Tag Archives: Pentecostals

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.

Southern Christendom, as it was in the 1980s, is now, and evermore might be

Walker Percy knew how to capture the South, as well as American culture, within his characters and stories. In this passage near the end of his 1987 novel The Thanatos Syndrome, Percy’s narrator observes Southern-fried American Christianity through his wife and his region. I dare say his observations seem fresh today:

Later Ellen experienced a religious conversion. She became disaffected when the Southern and Northern Presbyterians, estranged since the Civil War, reunited after over a hundred years. It was not the reunion she objected to but the liberal theology of the Northern Presbyterians, who, according to her, were more interested in African revolutionaries than the divinity of Christ. She and others pulled out and formed the Independent Northlake Presbyterian Church.

Then she became Episcopalian.

Then suddenly she joined a Pentecostal sect. She tells me straight out that she has had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, that where once she was lost and confused, seduced by Satan and the false pleasures of this world, she has now found true happiness with her Lord and Saviour. She has also been baptized in the Holy Spirit. She speaks in tongues.

I do not know what to make of this. I do not know that she has not found Jesus Christ and been born again. Therefore I accept that she believes she has and may in fact have been. I settle for being back with us and apparently happy and otherwise her old tart, lusty self. She is as lusty a Pentecostal as she was a Southern Presbyterian. She likes as much as ever cooking a hearty breakfast, packing the kids off to school, and making morning love on our Sears Best bed, as we used to.

She loves the Holy Spirit, says little about Jesus.

She is herself a little holy spirit hooked up to a lusty body. In her case spirit has nothing to do with body. Each goes its own way. Even when she was a Presbyterian and I was a Catholic, I remember that she was horrified by the Eucharist: Eating the body of Christ. That’s pagan and barbaric, she said. What she meant and what horrified her was the mixing up of body and spirit, Catholic trafficking in bread, wine, oil, salt, water, body, blood, spit — things. What does the Holy Spirit need with things? Body does body things. Spirit does spirit things.

She’s happy, so I’ll settle for it. But a few things bother me. She attributes her conversion to a TV evangelist to whom she contributed most of her fortune plus a hundred dollar a week to this guy, which we cannot afford, or rather to his Gospel Outreach program for the poor of Latin America. I listened to this reverend once. He’d rather convert a Catholic Hispanic than a Bantu any day in the week.

She has also enrolled Tommy and Margaret in the Feliciana Christian Academy, which teaches that the world is six thousand years old and won’t have Huckleberry Finn or The Catcher in the Rye in the library.

At least it’s better than Belle Ame, and the kids seem happy and healthy.

But I worry about them growing up as Louisiana dumbbells.

I might have held out for the parochial school, which was good, but it folded. The nuns vanished. The few priests are too overworked to bother. Catholics have become a remnant of a remnant. Louisiana, however, is more Christian than ever, not Catholic Christian, but Texas Christian. Even most Cajuns have been converted, first by Texas oil bucks, then by Texas evangelists. The shrimp fleet, mostly born again, that is, for the third time, is no longer blessed and sprinkled by a priest.

Why don’t I like these new Christians better? They’re sober, dependable, industrious, helpful. They praise God frequently, call you brother, and punctuate ordinary conversation with exclamations like Glory! Praise God! Hallelujah! I’ve got nothing against them, but they give me the creeps.

— Walker Percy, from his novel The Thanatos Syndrome (1987)

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”

‘Secular Liturgies and the Prospects for a Post-Secular Age’

(Media-Newswire.com) – FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University will host an informative public lecture on Thursday, November 13th, in the University’s Faculty Lounge. Dr. James K.A. Smith will explore “Secular Liturgies and the Prospects for a Post-Secular Age” at 3 P.M.

Dr. Smith is an associate professor of Philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, a respected author and public lecturer who will be on campus for two days to discuss issues related to the Catholic intellectual tradition and higher education.

Although we live in an age that is routinely described as secular, two phenomena strongly argue against that assertion, Dr. Smith believes: the resurgence of religious concerns in the public forum and the powerful sway of public “liturgies,” or formal rituals that shape our lives together.

A native of Ontario, Dr. Smith is a self-defined “Pentecostal Calvinist,” who walks easily in different traditions. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Emmaus Bible College in Iowa, his Master of Philosophy degree from the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, and his doctorate from Villanova. He is a prolific writer whose next book, Thinking in Tongues: Elements of a Pentecostal Worldview, will come out next year.

Dr. Smith’s address is free and open to the public.

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