the opening says a ton. We are not to hate our enemy! We are to love them and pray for them. Is it possible to love your enemy when you drop a bomb on them? Even if you don’t personally do it, is it truly loving to support such an action?

Jesus models so clearly how we should treat our enemies. He is emphatic that violence is not the answer. Most people would agree that peace is the goal. However, how can peace be the goal if peace is not the means? Paul warns us not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. Jesus agreed with Paul that his kingdom is not of this world, that it is not influenced or derived from it. He says to Pilate in John 18:36, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” There, Jesus makes an important distinction! If his kingdom were of this world, if it acted as the other nations did, then his disciples would be fighting. However, they are not of this world. And so they aren’t fighting.

How does Jesus deal with his enemies then? Instead of violently and coercively overthrowing them, he nonviolently and lovingly lays down his life for them at their own hands. As the Roman soldiers are shaming him and torturing him on the cross, he cries out “Father, forgive them!” The kingdoms of the world sacrifice others for the benefit of themselves. But the people of the kingdom of God sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.

So, remember, our citizenship is in heaven. Our primary allegiance is not to Caesar, to any government, but to Jesus. We are to reflect God’s character to the world, through his kingdom. This includes loving our enemies and sacrificing for them, even if this means going against our native country. We are not of this world.

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This is an excerpt from my book, “Church Kid: Restoring Your Faith After Being Raised in Church,” now available for purchase here.

Why We Must Be “Anti-Racism”, Not Simply “Non-Prejudice”

“Anti-racism” or “non-prejudice”? Do the two really mean something different? Or is it just a matter of semantics that don’t really amount to much? And if they do mean something different, then why is important to be “anti-racism”, rather than simply “non-prejudice”? These are a lot of question that really do need to be answered. Contrary to popular thought, racism still exists in the world today, not least here in America. Part of the problem is that we have settled for being “non-prejudice”, but have not gone to the lengths to be “anti-racism”.

First of all, what is racism and prejudice? It’s a big question, but I’ll try to explain it as briefly as possible. First of all, let me explain that there are different ways that people are talking about these issues. What I call “racism”, some people refer to as “institutional or systemic racism”. What I call “prejudice”, some people simply refer to as “personal racism”. Either way, there’s a something to distinguish here and we need to utilize effective ways to communicate the distinction. I choose to use the terms “racism” and “prejudice”, but if others use different terms, that’s okay. As long as they’re hitting the same issues, I could care less what terms they use. However, let me continue.

“Racism” is the institutional oppression of a certain group of people based on their skin color, ethnicity, or race. It’s important to define it this way, as being systemic, rather than a personal matter. Such a thing exists and is called “prejudice”, which a big problem, but something distinct. Racism occurs at a macro level, where prejudice occurs on an interpersonal level. For example,  American slavery was a racist institution. Why? Because it was a system that revolved around the oppression of black people based on nothing more than the fact that their skin was black.

Even after slaves were freed through the Emancipation Proclamation, there still existed a huge chunk systemic racism against black people. They were paid less than white people (if paid at all), forced to be separated (segregation and Jim Crow laws), and a number of other injustices. The same kind of racism existed against Indians, Asians, and basically anyone who was a non-white person in society. White people held the power and wielded that power so that it worked to their advantage and to the disadvantage of non-white people.

Here’s an example distinguishing the two, racism and prejudice. Let’s say that a black person came up to me, called me a “whitey” and acted very rude and hateful toward me simply because I’m white. That’s prejudice and that’s wrong, but it is not racist. Why? Because, historically, black people have not systematically oppressed white people. Now, let’s say that I, as a white person, called a black person the “N word” and were hateful toward him or her just because they were black. Now, not only this prejudice, but it is also racist. Why? Because in my acting hateful toward this black person, not only am I being prejudice, but I am unlocking an entire history of white people oppressing black people as a result of my action. And the “N word” especially was used by white people as a sign of that oppression. This is why being ignorant of history or simply being “color blind” is so misguided. We have to keep those things in mind, because if not, we’ll perpetuating this racist ideology that we need to get rid of.

Of course, there has been progress since the time of slavery and such, but to an big extent, there still exist a lot of systemic racism in America today. The problem is, a lot of white people (who are still more privileged, and also of whom I am a part) don’t fight against it. Why? Because it doesn’t affect us. That doesn’t mean that white people don’t struggle or that they aren’t subject to injustices. They are. My great-grandparents were extremely poor and struggled to supply for their kids. So white people can struggle and experience injustice, but it isn’t because of their color. It may be because of a vast number of reason, which may be partly their own fault or the result of another unjust institution or system outside of racism.

The point is that racism does not affect us as white people. Right here, it’s also important to remember the distinction between racism and prejudice. To say that white people cannot be victims of racism is not to say that they cannot be victims of prejudice. That certainly is not the case. A person could hate a white person simply because they are white. Is this right? No. Is it prejudice? Yes. But is it racist? Absolutely not. Because, again, racism is systemic and institutional. And the overriding ideology in American culture at large is that white people are more privileged than people of color.

So what must we do about this? At this point, most people would say, “Well, I’m not racist. I love people of color. I have friends who are black, Mexican, Asian, etc. Therefore, I’m not part of the problem. Nothing needs to be done.” And this is why it’s so important to not settle for being “non-prejudice”. We all need to be “anti-racism”. Why? Because something does have to be done. Racism still exists whether you’re prejudice or not. The fact that a white person isn’t affected by racism doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem. There is a problem.

There’s a problem when 45% of black youth live below the poverty line, compared to 16% of white youth. There’s a problem when the number of unemployed among black adults is twice as much as white adults. Something needs to be done when black professors make up less than 5% of colleges across the nations, along with less than 5% of teachers of grades K-12 being black as well. Not to mention that 85% of that group of black professors and teachers are working in urban areas. Something needs to be done when there are more black men in jail than in college. [1]

And I know that some reading this will be inclined to think, “Well that proves that black people are inferior, at least in some capacities. Just look at the stats!” And maybe you wouldn’t be quite that bold to say that, but it was something that was going through your mind as you read it. And that mindset only further proves the racist mentality that fills the systems throughout America. While I used black people as an example, in a very real way, all people of color are the victims in the situation. The stats aren’t proof that they are in anyway inferior, but they prove just how racist America is in so many of its institutions.

A lot of times, we (as white people) can claim that racism isn’t a problem. Why? Well because we don’t experience it. It’s like a man who grew up in a cave his whole life. He could deny the sun exists, and to him, that really would be the case. But that doesn’t mean that outside of his own cave that the sun isn’t shining anymore. It is. In the same way, just because white people may have grown up in a “cave” free from the effects of racism, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t alive and well outside of their own experience. Recent examples show this. Look at Trayvon Martin, a young black man killed and profiled just because he was black. Or Jonathan Ferrell, a black football player who was shot and killed, despite being unarmed and innocent. How do we respond to these incidents that clearly indicate racism?

We have to do something. What exactly can we do? We can stand up to these racist institutions and, as Gandhi said, be the change we wish to see in the world. It all starts with the individual. After all, an institution is only made up of a bunch of individuals. So then, why is it important to be “anti-racism”, and not just “non-prejudice”? Isn’t being non-prejudice part of being anti-racism? In a way, yes. But, usually, being non-prejudice simply means casting off all responsibility to actually make a change. Being anti-racism pushes people to recognize their privileges in society and, if they have them, to use them in a way that does not simply perpetuate the existing racist ideology, but dismantles the very foundation of it. It educates people and helps them to understand the vital and particular role they play in the fight against racism.

If history is not properly understood, it is bound to repeat itself. That’s an idea that most people agree with. The same applies to racism. If we aren’t actively fighting against racism, then we are simply perpetuating the existing idea, which is a system of white superiority, even if it is implicit and subtle. If we’re not swimming against the stream, then we’re going to be carried away with it. Especially if you are a white person reading this, as privileged people of the society, we have to actively stand up against racism. We have to use our privilege, not to further the already racist mood of America, but to radically reform it until a true and genuine state of equality is reached. The fight starts with us.

[1]:  Statistics

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This is an excerpt from my book, “Church Kid: Restoring Your Faith After Being Raised in Church,” now available for purchase here.