Monday, January 4, 2010


(I have to apologize in advance for the scatter-shot and the generally disorganized nature of the post. It was written in the midst of final term papers, holiday activities, and the intellectual malaise brought on by winter break. Hopefully future posts will be greatly superior in quality.)

While driving through a small town recently I was taken aback by the seemingly odd assortment of flags in front of a locally owned franchise restaurant. There were three flags: The state flag, the American flag, and the Israeli flag.

One of these doesn't fit.

I understood the first two, but the third? I asked a local what the reason could possibly be. Was the owner Israeli or Jewish, perhaps? Nope. A particularly large contingent of Israeli's in the town? Nope. Traditional Jewish holiday in observance? Nope. Itzhak Perlman playing anywhere near? Nope. Frankly I was stumped, and then I made a last ditch guess. Is the owner Pentecostal?

Local: "Why, yes, I think so. How did you know?"
Me: "Hmm, how did I....."

After America (a future post), North American Apostolics reserve their greatest national pride for Israel. Churchgoers who would be politically ignorant under normal circumstances become crack analysts and historians when Israel's precarious political position is raised. Some Pentecostal pastors are able to recount the events of the Six Days War with such clarity that it would make even the most stalwart 20th Century historian blush with envy.

The Apostolic hyper-sensitivity regarding Israel is so strong that insults can be construed out of even the most off-hand, unrelated remark--"What do you mean you didn't like "Minority Report? You know Steven Spielberg directed it, right?"

You see, to speak negatively against Israel, or to let it be spoken of without defense, is to put one's very salvation in serious danger and Pentecostals will go to great lengths to stand up for their spiritual brethren across the pond.

Example: A favorite argument, generally issued with a note of finality, as if the haymaker has just landed in a fifteen round heavyweight title match is, "You know, Jesus was a Jew."

Yes, this is true; it would be the acme of ignorance to deny this fact.

However, this line of logic is potentially flawed, given that Jesus was also a radically anti-establishment proto-socialist who spent the majority of His earthly ministry preaching and teaching against the contemporary form of religious and political conservatism. Even so, it's a safe bet that the majority of today's Pentecostals won't be switching political parties, shutting off Rush Limbaugh, or eschewing their material wealth to join a small religiously-minded commune anytime soon.
There are, of course, the countless miscellany Israel-centered practices of Pentecost, a few of which should be noted briefly. The tambourine-led Jericho-inspired prayer line that is sent circling the sanctuary or building if a pastor is so inclined, to bring down various spiritual and temporal strongholds. The use of Hebrew words and concepts from the OT; examples include the “Shekhinah Glory Praise Team,” a “Talmidim Discipleship Group,” and naming the motley group of 18-50 something year old men in the church who run errands for the pastor “Armor Bearers.” To this we can also include the use in Pentecostal songs and prayer of God’s old coventantal names: Jehovah-jireh, Jehova-nissi, Jehovah-shalom, etc. Explaining to a Pentecostal that their own doctrine, what with Jesus name baptism, the concurrent New Testament covenant and all that follows from it, make these names outmoded and powerless is a often pointless exercise; it’s best to dance along, the songs do actually tend to be pretty catchy and the tambourine really adds a nice touch.

All of this pales in comparison to one of the more odd materializations of Israel-fixation: the Holy Land trip. Each year many a Pentecostal makes the pilgrimage to the holy land in an attempt to reconnect with the roots of their faith. Imagine, if you will, the sight of 20-30 Apostolics trodding through Jerusalem/Bethlehem, hitting every single spot that might contain even an inkling of religious value.

With every temple and tourist site hit, the group gets a little holier and little more enlightened; upon their return this group will brandish countless holy land themed souvenirs with each holding a unique spiritual insight for the possessor—and those they constantly show them to. Gradually each member will succumb to an agonizing burden for the souls of their lost Israeli brethren. It begins upon their arrival walking off the plane when the blast of dry desert heat takes on the double nature of spiritual confusion and oppression. It takes a sharply dramatic turn as the tour reaches Mount Megiddo and, witnesses as if in a trance, visions of the final battle for mankind. The burden finally crescendos en masse somewhere near the end of the tour guide’s schedule when one polo-tucked-in-khaki’s Pentecostal walks forward, tears streaming from their eyes, with voice trembling as they awkwardly recite Matthew 23:37/Luke 13:34. The rest of the group follows suit with a similar conviction, bearing it in their hearts and relaying it to their less-concerned brethren back at the home church during testimonials. NOTE: The scenario offered above is subject to radical change in the likely possibility that one or more of the members goes on a vision/spirit trek (out of the body or in the body, it just depends) during the trip, in which case a book deal may be in the offing.

Is the Pentecostal obsession with all things Israel a horrible thing? Certainly not. Is it a little weird? Yeah, kinda.

(As Joel has mentioned in earlier posts, remember to read this with a grain of salt and some humor.)


  1. This stuff is great! My mom's family is Jewish (Millstein) and it is funny to note the conversations this opens up with Pente/Aps when they find out about this...I always have to point out that her family converted to Protestant Christianity in the early 1900s so I hav absolutely no idea what they are talking about?
    No my family does not celebrate Passover or Yom Kippur...I have no idea what those mean...

  2. Stanton I'm right with mother and her side of the family is Jewish...

    And everytime an Apo finds this out, they look at me with a gaze and awe....

    Usually I get something like, "why are you even here? you're already saved...."

    The infatuation with Israel in ApoPento culture is one of those topics that will always confound me....

  3. The OT is our history collectively. Penny's, as well as most Evangelical types (let's be fair), are rabid supporters of Israel under the auspice of "I will bless them that bless you, and curse them that curse you."

    Nationalistic pride is a far different attitude than one of solidarity and brotherhood.

    From the comical side, this is so true. I can't tell you how many old-timers watch the news just to hear about Israel (the sure-fire indicator of the End Times of course)!

    On a practical side, identifying with the Hebrew language is no different than one intrigued by tales of family heritage. This is our story. It's our history. And history is critical to understanding this "new story" called the New Covenant.

  4. I will throw in my two cents here. While I do believe that the Jewish people as a whole do have a role to play in the last days, they by no means have a monopoly on God (no pun intended). Apos would be wise to know a couple of facts. Most Jews in Israel are not religious at all. Only around 10% are orthodox. In fact, the chances are much higher that you will be able to convert a Palestinian to Christianity than a Jewish person. If you go to Israel you will find that most Jews are either totally secular or observe the religious functions out of tradition detached from religious fervor. It is estimated that 25% of Jews in Israel are agnostic.

    I by no means am anti-Jewish as I believe that in some sense God still has favorability towards them. I believe that at some point God will reconcile them unto Himself. But this idea that a person is genetically more spiritual because they are Jewish is nonsense.

  5. I sense the waters brewing...

    I guess my thing is, why does Judaism receive a love affair over Islam?

    We hear that Jews and Christians worship the same God, but Muslims worship a different God

    But by this same logic we need to say Muslims worship the same God as well...

    Jews and Christians trace their roots to Abraham. So do the Muslims. They worship the God of Abraham....

    But then to top it off, Jews reject our central figure....Jesus....and reject is a pretty light best he's considered a false profit.

    On the other hand, Muslims have Jesus a very central figure in their religion (just behind Muhammad). In Islamic literature, when the apocalypse happens, Muhammad and Jesus arrive together in style....

    Now I am not praising the Islamic religion at all...

    I'm just confused at why The Israelites, with the above in mind, get favored status in our ranks, but the Muslims are left to be the bad guys, and further, we say Allah is a different God from the Jew/Christian God.

  6. And then you can throw in the whole preterist theology that God is finished with the Jews and will NOT be returning to them. If one believes that, then there is NOTHING special about the Jews at all.

    Just sayin'.........

  7. All of this, of course, is a very subjective and limited perspective. Only those completely focused on becoming enlightened via post-secondary teachings, while attempting to live for God hold ideologies such as the one described in this post. The statement regarding Jesus as being "proto-socialist, anti-establishment" is disrespectful, and bordering on outright ridiculousness. However, if you have the time to take the Bible and write it in terms of the "enlightened" go for it. You seem to be missing the entire point, but that's your issue. (This is in reference to the post, and not to any comments)

  8. "P"

    May I ask what the point is then?

    I completely understand your comment that the post is "very subjective and limited," but by what authority is your opinion any more objective and broader in perspective?

    Chady never claimed a position of being "enlightened."

    So what is the point?

  9. I was making the observation that the post was ignorantly written from a perspective that is typical of "Pentecostals" who are in post-secondary education seeking knowledge that can only be gained from the word of God.

  10. Wow, great responses so far! I think I can respond to Anynymous #1 and P in one shot. Regarding the "practicality" of remembering and treasuring our collective heritage, as it were, I would point to that very same heritage as to why recovery and reconstruction of outmoded practices, ie tradition, is so problematic. The earliest followers of Jesus, see Paul and the forms of Christianity that weren't snuffed out specifically, rejected parts of their religious experience they found no longer useful to the new covenental relationship with Jesus. They were practical in every sense of the word, removing the practices, mysticisms, and rituals that were no longer important for salvation. I would argue that as time has passed Pentecostalism has acquired some aspects that aren't necessarily consanguineous with the salvation project.

    As to the subjectivity of my post/opinion, I cannot object and admit freely. As for the rest of your rebuttal, P, I'll have to agree with Joel that I'm not entirely sure what it is that you're saying. As an individual with poststructural leanings I do not and will never proclaim to have a more enlightened position than anyone else. My use of "proto-socialist" was intended to raise the multiplicity of interpretations one can derive from the life and actions, as portrayed in the Gospels, of Jesus. Many who've read some of Karl Marx's philosophical humanist writings would argue rather convincingly that Jesus espoused many of the same beliefs. That's their opinion and they're entitled to it, just as someone like yourself who disagrees is perfectly entitled.

    I believe that the spirit/goal of this post and the blog as a whole is to identify and question the many apo/pentecostal phenomena that exist and at least raise the concern that not all of them are in line with the original intent and purpose of Jesus' teachings. It is these potentially superfluous conceptions that may in fact be the actual "post-secondary" teachings you seem so bothered by.

  11. "P",

    So i just want to clarify...

    You are "enlightened" to the fact that postsecondary college students who think they are "enlightened" are not really "enlightened" at all, but are rather just ignorant?

    This is brilliant....

  12. If only we were all so lucky to forsake education!

  13. Here is my point: it seemed to me like the entire post was written with more than a small element of the classic Pentecostal acadamia snobbery, present (not in every Pentecostal who is involved in post-secondary education obviously) but in people who hold a more liberal view of the Bible. From what I have read of this blog, there are a lot of liberal interpretations and things taken for granted. The reason I say this is because I found some of the terms used (and I am a post-secondary student myself with a background in Sociology/Psychology) almost offensive because they had a clinical, and not-so-reverential air to them.

  14. So you're an undergrad Psych major? and you think the post sounds clinical? you are funny.

  15. P, I want to start by saying thanks for your comments. You obviously represent a point of view that I think we'd all agree is necessary for this discussion to be of any worth.

    Regarding my lack of reverential language, I can't and won't apologize. I have no reverence for practices that I feel ultimately have little to do with a real, existent God. That's my opinion and I mean no disrespect by it.

    As for my "clinical" post-secondary language, sure, you're right. It's pretty much the only way I've ever spoken, except that my vocabulary has grown over time. I assure you that it's quite the burden; you won't believe how difficult it is to order a meal at a restaurant when at the very same time you're struggling internally with the arbitrary connection between the signal and signification.

  16. "Jesus ... spent the majority of His earthly ministry preaching and teaching against the contemporary form of religious and political conservatism."

    Are you referring to the Pharisees? (If you're not, then I misread you and you can ignore this comment) The Pharisees weren't the conservatives. The Sadducees were the conservatives, the Pharisees were the liberals, the Herodians were the governmental party in power, and the Essenes were the wacky cult who lived apart from everyone else.

    Jesus argued with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians. I don't think it's fair to say Jesus sided chiefly against one political/religious party of his day because no group that approached him was spared.

  17. Anonymous above,

    I know I am not the author, and I will let him know you commented, but I fear that your labeling the Pharisees liberal is a common, but still misunderstood identification.

    The pharisees were liberal i guess in the sense that they believed in an afterlife and a spiritual otherness. But to make this declaration that the pharisees were liberal is a fallacy. They practiced the authority of the oral Torah which added on additional laws to what was in the Torah. This is in a sense a form of neo-conservatism. They added on in order to protect the Torah. This is why the Pharisees are railed against by Jesus in Mark 7 (not the sadducees.)

    Whereas the Sadducees were much more rigid in their understanding of the Torah and did not allow equal authority of the non-Torah OT books (e.g. Isaiah, Psalms, etc...). It was easier (and in this sense more liberal) to be a sadduceic jew than to be a pharissaic jew.

    So i guess, I don't necessarily agree with your overarching stereotypes of calling the pharisees liberal. If your assessment is correct, then Jesus was a communist on the scale. I think it better to call jesus the liberal and put the pharissees and the sadducees as both conservatives (though different versions)...

  18. Ok. We look at the conservative/liberal labelings of the time a little differently. Regardless of that, I don't think Jesus fits into the political spectrum of first century Israel on any point, from (ancient?) communist to whatever the Jewish equivalent of Pat Buchanan would've been.

  19. Whoa, I should've kept checking this post to see if anyone commented on it. Allow me to clarify on the "conservative" remark.

    I meant here specifically that most pentecostals who advocate heavily on the behalf of israel are generally of a conservative tilt and tend to weave their political proclivities into the scriptural/theological/spiritual/geopolitical status of Israel. They further tend to attack anything that challenges their assumptions as "liberal."

    My intent was to challenge this by pointing out Jesus' position contra to the conservative wing of contemporary political authority. The pharisees were by and large conservative politically, even if they were in some respect "liberal" in their theology/eschatology. I should have made the point that Jesus was radical in the sense that he also criticized the liberal factions as well, but it didn't really apply to the main subject of the post. A good point you've raised, though.

    Just to echo Joel's prescient remarks, one could very well argue that the Sadducees(who were sad, you see) were in fact the politically liberal group. They were criticized in their own time by the zealots and pharisees for their fraternization/political mingling with the Roman authorities, which put them squarely against the grain when placed within the traditionally resistancialist (borrowed from Henry Roussou's conception of the french resistance during the occupation of 1940-1944 and quite apt for this mind-set) dynamic that made up a substantial part of the political/religious discourse in roman occupied judea.