Tag Archives: Charismatics

Donald Trump as faith healer and televangelist

I should, and I will, skip an attempt at the underlying meaning behind 33 percent of South Carolina evangelicals voting for Donald Trump.

Instead, I’ll repeat part of Sarah Posner’s plausible analysis on the Washington Post‘s Acts of Faith blog.

“Trump is arguably the candidate most resembling a televangelist.

“For many evangelicals, Pentecostals and charismatic Christians, magical thinking has found its expression through the prosperity gospel, much to the consternation of Christians who consider it a heresy and a fraud. A uniquely American contribution to the evolution of Christianity in the modern age, the prosperity gospel teaches that God wants believers to be rich.

“It’s also called the health and wealth gospel: Its adherents believe that God blesses the faithful with great wealth, keeps their health robust and cures the faithful of every malady. Successful televangelists boast of revelations received directly from God and of their ability to produce miracles….

“Despite countless exposés of prosperity televangelists’ excesses — including Creflo Dollar’s pleas for his followers to fund his $60 million Gulfstream airplane, Benny Hinn’s phony faith healings, and Kenneth Copeland’s luxurious homes, cars and planes — televangelism still thrives in America. It is, according to the scholar Kate Bowler, who wrote a book about it, ‘one of the most popular forms of American Christianity.’ It has permeated evangelical culture, through television, megachurches, conferences and books that are found not just in Christian bookstores but also at the checkout line at supermarkets and in airports…..

“Copeland’s television program is called ‘The Believer’s Voice of Victory.’ Winning. Copeland was one of a roomful of televangelists who laid hands on Trump last year, thanking God ‘for a bold man, a strong man and an obedient man’….

“Trump draws his most significant support from voters who make less than $50,000 a year. He has led them to believe that only a rich, successful entertainer can make America great again. Like a televangelist, Trump’s success is seen as evidence of his prowess, but even more important, of God’s good favor. His supporters seem to believe, too, that he will bring them along for the ride.”

I really like Posner’s idea of affiliation: If I affiliate myself with the prosperity-preaching televangelist, I’ll get close, closer, to the faith I need to succeed. If I affiliate myself with a wealthy businessman, I’ll get close, closer, to the mojo I need to succeed.

And, after reading that, if you ever had any doubt that Kenneth Copeland is a fraud, well, all doubts should now be gone.

I mean, in the context of Posner’s post, Copeland only called Trump “obedient” after receiving a nice donation.

Meanwhile, I’ve been posting a spelling pun on social media today—”Donald Trump: Make America Grate Again”—only to be informed by a former newsroom colleague that an editorial cartoonist got there first. Dang it.

While I Was In The Courtyard With The Witches of ‘Macbeth’

From Act I, Scene III:

First Witch: All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

Second Witch: All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch: All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!

Yesterday, students were practicing that scene in the outdoor courtyard of the humanities building. I was grading papers and taking in the October air.

The scene’s prophecies tantalize Macbeth with the promise of future power. Of course, most of us know how the rest of the play unfolds. Macbeth accepts the prophecies as true, and then he can hardly avoid the temptation to make them quickly become reality. Macbeth ultimately dooms himself with his belief in the prophecies and with his actions to bring about the witches’ forecasts.

While I graded a paper, the undergrads acted out the scene and read the lines.

And I recalled my own reaction to a prophecy I heard when I was 15 years old.

Not from three witches, but from one frog-faced man, an itinerant prophet who received from God new prophecies in King James English. He told me in front of the entire church service, in the YWCA meeting room, I would some day be a leader of young people, like the Old Testament Joshua.

The grown-ups in this room took the frog-faced prophet seriously, even if we didn’t tend to read the King James Version of the Bible. The prophet was given a microphone, and he roved around the front of the meeting room, casually preaching, really just commenting on spiritual living, while he looked at the congregants. He would feel drawn to certain faces, and he would ask them to stand up, and he would tell them what God was saying to them, as God spoke to him in King James English. Then he would continue the casual preaching until he felt drawn to another face.

People in my church believed in the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit. We were defined by that belief. If we worshiped God in the right way, if we believed enough, God would do miraculous things for us. We often sang a song from the Book of Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” We knew human action would lead people astray, but proper faith and fullness of worship would bring God to our sides. God would heal us and bring us wealth and protect us from evil.

After the prophecy, after I had received a prophetic word, I had reassurance. No matter how poorly my life was going, God someday would make me a leader like Joshua. Even if I knew I was misbehaving, well, someday it would be part of the story of how God brought me to my heights.

God had a plan for my life. I had a future. I had a destiny. I saw new opportunities as starting points for rising to my calling as a great leader, but I rarely sought opportunities. I trusted the prophet’s words to be from God.

And so I doomed my future to waiting for God to act.

In the courtyard, I kept grading papers, and the students kept rehearsing, but I knew I had realized something about my life.

What my childhood neo-Pentecostal community forgot

Or, didn’t know:

“God, when he makes the prophet, does not unmake the man. He leaves all his faculties in the natural state, to enable him to judge of his inspirations, whether they be of divine original or no. When he illuminates the mind with supernatural light, he does not extinguish that which is natural.” — John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, “Of Enthusiasm”

Association of Former Pentecostals not to blame

I have posted several times in the forums of the Association of Former Pentecostals, and I have read many posts from other participants.

I had never previously seen the kind of violent rhetoric that published reports allege had originated from Matthew Murray, the young man police say killed two people at a Youth With A Mission center in Colorado, and killed two more people at a community church, before taking his own life after being confronted by a security guard.

What I had read at the association’s Web site, ex-pentecostals.org, were difficult, personal stories written by people who were very upset or troubled by their present or past experiences in Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word-of-Faith churches.

It is true that people posting on the forums have expressed anger and frustration with pastors, prophets, fellow church members, and assorted self-styled ministers. Some posters have mocked public figures.

It is also true the people have expressed anger and frustration with every president in our nation’s history. Most public figures are mocked at some point in their careers.

Legitimate frustrations, properly expressed, have nothing to do with violent, anti-social behavior.

What I find interesting is that many people on the forums shared the experiences I had in the Pentecostal-charismatic movement: controlling ministers and laypersons, emotional abuse, outrageous claims of special knowledge, promises that one can manipulate God into granting material blessings, and — I cannot state this too strongly — a complete incapacity to express the Gospel in a way that Martin Luther, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Cranmer, St. John Chrysostom, or the Apostle Paul would have recognized it.

I say this after spending approximately 23 years in nondenominational charismatic churches; you can read about part of my journey by clicking here.

Furthermore, I’m completely baffled by the way some people have suggested that the Association of Former Pentecostals is an extremist group or an anti-Christian group. Based on my experiences while reading the forums and posting on the site, I would estimate that approximately half of the regular posters have remained Christians, while the other half were driven into atheism, agnosticism, or other religions solely by the craziness and unhealthiness of Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word-of-Faith churches.

The media and irresponsible commentators need to stop all attempts at guilt-by-association — Murray’s postings and actions have nothing to do with the tone that is common to the Association of Former Pentecostals’ forum.

And, perhaps most importantly, the administrators of the association’s Web site state in a long-standing note that that purpose of the forums is to share and to heal — and then to move on in freedom and in peace.

-Colin Foote Burch

Conferences that conjure power, or, man-made ways to make God talk

I found this on the Web site of a prophetic ministry. Can you discern the heretical doctrines and general nuttiness within this promotional note for an upcoming conference?

There seems to be a remarkable new spiritual energy being released in our conferences. Everyone on our staff, as well as many who have been attending our conferences for years, seem to all think that our recent Harvest and Worship & Warfare Conferences were the best we’ve ever had. Overall, I think so too, but there was also a great spiritual momentum that I have honestly not felt anything like in over a decade. Already you can feel the spiritual energy building for our New Year’s Conference in which we seek the Lord for prophetic words for the coming year. In the past, we have received some that were remarkable. These are obviously crucial times, and we are going to need to have increasingly clear and accurate guidance for them. There is also a great spiritual momentum building, and if you are planning to join us for this conference, please register and reserve your rooms at Heritage as soon as possible, as space is limited and we are expecting this conference to fill up quickly.

Problems with the above promo:

1. How frequently did Biblical prophets hold conferences so they could hear from the Lord? And, conversely, how frequently did the Lord decide to talk to prophets at times the prophets had not previously scheduled? The suggestion is that we, or at least the right sages, can make God talk.

2. How does the Lord’s work depend on “spiritual momentum?” Does God need a running start to accomplish certain things? God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. No build-up required. No straining involved.

3. “Already you can feel the spiritual energy building for our New Year’s Conference in which we seek the Lord for prophetic words for the coming year.” First, see #2 above. Second, since when does God operate on the calendar year?

4. “There is also a great spiritual momentum building, and if you are planning to join us for this conference, please register and reserve your rooms…as soon as possible.” The word “and” sticks out here. Being a conjunction, the word “and” tends to connect related ideas. Perhaps, then, one could conclude that the “spiritual momentum” announced in the first part of this compound sentence is intended to encourage the registrations and reservations requested in the second part. Following the above italicized excerpt, a link to the confence Web site notes that registration for the conference is $50 each for adults and children. The price is a gamble on the possiblity that “some” of the prophecy this year will be “remarkable.”

Like so many ministries that claim special supernatural giftings, this ministry depends on its followers accepting the assumption that critical thinking will hinder the work of God. Thus, they open themselves up to nebulous, vapid, un-Biblical beliefs merely because those beliefs are presented with conviction. Yet the mind, like the heart, was created for humans to use.

-Colin Foote Burch