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There's a thread happening on Twitter right now #YouDontKnowEvangelicals. Been particularly resonating on this thread

But before I start talking about that, I should also link to this article, which talks about Prosperity Gospel. someone posted this article on Facebook, and I posted a comment on it:

 I grew up in a health & wealth church, with the idea that if bad things happened to you, it was either 1) your fault somehow in that you may have inadvertently said or did something to bring it on yourself or 2) the devil is actively working against you. When I went to college and got involved with InterVarsity, they emphasized doing volunteer work in shelters and food pantries. Getting to know people who went there made me question how God viewed poverty and how we as Christians were supposed to respond to it. Ultimately, I left my mom's church.

This article also puts into perspective something I've been baffling over ever since Trump got elected. They say that 80% of evangelicals voted for him, but many of the evangelicals I know did not and in fact are actively speaking out against Trump. In the Christian world, the prosperity gospel movement is considered more charismatic than evangelical, and many protestant denominations try to distance themselves from them. 

I've been thinking more about my comment, but it wasn't until I saw the Twitter thread above that I was able to figure out why I was so baffled on why people lump Charismatics with Evangelicals. To those outside the Christian church, they would think the two the same, but they're not. Here's the key difference:

  • Evangelicals see the world as fallen, broken, and being subject to God's wrath. 
  • Charismatics see the world as a blessing, a gift and (providing you follow his commandments) subject to God's love and providence.

As I mentioned above, most of my childhood and teenage years were spent in the charismatic church. Even when I went to college and got married, the churches we attended were on the charismatic side. I enjoyed being in God's presence, and I was taught that God delighted in me, cheered me on, was a loving parent who doted me. And if anything bad happened to me, or if I got sick, I was to pray for God's healing, or pray that God bring me out of whatever the bad thing  is. And if it didn't happen, I just didn't pray hard enough, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!!!

The church we attend now considers itself very evangelical. No charismatic tendencies anywhere. The most emotional people get is they stand when they are moved by a particular song (which is only two or three per worship set. Got to keep it in the time limit), and then they just...stand. You might get a couple of people raising their hands, but that's it. But then I notice the songs would be about how we didn't deserve God's grace, or that we were considered "lowly wretches". The pastor would emphasize how sinful and imperfect we were, that we were broken creatures, and that Jesus, out of his love and mercy (emphasis on mercy), died for us so we could now be cleansed, and holy and made perfect in him. But until Jesus comes back again, well, we still sin, and are still imperfect, and are still broken, and still terrible, and we are totally depraved and thus subject to punishment (been that way since the Fall don't you know)...

And all of that butted against my Charismatic foundation of God loves me he cares for me he died on a cross for me...

Yeahhhhhh....it really is a form of negging.

So. What I'm coming to realize: 

  1. Christianity itself isn't perfect...and it was never meant to be. I think this is what is considered by evangelicals as "broken". It's not perfect.
  2. In the same way, we're not perfect people. You can be a very good person and yet do stupid stuff. 
  3. But at the same time, we're not absolutely depraved creatures either. Come on. We may not be perfect, but people are doing their best. 
  4. The Bible shows both evangelical and charismatic ideas.

I think that's where God is at the positives of both denominations. God encapsulates the love and joy from charismatics and that he sees us as good (it is what he says at the beginning of the creation), and is continually working to restore that loving relationship. But that doesn't make him a magic genie that if you pray hard enough, you get whatever you wish pray for. And it doesn't mean that if you fall into bad times, it's not because God hates you or you did something wrong. God acknowledges those hard times and walks with us through those times.  

He also recognizes that people fuck up, and thus give us the means, through grace, to care for those who do, and yes, that does mean encouraging them to do the right thing. Which may not look like the socially acceptable thing.

Whenever I think of this, I always think of my mother, who divorced my dad in the mid-90s. My dad is an alcoholic. Whenever I think of this, I always think of my mother, who divorced my dad in the mid-90s. My dad is an alcoholic and it had reached the point where it was giving my mom great mental harm. Church culture would have her stay in the marriage since "God hates divorce".  But trust me. She needed to go.

Now here's where things get interested. My mom never stopped caring for my dad. Once she was able to recover her mental health, she was to provide some support for my dad when he fell on hard times. About ten years after the divorce, my dad was kicked out of his apartment. She let him stay at her house for a few months (granted it was in the sun porch), until he was able to get into senior living home. She's also been helping him with medical appointments and making sure he takes care of himself. They even hang out together and my dad still does family stuff with her. But before you ask, no, she's not going to remarry him. And he knows that full well (which doesn't mean that he doesn't try. It's simultaneously cute and awkward when he flirts with her and she shuts him down like 'yeah, that's not going to happen'.) But her care for him, even though they're not married anymore, is a huge example of God's grace working through her. 

And to those who would say, well, why don't they remarry? See, my dad is the sweetest guy in the world. To my knowledge, he never abused my mom. But when he drank, he was horrible with money. My mom had to protect herself from that. He would outright admit that he can't be trusted when he drinks. He's can't help himself...and yeah, that's how alcoholism work. It's an insidious disease. I've been praying for years that he'd be free of it. And that's something that charismatics can't wrap their heads around. God doesn't always answer prayer right away. Sometimes it takes years...decades...or even generations. Or it just might not happen at all.

But that doesn't mean God isn't at work.

I believe God is working on my dad through my mom. Through her, He is showing my father love and grace. She could have easily cut him off and refused to ever see him again, but I think that God has worked enough in her life that she can now extend the same grace to him without being pulled back into that downward spiral of anger and bitterness. Even now, God continues to work through my mom with her own healing and discovery of gifts. Recently, she's taken up photography and she's amazing. I think she's flourishing for the first time in her life...and I think that's how God really works. To show the beauty of life, the beauty of perseverance, the beauty of grace, and how he can make things work out, even if things don't work out the way we want...or how others want.

So what does this make me? A charismatic evangelical? An evangelical charismatic?

Or maybe I should dump both and become a Liberation Theologian. Yeah, there we go.

August 2017

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