In 2018 I released a book on the Bible’s perspective of spiritual gifts and the supernatural world called, The Rush and the Rest. In its opening pages I mentioned that there are already a million books on such topics, so why should I write one too? One of the things I thought might set mine apart was its take on politics. I thought in the midst of these political days that it might be worth sharing the pages of that book below. Please note that while this is a critique of Charismatic Christianity, I write it as a part-Charismatic myself.
There’s another unique reason I’m writing this book that I suppose I should mention and I can already hear the comments of many after reading the heading: “Oh Jamin, don’t get political. There’s no need for politics in the church.” But statements like these miss the entire middle part of our Bibles we call the major and minor prophets. These books are filled with declarations of how nations must change their attitudes spiritually, personally and politically. The Voice of God propels these prophets onward to butt heads with political powers, because the “powers that be”—even the ones anointed for the job—are always off from God’s expectations and need to be reminded of that and given correction.
And that’s why no one liked the prophets. No one truly wanted to hear what God had to say, so these prophetic messengers were often either told to shut up or were killed. After all of these centuries you’d think we get it by now, but many Christians still try to silence modern day prophets who cry out on the same exact themes as the prophets of old.
Any political edge that I have comes from Jesus. My theology and understanding of the Bible is heavily Christocentric (that is, centered on Christ). Don’t hear me wrong: I believe all of the Bible is infallible and equally inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16), but I find it incredibly important to put my main focus on Jesus while reading all of the Scriptures. Soaking myself in the four gospels teaches me to read the whole Bible in the light of God incarnate. When we see Jesus, we’ve seen the Father (Jn 14:8-11) so that’s where I start. To quote Shane Claiborne, “Jesus came to show us what God is like in a way we can touch, and follow. Jesus is the lens through which we look at the Bible and world; everything is fulfilled in Christ.” ( Claiborne, Shane, and Anthony Campolo. Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said? Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2012, p 7.)
That being said, the last few years of my engagement with those in the Charismatic Movement has left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. My world was blown apart when I noticed that Charismatic political support seemed largely in favor of political candidates that promoted ideals that were opposite the teachings of Jesus and the prophets. Jesus did a whole lot more than heal people and display supernatural signs and wonders. He also cared much about the natural things in life. He came “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4:18), spent much of his time with the poor and unlovely, taught us to lay down our weapons (Lk 22:49-51), love our enemies (Mt 5:44) and reach out to people of all ethnicities (Mk 11:17).
So what are we to do when we find that supernaturally-minded Christians at large voted in a way that unashamedly (and even triumphantly) endorsed candidates with the polar opposite concerns of Jesus? I learned much about the Holy Spirit from supernaturally-minded Christians and so it’s hard for me to reconcile this disconnect. To say, “I’m not sure how to vote, but I’ve chosen to vote for this or that candidate,” is one thing, but to do so enthusiastically and accuse everyone who disagrees with you of carrying a “spirit of offense,” is just messed up.
Please understand—I’m not out to get you—but we have to be about the teachings of Jesus, not the teachings of political candidates. Just the other day I watched a Charismatic ministry I enjoy open up the mic for a preacher who had a message “downloaded” into him. At one point the preacher proceeded to go on a long tangent about how he loves his second amendment rights and he even listed all of the guns he had back at his house.
It’s not that this man’s whole message was bad—there were a lot of good words in it for me. But that particular part ran so counter to what the people in my camp of Christianity believe that it becomes complicated and confusing to discern your prophetic words from your fleshly words. The supernaturally-minded church has long been the part of Christ’s body that has proclaimed that the Voice of God is in their teachers, prophets and apostles—and that’s why it’s confusing when they prophetically promote power while Jesus prophetically promoted a cross.
For if “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10), how can your heart approve and defend and celebrate those who bring a counter message? I don’t get it. For when we read the words of the Biblical prophets, we see that there are plenty of political statements we Americans believe that they would give us harsh critique on; for they show us that God abhors injustice. As the famous Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote in his classic book, The Prophets, “To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence: to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world.” (Heschel, Abraham J. The Prophets. 1st ed., New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, p 4.) He goes on to say that,
The prophet is a man who feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden upon his soul, and he is bowed and stunned at man’s fierce greed. Frightful is the agony of man; no human voice can convey its full terror. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet’s words.Heschel, Abraham J. The Prophets. pp5-6
This is the kind of message that is alive at the heart of the prophets, so when modern day Christianity misses this message and votes oppressively towards the poor and hurting, I am more than a little confused to say the least— especially when it comes from those who adamantly claim to hear the Holy Spirit.
I know when we speak about politics, someone will always be offended, but I feel I must state this case on the behalf of a Charismatic minority that does exist and does not wish to fade away unnoticed. Some say Jesus didn’t get involved in politics, but His favorite message was of the Kingdom of Heaven— and kingdoms are always political. Not to mention the fact that the “separation of church and state” is a modern day idea. In ancient times, politics were religion. Jesus’ actions and teachings lived out in His followers fly in the face of politics and politicians throughout the centuries; for the rules and regulations of His kingdom run counter to that of any country’s.
My words here are not saying liberals or conservatives are better, for to quote Richard Rohr, “The gospel itself is neither liberal nor conservative but severely critiques both sides of this false choice.” (Rohr, Richard, and Mike Morrell. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. New Kensington, Whitaker House, 2016, p 100.) But at the same time I have to agree with contemporary Ugandan theologian Emmanuel Katongole who wrote, “Wherever the gospel is preached, we must remember that its good news will make you crazy. Jesus will put you at odds with the economic and political systems of our world. The gospel will force you to act, interrupting the world as it is in ways that make even pious people indignant” (Cited in, Claiborne, Shane, et al. Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids).
I pray you hear the heart of my critique and that you don’t hear it with a “spirit of offense.” I know a vote is just a vote, but it surprisingly speaks more volumes than we thought it could.