Category: Poverty

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Pentecostalism May Have Done More for Africa Than All Aid Organizations Combined

Originally published at the Christian Post.
The vast majority of Pentecostals and Charismatics around the world deeply care about social work and poverty alleviation. Research even indicates that Pentecostalism is the largest movement for social justice that has ever existed.
Pentecostal studies are booming. While it used to be the case that Spirit-filled Christians stayed out of academia and scholars viewed the movement as a bit too much “out there”, this is not the case today.
Pentecostal scholars like Amos Yong and Craig Keener are leading experts in their respective fields and there is a massive academic interest in why Pentecostalism has grown so fast and how it impacts society. The social sciences are no longer ignoring how 600 million Spirit-filled believers shape the world.
Five years ago, Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa was released. This anthology, edited by Dena Freeman at London School of Economics, argued that Pentecostalism possibly has done more for development and poverty alleviation than all international aid organizations combined.
Yes, you read that correctly. Freeman writes:
“Pentecostal churches are often rather more effective change agents than are development NGOs…they are exceptionally effective at bringing about personal transformation and empowerment, they provide the moral legitimacy for a set of behaviour changes that would otherwise clash with local values, and they radically reconstruct families and communities to support these new values and new behaviours. Without these types of social change…it is difficult for economic change and development to take place.”
This thesis is in line with what sociologists Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori discovered a few years earlier. They launched a research project to investigate churches in developing countries that had active social programs to help vulnerable people. When they had explored the terrain, they discovered that 80% of these churches were Pentecostal-charismatic.
They chose to shift their research focus on why this is the case, which led to the book Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement. There, they coined the term “Progressive Pentecostal,” meaning a Spirit-filled believer who is engaged socially with their local community to help others (without necessarily being theologically progressive). Last year, I spoke to Donald Miller on how prevalent this phenomenon is. He replied:
“Progressive Pentecostalism is more prominent in developing countries than it is in the Western world. The emphasis on the prosperity gospel overshadows the emergent phenomenon of Progressive Pentecostalism, although these two emphases are not mutually exclusive. For example, sometimes prosperity gospel preachers give members the courage to dream beyond their current circumstances, and this vision becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, it is important to acknowledge the ways in which Pentecostalism gives dignity to women and people who are poor, telling them that they are made in the image of God and therefore have rights, both personal and political.”
He also stated that the idea that Pentecostals focus more on salvation than social transformation was a false dichotomy. “We encountered many Pentecostal and charismatic congregations that were engaged with their local community, addressing issues related to poverty, drug addiction, mental illness, corruption, etc.”
As politicians and activists eagerly debate how to solve the global poverty crisis, it seems like the Holy Spirit is already doing his fair share of the work.

Syndicated from Holy Spirit Activism

BGWG 14: Farewell

Ebony and Steve return for one more episode of Black Gal, White Guy to say farewell to the show as they move on to focus on other things. Some of the topics include:

Steve’s recommendation: the podcast VS. (1:38)
Ebony’s recommendation: Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown (3:55)
Ebony and the Kinky Curly Theological Collective (8:20)
Steve and Village of Hope leaving Portland (14:45)
Ebony’s concerns (23:55)
Steve giving space for other voices (27:50)
Ebony’s parting words for listeners (31:25)
Steve’s parting words for listeners (35:15)

Note: they did actually record this a while ago and I (Ryan, the editor and distributor) did not realize it until recently – I had stopped regularly checking after they told me they were wrapping up, so I didn’t realize they had recorded one more episode a few weeks later. Oops.

http://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/podcasts.mennonerds.com/BGWG14-Farewell.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

What About the Good Rich People in the Bible?

Guest post by Stephen Waldron. Originally published on his blog at Theology Corner.
In some parts of the Bible, rich people are portrayed as the worst kind of criminals. They grind vulnerable people into dust, and they are the enemies of all that is good and holy. But wait…
Surely you’ve heard there are also good rich people in the Bible. So the problem of wealth must relate to some sort of internal sin, a “problem of the heart.”
It is true that one thing that Jesus points out is that people’s hearts are often in the wrong place. They are. But the point Jesus was making by linking hatred to murder and greed to wealth wasn’t “The tangible expression of wickedness isn’t all that bad after all.”
Rather, his point was that the moral sickness runs much deeper than his listeners might have suspected. The wealthy are not off the hook just yet. Their greed only compounds an already unjust situation.
Another part of the religious defense of wealth stems from the Just World Hypothesis, the psychological desire that people have to think that the world is just and that people generally get what they deserve. That hypothesis is false, but it is also extremely attractive, especially to religious people who believe in an infinitely good and powerful God.
That false hypothesis is popularly linked to the idea that there are rich people in the Bible who, like God (or at least Spider-Man), combine great power with great responsibility. On closer examination, this improvised defense of economic inequality falls apart.
THE INDICTMENT
Before dismantling biblical defenses of the rich, though, let’s remember just how harshly biblical authors condemn accumulated personal wealth. Biblical texts that critique those who hoard wealth are found across time periods and literary genres, and they are not easy reading for millionaires and billionaires.
The Torah, a collection of five books traditionally associated with Moses and sometimes called the “Law,” envisions an Israelite society in which wealth is equally distributed among families and periodically redistributed to prevent inequality from happening. For the ancient Near Eastern context, it is a fairly radical vision of how wealth should be treated.
Land, which was the main form of wealth (along with domesticated animals), was to be held by each family in perpetuity. Any sale of land by one family to another was only a temporary purchase to be undone every 70 years during a Year of Jubilee. (As with most great ideas in the Bible, no one seems have tried this one out.)
That’s one reason why it was so appalling that King Ahab killed his neighbor Naboth to steal his vineyard (his “ancestral inheritance”). It’s also why the Israelite prophets were so angry at those who “join field to field.”
Their stone houses and pleasant vineyards are linked to their theft of wealth from those who have been made poor. There’s little more vivid in the Bible than the descriptions of the idle rich that we find in Amos: their beds of ivory (how many elephants were killed!?), their idle songs on the harp, their bowls of wine, their simultaneous lounging and revelry. The Hamptons are nothing new.
The prophet Micah even uses the metaphor of war to describe what the rich and powerful have done to their neighbors. Those driven from their houses by elites are depicted as war refugees, and even religious officials were complicit in this class warfare. Wealth is connected to violence.
Well, maybe the ancient prophets had some issues with wealth accumulation, but Jesus was a nice guy, right?
For the most part he was, but not really to rich people. It’s kind of embarrassing how rude he was to them. It started with his mother predicting that, with the arrival of Jesus, the rich would be sent away empty-handed.
And they were. In a story that made it into 3 of 4 gospels, Jesus told a rich man that he had to give up his possessions to inherit eternal life, then he delivered his classic “camel through the eye of a needle” line. That guy apparently didn’t inherit eternal life. In contrast, when the rich man Zacchaeus gave his wealth to the poor and repaid those from whom he had stolen, he became a shining example of what “salvation” looks like. Apparently, it looks a lot like economic redistribution.
As if this was not enough, in one of the few stories in the Bible about hell, a rich guy goes there for being rich. We have no idea what his religious beliefs or practices were, just that he was rich, that another man was poor, and that the rich guy went to hell. In this story, it seems that God literally afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
That gives a concrete image to the declaration Jesus made that his followers who were poor would be blessed and those who were rich would be cursed. Jesus also told his followers not to invite rich people to dinner, and he pointed out the foolishness of accumulating wealth for yourself because you’re going to die anyhow.
OK, but surely other New Testament authors weren’t as angry at job creators as the writers of the Gospels seem to have been?
They were. 1 Timothy assures us that “those who want to be rich fall into temptation,” while James borders on making death threats against the wealthy. Not content to merely argue that “God [has] chosen the poor,” James further contends that is it “the rich who oppress you.” The gold and silver of the rich are going to… um… eat their flesh, and, by not paying their landscapers, the rich have “condemned and murdered the righteous one” and “fattened [their] hearts in a day of slaughter.” Well then.
#NOTALLMILLIONAIRES?
There are a few “good” rich people who get trotted out every time the wealthy need a defender, but these cases don’t stand up under a little scrutiny.
ABRAHAM
Let’s go back to the archetypal biblical rich guy, Abraham (aka, Abram). Don’t Romans and Hebrewsclaim that his faith made him righteous before God?
First of all, the whole point of Paul’s argument about Abraham in Romans was that Abraham didn’t do much that was especially righteous, he just demonstrated “faith,” faithful trust in God. As Hebrews points out, Abraham was significant because he believed God and left his hometown to go on a journey, then later tried to kill his own son.
But still, he ended up owning a lot of animals and slaves, so that means God blessed him with wealth, right? Oh… slaves.
Maybe he was at least a good family man, though? Except that Abraham obtained much of his wealth from the Pharaoh by giving away his own wife because he was paranoid. It all makes sense in the context of the story, though.
There’s also the part where Abraham wanted a son and used his wife’s slave to try to make that happen, which was basically just rape but maybe it was ok because she was a “slave-girl?” Then, once Abraham had a son with his own wife, he sent Hagar and her son into the wilderness to die.
Maybe Abraham wasn’t so righteous and was only blessed despite what a terrible person he was, not because he was somehow good.
JOB
Well, then, what about God’s servant Job? He was wealthy before calamity struck, and God made him twice as rich afterward. Surely that’s an example of God blessing a good person with wealth.
First, we have to acknowledge the obvious fact that Job is a completely fictional character. There’s no reason to think that Job existed outside this peculiar book that is supposed give readers wisdom about life, not information about actual events. (Unless you think someone was taking verrry extensive notes on clay tablets as Job scratched his sores with broken pots and complained to his friends in between their grandstanding speeches.)
Furthermore, the point of the book is not about Job’s wealth. Instead, it’s about things like the question of suffering and the frailty of human existence. The fact that Job was wealthy is just part of telling a good story. If he had been at the median wealth level, the story of his downfall and suffering would be far less gripping.
JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
Although the Gospels don’t say much about Joseph of Arimathea, he is mentioned in all four Gospels as the one who asked for the body of Jesus and buried it in a rock tomb. One Gospel, Matthew, describes him as a rich man, while Luke describes him as “good and righteous.” Mark and Luke say that he was waiting for the kingdom of God, while John says that he was secretly a disciple of Jesus because of his fear.
There’s one simple explanation for how this guy could be both rich and good. He was good from the authors’ perspectives because he did something nice for Jesus. He was rich (according to Matthew) in order to fulfill a prophecy in Isaiah 53:9:
They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
If Joseph of Arimathea, who provided a tomb for Jesus, was rich, then Jesus would have been buried “with the rich.” This verse from Isaiah offers a clear and unflattering parallel between the wicked and the rich, though. Being buried “with the rich,” like having a grave “with the wicked,” was an undeserved punishment for someone who had been innocent of being either wicked or rich.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
Politically, there is plenty that can be done about the accumulation of personal wealth, and you can figure some things out on your own, I’m sure.
On a personal level, you probably shouldn’t spit in the face of every rich person you meet, for many reasons. But the Bible says we shouldn’t treat rich people especially well either.
Most importantly, we should not assume that rich people are good. As much as those who already own virtually everything would also like to own God, that is an unacceptable form of idolatry. It involves remaking God as one who wants people to accumulate wealth at the expense of others and is happy when they do so.
Instead, we have to presume from the teachings of Jesus that the accumulation of personal wealth takes people far from the kingdom of God. Much more than people with average wealth and incomes, rich people ought to repent and save themselves from the coming wrath. Like the man who built larger and larger barns to store his growing wealth, their lives will soon be demanded of them. After all, the only person we see in hell in the Bible went there for being rich.
[To read more posts on Apocalypse and Analysis, see the blog home page here.]

Syndicated from Charismactivism

When Someone Far Away Loves You, Too (#Giving Tuesday)

When we first think about poverty in other countries around the world, some of the first images that come to mind tend to be mental images of poverty in warm climates such as Africa or India. However, cold-weather poverty is a unique reality in the world and presents its own set of challenges. While I […]
Syndicated from The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey

Blessed Are the Poor

God can be funny sometimes. In an inconvenient and mildly irritating way.
During a sermon writing break on Saturday, I took the dog for a walk. As I was nearing home—only about a block or two away—I saw a strange thing, at least for small town southern Alberta. A shopping cart full of miscellaneous items—bottles, clothes, a sleeping bag, etc.—covered in tarp sitting in the middle of a snowy sidewalk. As I was passing by, I looked down the lane and saw a man sitting under a blanket against a building. The weather was, well, arctic.
I’m not proud to admit this, but I walked on by. An excellent Levite, I am.
But before I even made it to my back door, the words of Jesus that I had just been writing a sermon on crashed rather inconveniently into my brain. You see, I was preaching on—of all things!—the Beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit… theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I squirmed a little.

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.

I squirmed a little more.
I opened a book that I had been reading by Czech theologian Tomáš Halík about the love of God and read these words:

Jesus fundamentally links love of God with love for one’s neighbor. And in so doing, he “grounds” it, rooting it deeply in the everyday reality of life. Should we be too tempted to be carried away by the romantic sentimentality of “celestial love,” there is always a neighbor just outside our door….

I stopped squirming and decided that I had better get up and do something before Jesus ran out of patience with me. I made a pot of coffee and put it in a travel mug, threw some food in a bag, put my boots and gloves back on and trudged back out into the snow. He was still there. I greeted him and asked if it was ok if I joined him. He smiled and nodded.
I asked him what his name was. “Denis,” he said. His smile was broad and toothy. His beard was impressive and his hair was long and stringy. He was holding a bottle and smelled like cheap booze. I asked him if he was cold. He grinned and said, “not really” in a heavy French accent. He was from Quebec, had bounced around across the prairies to Vancouver and back. He liked the prairies the best, he said. I shivered and wondered how that was possible. I gave Denis the food and coffee and bid him farewell. I had important things to do, after all. I had a sermon to write.
I preached my sermon yesterday. I even worked Denis’ story into it. Not too difficult, obviously. A sermon about the outsiders, the looked down on, the ignored and forgotten and rejected—Denis was almost a living, breathing Beatitude, for crying out loud. At the end of the story in my sermon, I said, “Maybe Denis will cross my path again. I hope so.” Did I really hope so? Or was it the kind of thing that I figured someone in my position ought to hope. Or say, at any rate.
This morning I took my dog for another walk. I walked a block away from house and there was Denis. Of course. I could almost hear God chuckling. Be careful what you say you hope for. I sighed. Didn’t Denis (or God) realize it was my day off?! I thought back to another line from the Halík book. This one came—I’m not joking—immediately after the one that had prodded me out the door a few days prior:

Sometimes the neighbor stands or lies there in a very inconvenient way…

Indeed.
I walked over to where Denis was sitting on the steps of a church. “Hey Denis, how’s it going?” He smiled, “Good! It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I noticed that Denis had gotten an early start on the day’s drinking. “Well, it’s a little cold, no?” I said. “Ah, this is no problem!” Denis looked and smelled pretty drunk. He clearly didn’t remember who I was. I asked him if he was hungry. He looked a little sheepish. “No, I’m ok.” I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. “Well, I guess I could eat.”
I walked back home and threw some food in a bag. A stack of homemade chocolate chip cookies, a couple bananas, a few pepperoni sticks. I looked at the kitchen counter. Over by the toaster sat a loaf of homemade sourdough bread that had been sitting on my office desk after church yesterday (yup, the people in my church are awesome). I threw it in the bag. Denis had, after all, said that he “could eat.” I was pretty confident that the person who had made the bread for me would have approved of its ultimate destination. I rummaged around in the closet; found a pair of winter boots and a winter coat that my teenage son had outgrown in roughly a third of a winter. I threw those in, too.
I drove back to Denis. He was still there, sitting on the church steps, grinning away. “So, I got you some lunch,” I said, “and I found these boots… You want them?” His face lit up. “Oh yeah, man. That would be great. I’m pretty warm, but these shoes… I looked down at his cheap runners and shuddered at how cold Denis’ feet must be in this weather. I offered him the coat but he declined. “I don’t need the coat… I have lots of those.” I looked in his cart and saw an enormous fur coat that looked like it had come straight out of Siberia. Denis was proud of that one. He pointed to a bunch of other ones in his shopping cart. Sometimes he used them to barter with “the natives” for cigarettes, he said. His sly grin broke out into a kind of hacking rasping laugh. Poor Denis probably wouldn’t pass many tests for using politically correct terminology. But he was keeping the Russian fur coat. Obviously.
We sat on the church steps and talked for a while. He told me about picking berries in the Okanagan, about his family in Quebec, about how he knew a bit of Spanish. He told me which beer was the cheapest and about how sometimes it’s too cold to even drink beer. We shook hands and said goodbye. I told him I hoped I would see him around. Knowing God and having experienced his sense of humour over the past few days, I didn’t say those words as lightly as I otherwise might have. A natural Levite, I might be, but God graciously, if slightly impatiently, keeps prodding me towards Samaritan-hood.
“God bless you, Denis” I said before leaving. He looked at me and grinned. I could tell he wasn’t so sure about that. I wonder what he would have said if I had told him that his was the kingdom of heaven. He probably would have just said thanks for the boots and the bread.
Syndicated from Rumblings

World Food Day: Preventing Famine is Better Than Its Cure

A guest post by World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns … I don’t know about you, but I can think of at least a dozen more interesting ways to spend my time than going to the doctor. I don’t enjoy check-ups, even though it’s the best way to stay healthy. Over the course of regular visits, my […]
Syndicated from The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey

BGWG 6: Housing Crisis

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Ebony Adedayo and Steve Kimes return for another episode of Black Gal, White Guy, this time to discuss the housing crisis in the United States. Topics for this episode include:

Steve’s recommendation: Gospel rock and roll artists (1:50)
Ebony’s recommendation: self care practices (5:09)
The housing crisis in Minnesota (11:19)
The housing crisis in Oregon (20:07)
A hospitality problem, not a housing problem (26:16)
Why does this matter? (33:40)

Relevant Links
https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/02/the-problem-of-resegregation-in-suburbia/462396/
https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/02/brooklyn-park-minnesota-suburbia-affordable-housing/461955/
https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/02/when-integrating-the-suburbs-isnt-enough/462765/
http://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/podcasts.mennonerds.com/BGWG6-HousingCrisis.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

BGWG 5: Reconciliation

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Ebony Adedayo and Steve Kimes discuss the topics of forgiveness and reconciliation, specifically in the context of racism. The discussion includes:

Ebony’s recommendation: the album The Transition of Mali by Mali Music (0:56)
Steve’s recommendation: Scene on Radio podcast, Seeing White series (2:42)
Does racism against people of color in America still exist? (4:28)
Affirmative action, which mostly helps white women (10:10)
Is it lacking in the quality of forgiveness to bring up racial inequality issues such as police brutality? (17:19)
The parable in Matthew 18 (20:04)
Forcing the oppressed to forgive (25:28)
How do we achieve true reconciliation? (29:14)
The economics of forgiveness (33:08)

http://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/podcasts.mennonerds.com/BGWG5-Reconciliation.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

Labor Day

Once per year the USA celebrates Labor Day, a national holiday originating from 1800's celebrations of trade workers and the social/economic benefits they bring to our society. So, is this holiday only an antiquated excuse for an extra time to sleep in?Let's use the day to examine the serious economic and labor struggles that still plague our country.It is increasingly difficult for the average worker to support a family. In most states, minimum wage is well below the living wage (there is a big difference between the two). Ironically, thousands of folks will go to work on Labor Day because they need the money and can't afford a day of rest.When folks are desperate for work, they will endure any number of abuses or indignities. They may work in dangerous environments, or be paid less than promised. Workers may be given insufficient training, leading to injury or embarrassment when they don't perform to standards.Employees may be held at work long after their shift is over, if that is what the boss deems necessary. Maybe they need to pick the kids up from school, but they don't dare leave and risk losing their jobs. Workers may be required to maintain an open schedule to be placed in shifts as is convenient for the company, but may not be told their schedule until the last minute, and so cannot line up child care or other jobs.Folks may spend an hour on the bus to get to a job, only to arrive and find out they aren't needed that day. Or they work for two hours and then get sent home. "Try again tomorrow." And if they don't show up for that chance, they know they loose the opportunity for later.There are serious consequences of this labor disparity. Workers skip meals so that their children may eat. Folks turn to loan sharks to make ends meet, entrenching themselves in a spiral of debt (see post: The Cost of Being Poor). Families make tough choices to cut out "non-essentials" like medicine (see post: Healthcare Reform), clothing, and nutritious food.And as the nation bemoans the 7% unemployment rate, unemployment in communities of color remains at 13%--the same racialized wage disparity ratio that Dr. King bemoaned in 1967. Indeed, while analysts fret about about the housing market, there continue to be huge disparities in homeownership across race.Take a close look at the words of Jeremiah 22:13-16. Woe to we that profit from injustice and gain economic security at the expense of others! We "who make our neighbor serve us for nothing and do not give them their wages." Jesus himself urges that "the workers deserve their wages." And yet, as more states put an end to collective bargaining, the wealthy receive a smaller tax burden now than they have in the last 80 years.Part of our problem is that we have a very warped perspective of economic reality. Particularly since housing in the United States is largely segregated by economic standing, people look around themselves and feel that, on the whole, there is equal opportunity and prosperity for everyone.PBS News Hour recently conducted an informal survey, asking people identify the sort of economy that exist in the USA. Their findings are telling. Also, Jon Stewart points out the huge economic disparities that most folks gloss over. Both of these videos are embedded below.Take time this week to give thanks for your own economic security, no matter what level it is at.For more insight into the issues mentioned above, read Barbara Ehrenreich's 'Nickel and Dimed' or play this excellent interactive game to see what choices you would make given some stark realities.The Daily Show with Jon StewartGet More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook

Syndicated from By Their Strange Fruit

BGWG 2: The Decriminalization of Drugs

Ebony and Steve return for the second episode of Black Gal, White Guy. In this show, they discuss movements to decriminalize drug possession including new legislation in Steve’s state of Oregon. The episode includes further discussion on topics like the racial elements of the war on drugs and the need to treat addicts as somebody in need of help, not somebody to be excessively punished.
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