Prayer for the Silent People

Art by M. Naris Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

All praise and honor be yours, Lord, for bringing caring people into my life.

For I am not an island, much as I would like to be.

For my freedom in Christ is to live within your healthy boundaries,

not to do everything that my sinful nature might desire.

I confess, Lord,

that I forget to raise my concerns up in prayer and to pray over the many decisions that I face each day;

that my desires would destroy me, were I to yield to them;

that I am totally dependent on your goodness and mercy every day of my life.

But I give thanks for your Holy Spirit’s guidance, provision, and placing of many saints in my life.

Help me to remember the silent people–

those forgotten because their social status,

those unseen because their work masquerades in products and services that I barely understand,

those that I am simply too busy or proud to recognize and honor.

Bless them. May I learn to honor them daily.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for the Silent People

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2BKihbl

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The Immaturity Problem

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Decisions in a society focused on youth culture pose a special problem because of the refusal of many to shoulder responsibility for their actions. As mentioned previously, in an ideal world we would approach important decisions as well-informed adults who understand our own weaknesses and consider carefully the options presented to us, taking our time to consult with our mentors, friends, and family and being devoid of dysfunctions, like mental illness or drug use. Even in the absence of external manipulation, youth culture undermines decision-making out of ignorance, impatience, and unwillingness to rectify obvious dysfunction.

The Designated Adult

Families and organizations manage to survive in this environment, not by encouraging greater rationality, but by weakly tolerating a few designated adults who tirelessly attempt to hold things together while many others simply party on. Family systems theory refers to this phenomena as overfunctioning (Friedman 1985, 210-212). Gilbert (2006, 17) notes that the overfunctioning individual usually pairs up with an underfunctioning individual to form one functioning person out of two.

In a church context, a pastor may be hired to rescue the congregation from a decline in membership only to find that members refuse to accept the new members that the pastor welcomes into the church. Churches of this sort may go through a series of pastors and eventually close their doors because the members refuse to adapt to and accept the changing demographics of their community. Parents unwilling or unable to practice “tough love” may find themselves saddled with caring for children that fail to launch and for grandchildren engendered by the same.

The One-off Solution

Postmodern culture encourages this behavior by refusing to insist that participants hold an internally consistent set of values and preferring one-off solutions.

Probably the most obvious example of this problem arises with the American drug culture that arises, in part, as the dark side of the propensity of Americans to place too high a value of an unsustainable work ethic. When attempts to compete in this unsustainable work culture fail, recreational drug use spirals into addiction and destroys any possibility of further advance in one’s career. At the heart of the problem is the attempt to live a licentious lifestyle alongside of a career that requires exacting personal discipline.

In this example, recreational drug use is proffered as a one-off solution to the problem of stress. Instead, of living a balanced lifestyle with time devoted both to work and self-care, the worker self-medicates and skips the trip to the gym or the family outing. Drug use starts out as the solution to the problem of stress through self-medication, not perceived as a problem in itself.[1] This confusion between problem and solution can lead to addiction, but—more to the point—it began by trying to find a one-off solution to the problem of stress, rather than mitigating the stress itself.

When the usual pattern of problem solving is to seek a one-off solution—looking for a pill to solve our health problem—we are less likely to perceive the spiritual problem that may be behind many of life’s challenges.

More than the Usual Background Noise

Every age has had its distractions. The postmodern era stands out because the volume of the background noise has been turned up significantly while the usual institutions—family, church, community—for dealing with it have been seriously weakened. It is now up to the individual to turn off the cell phone, computer, and other media or, alternatively, screen the massive amount of information available for specific information of use in making decisions. Meanwhile, the pace of life and work has accelerated rendering this filtering process for the conscientious decision maker more difficult.

But not everyone steps up to this challenge.

Presented with an overstimulating environment, many people opt simply to check out, self-medicate, or insulate themselves with white noise—the omnipresent headset, the television never turned off, or refusing to leave their rooms or other comforting environments. This latter option functions much like rumination that keeps the individual from reflecting on their daily challenges as they obsess about events in the past, especially past trauma. The individual who ruminates (or employs white noise) essentially refuses to think about current decisions and, as a consequence, frustrates their own maturing process becoming developmentally impaired.

Decisions in a Sub-Optimal Decision Environment

The problem of relying on designated adults, rather than aspiring to maturity, and habit of seeking one-off solutions both undermine the decision environment that many people face in the postmodern era. Many people reach the age of consent or of legal maturity well before they are able to function as self-reliant adults leaving them unable to make good decisions, vulnerable to manipulation, and unable to advance spiritually.

References

Clinebell Jr, Howard J. 1978. Understanding and Counseling the Alcoholic Through Religion and Psychology (Orig. Pub. 1956) Nashville: Abingdon.

Friedman, Edwin H. 1985. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. New York: Guilford Press.

Gilbert, Roberta M. 2006. The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory: A New Way of Thinking about the Individual and the Group. Front Royal (VA): Leading Systems Press.

Footnotes

[1] Clinebell (1978, 19) observes: “Does the person’s drinking frequently or continuously interfere with his social relations, his role in the family, his job, his finances, or his health? If so, the changes are that that person is an alcoholic or on the verge of becoming one.”

The Immaturity Problem

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2BKihbl

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Dayton Explores Evangelical History

Donald Dayton: Discovering An Evangelical HeritageDonald W. Dayton. 2005.  Discovering An Evangelical Heritage (Orig. Pub. 1976). Peabody: Hendrickson.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

I heard Dayton speak in September 2006 at Wesley Theology Seminary here in Washington DC. Dayton was the guest speaker at chapel (something about a 30-year anniversary of the book and an award from the seminary). His address focused on the many faces of John Wesley—something new and interesting to me. His talk prompted me to buy the book, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage, and another of his books, The Theological Roots of Pentecostalism.

The book is interested me because he dials back to the period of Charles Finney during the second Great Awakening. Finney was the Billy Graham of his day. Unlike Graham, Finney was both a great revivalist and a social reformer. Apparently, early evangelicals were at the forefront of the campaigns to abolish slavery, promote woman’s rights, and advocating temperance. While I knew some of the history of this reforms, I did not specifically associate these reforms with 19th-century evangelicals and the Second Great Awakening until reading Dayton.

Dayton’s historical review includes chapters on abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and temperance. Key personalities and financial supporters of these movements were discussed. The roles of Oberlin College and different seminaries (Princeton, Gordon-Conwell, and others) in social reforms (or not) of the 19th century were especially interesting to me.

So why did American Evangelicals come to focus on evangelism and less on social reform? Dayton explains the difference in evangelical attitudes about social reform to a number of things. Among these were disillusionment following the Civil War, a less optimistic view of the impact of sin, and a switch from post-millennial to pre-millennial eschatological views. According to Dayton, if you believe that Christians will be raptured the moment Christ returns rather than after a thousand years of Christ’s rule, then evangelism takes a higher priority and social reform goes down in priority.

I found Dayton’s analyses of these events credible, informative, and insightful—much like his talk. I can see why Wesley Theological Seminary presented him with an award.

References

Donald W. Dayton.  2004.  Theological Roots of Pentecostalism. Metuchen NJ:  Hendrickson Publishers (Review: https://wp.me/p8RkfV-xO).

Dayton Explores Evangelical History

Also see:

Dayton: Remembering the Story of Pentecostalism

Tennant Highlights Five Gifts 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

 

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Prayer for Presence and to be Present

Route 28, Manassas, Virginia
Route 28, Manassas, Virgina

 

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

I praise you for your quiet presence,

sustaining all creation and provisioning it with your love.

Though darkness cover us and we fear the death that is ever-near,

you cover us with the blood of Christ, your hedge of everlasting protection.

Cover my sin–the times that my judgment lapses,

and I cannot even admit my transgressions to myself.

Thankfully, you do not share my weaknesses and we can rejoice in your goodness,

even when we are alone and walk in the dark night of the soul.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

grant us the strength to model your presence to those around us,

the grace to model your goodness,

and the peace that passes all understanding.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen

Prayer for Presence and to be Present

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

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Why Do We Care About Learning Processes?

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

The process of learning affects the quality of our decisions, especially when it comes to faith decisions, and how we respond to external manipulation. While reflecting on the learning process may sound academic and perhaps boring, the learning process plays a critical role in our faith journey.

In an ideal world, we would approach important decisions as well-informed adults who understand our own weaknesses and consider carefully the options presented to us, taking our time to consult with our mentors, friends, and family and being devoid of dysfunctions, like mental illness or drug use.[1] In the postmodern world, advertisers encourage us to behave like kids, who deny that bad habits are bad and rush to make decisions based on the latest fad rather than careful reflection, discounting any advice offered by friends and family. The youth culture that dominates postmodern life offers an advertiser’s paradise.

If you believe that modern media is irrelevant to your religious life, then ask yourself a couple of questions. For example, why are most sermons about 20 minutes? and where do you go when you get upset? Twenty minute is about the amount of time remaining in a 30 minutes television show after the time devoted to advertising is subtracted out. If you go shopping when you are anxious, then consider what your grandmother might have done—50 years ago it was common to go to a chapel and pray on stressful occasions.[2] Today, if someone wanted to pray in a chapel, the door would likely be locked.

In his book, Winning the Story Wars, Jonah Sacks talks about the contribution of dark art of marketing to cultural changes that we have seen. Borrowing from the work of Joseph Campbell, Sacks describes the purpose of myth (story-telling) is to help us grow up because we yearn for maturation. But mature adults (self-responsible, free agents) threaten marketers who typically prefer us to remain adolescents where we suspended in an immature state dwelling on emotions like greed, vanity, and insecurity—the bottom rung in Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs.[3] In this immature state, we are encouraged to feel inadequate and incomplete where consumption of product X, Y, Z can presumably make us complete again (Sacks 2012, 85-86).

Inadequacy marketing directly assaults the spirit of most religious teaching, irrespective of theology, because most religions aid our maturation and help us to contribute to society. Hence, the phrase—the dark art of marketing—is truly dark because the advertiser works explicitly to undermine rational decision processes, stroke anxieties, and tell us stories that sell their products at the expense of undermining our own self-worth.

Through unconscious and voluminous repetition, this advertising entertains us daily like the air that we breathe and it shapes our perceptions, leaving us impatient for catchy phrases, tunes, and images. When our children say that church is boring, they simply observe that the pastor cannot offer the same catchy phrases, tunes, and images that they see on their cell phones every day. As parents, pastors, and teachers, postmodern culture outguns us on daily basis, unless we focus on the learning process and how decisions really get made.

References

Maslow, Abraham H. (1943). “A theory of human motivation”. Psychological Review. 50 (4): 370–96.

Plantinga, Alvin. 2000. Warranted Christian Belief. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sacks, Jonah. 2012. Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell—and Live—the Best Stories Will Rule the Future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Footnotes

[1] Plantinga (2000, 108-134) wrote at length about the proper function of decision making and defining rationality with philosophical precision.

[2] In Hispanic films, people still consult a priest and/or visit a chapel to pray, but not in English language films. The last example of a chapel visit in film that I remember was in Home Alone (1990) starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern.

[3] Maslow pictured a pyramid of needs in which the foundational needs were physiological, followed by safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization at the top of the pyramid (Sacks 2012, 130).

Why Do We Care About Learning Processes?

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

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Chesterton Explains His Faith Journey

G.K. Chesterton, OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton. 2017. Orthodoxy (Orig. Pub. 1908). Satya Books.[1]

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

For those that are curious and think for themselves, many of the best known critics of the Christian faith come up short. The heart of atheism is not a philosophical critique of faith; it is a willful disrespect for all forms of authority, especially divine authority. The reasons for disbelief often border on mere slander of the faith, which becomes obvious as inconsistent criticisms morph over time and show themselves in conflict. Apologetics accordingly begins to resemble the case of the parent trying to reason with tired child when a good nap (or firm discipline) is needed.

Introduction

In his book, Orthodoxy, Gilbert Keith (better known as G.K.) Chesterton sets out to explain how he came to faith in his own words, the words and arguments that ultimately convinced him. In a puckish response to a question posed by his publisher, Chesterton recounts:

“‘Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?’ After a long pause, I replied, ‘I will go home and write a book in answer to that question.’ This is the book that I have written in answer to it.” (7)

When is the last time that you wrote a book to win an argument? Obviously, Chesterton (1874-1936) lived at a time when a “lettered” (“English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic”[2]) man took his arguments seriously.

Orthodoxy Defined

Chesterton defines orthodoxy in these words:

“When the word ‘orthodoxy’ is used here it means the Apostles’ Creed, as understood by everybody calling himself Christian until a very short time ago and the general historic conduct of those who held such a creed.” (5)

Belief in the Apostles’ Creed, summarized in five fundamentals of the faith:

  1.  The inerrancy of scripture;
  2. The virgin birth of Jesus;
  3. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement (Christ died for our sins);
  4. The bodily resurrection of Christ; and
  5. The miracle-working power of Christ (Longfield 1991, 9, 78)

were required for ordination as a Presbyterian pastor between 1910 and 1925. After 1925, one could be ordained without believing the Apostles’ Creed (the liberal view) and, if you persisted in believing the creed, you would be described pejoratively as a “fundamentalist.” Thus, Chesterton’s simple definition anticipated a crisis that had not yet divided the American church, but even today lies at the heart of the culture wars.

Lampoon Champ

Chesterton spends considerable time in his book lampooning his critics for their inconsistencies. He writes:

“certain sceptics wrote that the great crime of Christianity had been its attack on the family; it dragged women to the loneliness and contemplation of the cloister, away from their homes and their children. But, then, other sceptics (slightly more advanced) said that the great crime of Christianity was the family and marriage upon us; that it doomed women to the drudgery of their homes and children, and forbade them loneliness and contemplation.” (79-80)

Clearly, this argument is dated, but the inconsistencies persist. Who, for example, remembers that the first co-educational college in America, Oberlin College, was started by two Presbyterian pastors and that the famous evangelist, Charles Finney, served as its president from 1850 to 1866? The feminist movement started as evangelical Christian movement (see Gal 3:28) and it is only after the Civil War that the woman’s movement took a secular turn (Dayton 1976, 121-135). Hopefully, Chesterton will be forgiven for his candid (and dated) comments on this issue.

Coming To Faith

So why did Chesterton adopt the Christian faith? He writes:

“my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing.” (146)

In my own experience, I have found critics quite willing to pick at this or that doctrine that they do not understand or accept without substituting an equally valuable replacement. Christianity as a faith fits the whole person and the entirety of life’s experiences better than competing religions and philosophies which is why it is found throughout the entire world, unlike other faiths that favor one or another ethnic group and region. Mere critics normally do not accept responsibility for their partial criticisms—they steal a person’s hope and faith, and leave their victims in despair. Such actions clearly troubled Chesterton as he weighed his options.

Assessment

G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a challenging but interesting read. He is challenging to read because he is better versed in philosophy and apologetics than most readers and his arguments often hinge on subtle word-play and knowledge of events and readings. Still, Chesterton is interesting to read because he writes roughly a hundred years ago and yet speaks directly to our own context. Read and enjoy!

References

Bradley J. Longfield. 1991. The Presbyterian Controversy:  Fundamentalists, Modernists, and Moderates. New York:  Oxford University Press. (Review: https://wp.me/p8RkfV-11c).

Dayton, Donald W. 1976. Discovering an Evangelical Heritage. Peabody: Hendrickson.

Footnotes

[1] Satya is the Sanskrit word for truth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satya).

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton#Other.

Chesterton Explains His Faith Journey

Also see:

Longfield Chronicles the Fundamentalist/Liberal Divide in the PCUSA, Part 1 

Books, Films, and Ministry

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Prayer for Elderly Parents

Four Doctor Hiemstra
The Four Doctor Hiemstras

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Holy Father,

All praise and glory be to you for providing us faithful parents,

role models to guide us through the wilds of life

before we could tell our left hand from the right.

Thank you for their care, sacrifice, and wisdom—

may we be so caring, so willing to sacrifice, and so wise,

and forgive us when we are not!

Be with them when we are unable that they would never be alone.

Protect them from those that prey on the elderly, from unexpected accidents, and from needless worry.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the strength and wisdom to be worthy children and loving caregivers—

that we might enjoy our remaining times together and provide a role model to the young.

In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Elderly Parents

Also see:

Family Prayer 

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

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Teachers, Mentors, Friends, and Family

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)

We seldom learn alone. From a young age, we learn to take advice and our teachers, mentors, friends, and family guide and instruct us. We read: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Prov 19:20) While such advice may seem obvious, it frequently ignored. Many articles and studies cite few sources and give little evidence that they consulted anyone. A long list of references at the end of a report signals that the author has done his homework and can likely be trusted.

The first step in any research project is to consult the literature on the subject being studied. Few topics are truly new and, even when they are, prior research may have answered a similar question. Many academic fields of study invent entirely new terminology for what may be an ancient topic. This problem of new terminology may make a trip to the library (or to Google) seem pointless, but it points to the need to consult with advisers who can frame the proper terminology.

Resistance to consulting others frequently starts with pride or shame or the desire to take credit for the work. We may be too proud to ask for advice or be ashamed that we are not already experts on the subject. The desire to take credit for an innovation often motivates the keeping of secrets, but it also limits our productivity. A simple word of advice can eliminate many hours of searching and reduce the number of errors committed in the process. Working as a professional researcher, I often discovered in the final stages of a project a book or report that I wish that I had started with.

Of course, not all advisers can be trusted and ideas are frequently stolen. One reason for this problem arises because the hardest step in the scientific method is the problem definition. One of my most helpful professors used to add an additional step to the method before the problem definition: felt need.[1] A felt need reflects a concern without a clear idea of how usefully to frame the discussion. Once the problem is defined, the remainder of the research is a matter of filling in the blank. Thus, an adviser or a reviewer must be trusted enough to know that they will not steal an idea or, in an administrative context, take over (or kill)  your research project.

This problem is no different in a personal context. Sharing with a friend that you like someone entails the risk that they will realize that your relationship is uncertain and they could be emboldened to step in and initiate their own relationship. Talking about a job that you have applied for could invite competition or, alternatively, poisoning the well—your boss or co-workers may not want to see you advance or leave them.

Still, good friends and supportive colleagues will want you to be successful—to do your best work, to advance your career, and to find happiness. Working together and offering helpful advice speeds the learning process making life much more interesting. In fact, I frequently find prayer does exactly the same thing. When I take time to pray, often the first thing that happens is that God reminds me of something that I neglected to do—call a family member or take care of some unfinished business. With such insights revealed, I often sleep much better after evening prayers.

References

Johnson, Glenn L. 1986. Research Methodology for Economists: Philosophy and Practice. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company.

Footnotes

[1] Johnson lectured on felt needs but had not formulated the approach when he published his formal work (Johnson 1986, 15).

Teachers, Mentors, Friends, and Family

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

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Johnson Writes About Pentecostals Ministering in Bad Prisons

Andrew JohnsonAndrew Johnson. 2017. If I Give My Soul: Faith Behind Bars in Rio de Janeiro. New York: Oxford.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Confession time. I came to Christ through the testimony of a young and violent gang leader, Nicky Cruz, who came to Christ himself in the middle of a gang fight. His conversion took place in response to an Assembly of God (Pentecostal) mission in New York City.[1] Thus, the convergence of Pentecostalism and witness to violent young men played a key role in my own faith journey[2] so when I learned about Andrew Johnson’s book, If I Give My Soul: Faith Behind Bars in Rio de Janeiro,[3] I immediately ordered a copy.

Introduction

Johnson writes:

“Prison Pentecostalism represents a hidden but important part of the Pentecostal movement that has swept through Rio de Janeiro and much of Brazil over the past three decades. This book responds to a simple research question, ‘Why is Pentecostalism so widely practiced inside Rio de Janeiro’s prisons and jails?’” (4)

To find out, Johnson, a sociologist, spent two weeks living inside several jails in Rio de Janeiro and interviewed numerous prisoners and former prisoners. He observes:

“the prison churches not only survive but also thrive in this difficult space … because in many ways they resemble the prison gangs in structure and function. Both gang and prison church claim part of the prison as their own, each implements and enforces a set of rules for their members, and each provides a strong identity to participants and offers them protection and community.” (10-11)

What is perhaps most surprising is the level of respect afforded pastors among the poor generally, prisoners, and even the narco-gangs to the point that:

“gangs generally allow members to leave if they join a Pentecostal church as long as their conversion and subsequent [religious] practice are deemed genuine.” (10; 77).

This option is all the more striking because gang membership generally requires an oath of allegiance until death (“hasta la morgue”; 77), much like the MAFIA in North America. Similar rules and relationships with the Pentecostal churches have also been reported for Central American gangs, like Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13; 76-77)[4].

Pentecostals and Gangs

Obviously, the pastors and their church neither condone nor excuse violence or drug use. The support for prisoners in jail under the most inhumane conditions speaks loudly against the attitude that gang members are sub-human, “killable people” (“seres matáves”). Killable people in Rio de Janeiro are generally poor, unemployed, descendants of slaves who live in the “favelas” and who “Brazilians do not cry for” (39-61).

When Pentecostal pastors show up at the prison gates weekly with volunteers to provide food, clothing, medical supplies, and encouragement to prisoners packed so tightly that some must sleep standing up, they get noticed even if they preach against the very things that the gangs stand for—narcotics, sex trafficking, and violence. The respect that they earn is rooted in offering the prisoners something very basic—human dignity (85).

Pentecostals and Political Action

Although Pentecostal pastors are often maligned for not engaging in political action, Johnson writes:

“When the pastors embraced rapists, prayed with murderers, sang worship songs with drug dealers, and treated all the inmates as people endowed with inherent worth, they were participating in an activity that subverted the social order.” (165)

He coined the phrase “politics of presence” to describe how they have changed the dynamics of prison life and raised the awareness of the brutality of prison life when they preached back home in their congregations (143-166).

Assessment

Andrew Johnson’s book, If I Give My Soul: Faith Behind Bars in Rio de Janeiro, is a striking work. Clearly, his research transformed his own attitude about Pentecostals and reading it transformed mine. It is hard to be neutral about brutality, even if it takes place a world away and among people that are hard to love. This is a book likely to be talked widely for a long time. Read it if you dare.

References

Peterson, Eugene H. 2011. The Pastor: A Memoir. New York: HarperOne.

Wilkerson, David. 1962. The Cross and the Switchblade. Pyramid Communications.

Footnotes

[1]As an adult working in Hispanic ministry, I learned that Nicky Cruz was both Puerto Rican and a lifelong evangelist (Wilkerson).

[2]Although I then joined a Presbyterian church, one might describe me as a lifelong Presbycostal, a term that I first heard from Eugene Peterson (217).

[3]https://crcc.usc.edu/people/andrew-johnson.

[4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS-13.

Johnson Writes About Pentecostals Ministering in Bad Prisons

Also see:

Tennant Highlights Five Gifts 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

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Prayer for Teachers

Math teacher at Lee_HS
Math and Chemistry Teacher

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father:

We praise you for bringing good teachers into our lives.

Teachers that care, are well-trained, and work tirelessly to help us learn—

teachers better than we deserve!

Help us to listen to advice and accept instruction (Prov 19:20) and

teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12)

because we confess that we often tire of learning and spend too little time on it.

Thank you none-the-less for those that labor to instruct us

that we might mature into people of wisdom and faith, and

not stumble through life in ignorance for lack of guidance.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, enlighten our minds and open our hearts

that we might grow more like you day by day.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for Teachers

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

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