The Pope, Pentecostals, and the Gospel

Dale Coulter gives a Pentecostal critique of the Pope’s exhortation, “The Gospel of Joy.”

Again, the huge temptation is to focus on one small section concerning the Pope’s critique of greed in capitalism, but there is so much more in this exhortation.

One particular paragraph I am meditating on:

The pursuit of an equality of status at all costs produces a radical individualism, which is the very problem Francis wants to confront by calling societies back to the common good, the bonds of family, and the solidarity borne from a common humanity. It is a way of saying that apart from a moral center democracy and capitalism cannot succeed because of the inherent tensions between equality and freedom. Pentecostals and Protestant charismatics need to hear this call to recover a social holiness so central to the birth of the movement. By recovering social holiness, we can return to the idea that the prosperity of the gospel is to pour out oneself in joyous abandon. This is the pilgrim’s progress toward perfect happiness.

Pentecostals DO need to hear these words again because whether we use the phrase “social holiness” or something more “palatable” to our politically conservative ears, Azusa Street was a wondrous marvel of what William Seymour described as “the color line (being) washed away by the blood of the Lamb.”

Central to birth of the Pentecostal movement in the 20th Century was the understanding of being centered in the activity of the Spirit and knowing that blew away the racial lines and tensions of that time period. Sadly, we right back to those cultural settings after Azusa Street. It’s taken us the last 20 years to rectify our latent racism.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not centered in capitalism or socialism. The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, can thrive in any economic system because it’s not based on economic systems! Let’s not get caught up in economic arguments when our center needs to be Christ and through Christ we can find that joyous abandonment once again as we ask God to help us love ALL people.

Spotting the gods of this age

It’s extremely difficult to point out when the gods of this age are really closer to us as believers than we like to admit. As a matter of fact, this one is going to get a LOT of disagreement. So, here we go.

The three big behemoth gorilla gods in the room of the American culture (and all too close to the American Church) are money, sex, and power. As believers, we are susceptible to all three. There are more gods of this culture, but those are the gorillas.

It’s easy to point them out in culture. Planned Parenthood feigning a huge fit last year over Susan G. Kommen foundation’s attempt to stop giving them a paltry sum of money for breast cancer screening is a great example. Try to poke the bear of sex and you get slapped back into your corner in a hurry.

But this one is about the church. Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation yesterday and before anyone had fully read it (like politicians reading the Affordable Care Act), there was vehement reaction… from evangelicals. Specifically, economic conservative evangelicals. The headlines? Things like, “The Pope is a Communist,” or “The Pope Calls for the Dismantling of Capitalism,” etc.

The one thing that stood out as economic policy (not theological thought) was attacked by conservative Christians. Capitalism is NOT theological truth. Neither is socialism. And what the pope said was far more than a few paragraphs dedicated to the question of just how far are we willing to allow unfettered capitalism to go?

There were so many wonderful pages about the truth of the gospel, the need for repentance, the need for mission, the task of changing the papacy and being more open to ideas… so many good things… but the gorilla god of money was attacked, so it decided to rouse up… conservative Christians. It’s a warning for me as well. I get stuck on pet ideas and anything that seems to attack it gets slapped down. I have to be more careful.

My invitation is to download and read the entire document. I am working my way through it and find it refreshing.

Agree or disagree with the pope on a list of things: veneration of Mary, papal infallibility, etc., I find this pope refreshing.

My prayer is we just keep things a bit more open in our minds and not allow the gods of this age to use us for their dirty work!

Why, yes, I DO love this pope

Not being Catholic has never kept me from admiring good leadership. And this pope has such a pastoral heart.

“Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) was released by the pope today. I have downloaded it, but here are some choice thoughts:

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless.”

This Thanksgiving Week, I am thankful for a man who hears the Gospel so clearly. Lord, help us to have room in our hearts for the poor. Don’t let the stuff of life crowd out your heart!


What the Pope SAID

As usual, the media just gets it wrong. And, as usual, the reaction to “what the Pope said” is wrong. We’re all reactionary.

I know I write headlines here that are meant to draw a reaction from time to time because I know people will only read the headline and then launch into their issue. (I have a morbid sense of loving that, by the way.)

So, once again, the news is abuzz with things like, “The Pope welcomes gays,” or some such stuff.

No one will read the actual interview, but there are some places where you can find a bit more, like HERE. Or, heaven forbid, the actual interview.

But also know this: even the main article is only an interview. Unless we could somehow get an unedited recording of that interview, we are only reading the interview as the writer chooses to relay it to us.

At any rate, there are some incredible jewels the Pope says that really challenge my own heart and ministry:

So what needs reforming? He wants to see the church as a “field hospital.” He said, “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.”

To me, THAT is gold, and I think we would all do well, especially as ministers, to heed these incredible words.

We Wait in Silence

“Come, Holy Spirit, to console and strengthen Christians, especially those from the Middle East so that, united in Christ, they may be witnesses of your universal love in an area torn apart by injustice and conflicts.” Pope Francis I


Words from Francis I

From Pope Francis I’s first homily:

“We must always walk in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, always trying to live in an irreprehensible way,” he said in a heartfelt homily of a parish priest, loaded with biblical references and simple imagery.

“When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly,” he said.

“We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord,” he said.

He said those who build on worldly values instead of spiritual values were like children building sand castles on a beach. “Then everything comes crashing down,” he said.

More HERE.

I said yesterday he had a similarity to James Cromwell.

He’s not the only actor that looks like the new pope, apparently.