- yet Pentecostals lead people capitalism!
A funny thing happened between the Pentecost of the New Testament and the Pentecostals of today. The story of Pentecost in the bible, culminates in communism. This may come as a shock to those Pentecostals who are red-blooded, die-hard capitalists. But hang on to your cyan-coloured, super-large-print NIV bibles ... the road is about to get a little rough.
So let me set the scene. The Pentecost of the New Testament gets pretty good coverage in Acts Chapter 2, where the opening verses describe that on the day of Pentecost, tongues of fire dropped from the sky and alighted on people's heads and they spoke in tongues (which some refer to as the baptism of the spirit). Pentecostals of today also tend to speak in tongues, although I'm yet to see literal tongues of fire descend from the heavens and set them alight like Michael Jackson filming a Pepsi commercial.
Thus ends the similarity between Pentecostals of today and the Pentecost of the New Testament.
Today's Pentecostals, many of them anyway, tend to be conservative voters and embrace ... capitalism So, about that! Acts 2 kicks off with Pentecost and ends with ... communism: 'Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need' (Acts 2:44-45).
Remember, our good buddy, Karl Marx, who encapsulated his entire communist manifesto in the catchy and biblically sound phrase: 'From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs'. Sounds pretty damn close to Acts 2:44-45, huh?
So the thing is, Acts 2:44-45, wasn't just a one off because of the people being all fired up with tongues of fire. Acts 4:32-35 directly links this biblical communist manifesto to the resurrection of Christ:
... neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need'.
However, this isn't just a New Testament thing, waaay back in the Old Testament, God was banging on about communism too. I'm sure we all remember Exodus 16:16-18: 'This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’ Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need'.
Who'd a thought huh? God commanding communism. Marx, for all his banging on about religion being the opiate of the masses, was actually unleashing a biblical manifesto upon the world! Perhaps his childhood influences of Judaism and Christianity had more effect on him than he thought. Marx and the various iterations of left-wingers of the 19th century, came together in international meetings to declare that communism will only succeed with international support. Not unlike what the bible says in those scriptures in Acts and Exodus, where in each case, the community came together.
Ironic then, that conservative Pentecostals are so anti-communist, that they treat the idea of wealth distribution as though it was borne of Satan, yet the bible is quite clear it was borne of God and is intimately related to the resurrection of Christ and the baptism of the spirit that happened at Pentecost.
What is a bit of a crack-up, is that these same Pentecostals defend the likes of Donald Trump, the feckless and morally bankrupt leader of the free world. Trump is a billionaire who boasts of sexually assaulting woman, who says that neo-nazis, Ku Klux Klan and other radical right wing racists are 'fine people', while demonising refugees who arrive at America's southern border, as being rapists, terrorists, murderers - all without even knowing who these people are.
In Australia, Pentecostals strongly support the LNP and many of their horrendous policies, such as the abhorrent treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, which has resulted in many genuine refugees being detained for many, many years on the remote islands of Nauru and Manus Island. All in the name of border security. To justify this, the LNP has demonised asylum seekers are being illegal, or terrorists. Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a Pentecostal Christian who claims his politics are influenced by his Christian values. Some values. He demonises asylum seekers, calling them rapists and murders, even though none have been convicted of those crimes, and more than 88% of the refugees on Manus Island have been assessed as being genuine refugees. (Being genuine means they are not illegal, regardless of how much Morrison lies about them to accord with his Christian faith).
These Pentecostals would do well to remember the bible ... you know the book of which they claim that they believe every word. James 5:1-6 destroys the notion of Christians supporting people like Trump and Morrison, who adore capitalism, hoard wealth and oppress innocent people.
'Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you'.
What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, but lose his soul? (That's also ripped off from the bible).
And yet, for all their speaking in tongues and singing catchy tunes with rock bands and light shows to rival Kiss or The Prodigy, they continue to believe in prosperity doctrine in which God rewards those who tithe the most. Yet, the scriptures about God rewarding people for giving, are about ensuring people's needs are met, not their greed. Prosperity doctrine: completely unbiblical.
When they're not treating tithing as a get-rich quick scheme, they're doing so to ensure God 'rebukes the devourer' ... as if God is the mafia need to be paid off each week.
As these greedy little Pentecostals tithe hoping they will be made rich, they also support politicians who persecute the persecuted. The parable of the sheep and the goats condemns those who persecute the 'least of these'. In Australia, the politicians who are doing this have likely committed crimes in their brutal treatment of asylum seekers that amount to torture because of the indefinite detention and destruction of hope in their lives (1). The following extract from Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, describes the impact that indefinite detention had on people in a concentration camp. Australia has been keeping refugees in concentration camps purely to maintain years of political point-scoring, while far too many Pentecostal Christians condone and defend it.
One other thing that is somewhat incongruous in the Pentecostal version of Christianity compared to that preached by Christ, is the approach to facts and truth. Since Donald Trump became President of the United States, the world has found him to be a compulsive liar who spins his lies as 'alternative facts'. And far too many Pentecostal Christians defend this. Trump once said that he could stand in New York's Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose votes (2). That's one of the few true things he has said. And Christians continue to support this vile, belligerent, amoral thug. But back to the truth thing, according to the bible, Jesus said if people abide in his words they would be his disciples and they would know the truth, and the truth would set them free. Yet, many Pentecostals abide in Trump and his lies ... they are Trump's disciples, with no truth, just alternative facts. In Australia, the LNP under Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison has slid further and further into an alternative reality where truth is fluid ... moving closer and closer to Trumpism and the alternative facts that his supporters are happy to embrace (3). Truth is not a valued commodity among Trump supporters.
Pentecostals are quick to condemn 'cultural Marxism', yet the basic tenet of Marxism, and socialism more broadly, aligns with the tenets of their own bible. No wonder they hate Marxism so much; it exposes their flaws, greed, selfishness and hunger for power - everything the bible warns them against, but which they value.
Pentecostals link cultural Marxism with moral relativity, in which morals are whatever people say they are at the time. But they support Donald Trump and the perversion he stands for; abuse of women, racism, sexism and worship of money and power. Given the willingness of Pentecostal Christians to strongly support the abuse of asylum seekers and to spread hate of Islam, Marxism, LGBTIQ, social justice 'warriors' and anyone else who doesn't fit their unbiblical view of morality, one can only conclude that these Pentecostals are now wallowing in that which they claim to loathe: their own version of moral relativity. Morality is whatever they say it is at the time.
They oppose abortion, yet do not address the root causes of abortion. The main reason for abortion is poverty. So what do Pentecostals do? Do they support government programs to end poverty? No. They argue against tax and ban abortion. Great. If it is illegal, then it isn't happening. That is their rationale. A bit like the old maxim, 'if a tree falls in the forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?'. Spoiler alert! Yes, it does make a sound! Why? Science and because the world doesn't revolve around humans! And so to with banning abortion. Just because it is illegal, doesn't mean it isn't happening. Instead, it pushes it underground, causing unsafe abortions and an increase in the number of women dying as a result. Meanwhile, if those precious little babies that Pentecostals claim they care so much about are born into poverty, they will face a life where Pentecostals argue against welfare, public health, public education, raising the minimum wage: because government is bad and church is good. All those thousands of years of the church being able to do something about poverty and it still exists. If they oppose abortion, then they shouldn't oppose the very things that will help reduce it.
Note: For a more comprehensive discussion of abortion, specifically the impact of Trump's policies, refer to: Trump's Gag Order banning abortion will increase abortion & kill more women
Pentecostals don't understand what socialism is. They argue that the bible teaches capitalism because of the parable of the talents, where God punished a worker for not making any money for his master. Firstly, it was an allegory of existing conditions, secondly, it was an allegory of heaven where God was the master, and thirdly if we're going to talk about making money, well guess what? Socialism needs profit in order to share wealth. Socialism isn't opposed to making money. It is opposed to exploiting people to do so. It is opposed to now sharing the profit equitably. It is opposed to the situation where a CEO earns millions, while the workers need to work three jobs to make ends meet. The workers are the ones who make the company successful, so share the wealth with them.
The bible is about economic equality. It preaches distribution of wealth, not accumulation of wealth.
If you have money, then help those who have little. The bible condemns hoarding of wealth. It condemns selfishness. It condemns greed. All the things that capitalism is.
Why would the bible condemn accumulation of wealth? Because when people have something to lose, they will defend themselves against helping others. They will be driven by selfishness and fear that someone else is going to take their stuff. We see this in the vicious abuse that Pentecostals and so-called Christian leaders have unleashed on refugees and asylum seekers, the horrendous physical abuse through indefinite detention, denial of adequate medical treatment, forced removal of their children to never to be reunited with them; these are who the bible calls, 'the least of these' ... and it is these that Pentecostals persecute and demonise.
With all their bigotry and bluster, do Pentecostals really think God will welcome with 'well done, good and faithful servant' ... because nothing shows the love of Christ like hoarding wealth, persecuting the poor and demonising those who are different.
Pentecostalism leads people to cruelty and capitalism, not Christ.
1. The Sydney Morning Herald, Karl Quinn, 8 June 2018, Senior politicians in Australia have committed crimes, says top lawyer, viewed 17 February 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/senior-politicians-in-australia-have-committed-crimes-says-top-lawyer-20180608-p4zk9e.html.
2. The Guardian, Reuters, 24 January 2016, Donald Trump: 'I could shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters', viewed 17 February 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/24/donald-trump-says-he-could-shoot-somebody-and-still-not-lose-voters.
3. The Guardian, Katherine Murphy, 16 February 2019, Without facts, we slide into Trumpism. The truth matters here, viewed 17 February 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/feb/16/without-facts-we-slide-into-trumpism-the-truth-matters-here.