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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2014

Chapter 14 - Politics and economics


Pentecostals and politics

Pentecostals have not always felt comfortable with relating to wider society, but this is gradually changing. They have been accused of an apocalyptic spirituality and isolation that withdraws from ‘worldly’ issues like politics and the struggle for liberation and justice, and of proclaiming a gospel that either spiritualizes or individualizes social problems. The result of this, some say, has been a ‘pie in the sky’ approach that focuses on individualized mission and evangelism and either encourages accepting present oppressive conditions or leads to the ‘health and wealth’ gospel that makes material gain a spiritual virtue. The dichotomization of church and state into ‘secular’ and ‘spiritual’ spheres has continued. On the basis of Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 and related New Testament passages, Charismatic renewal theologian J. Rodman Williams (1918–2008) was typical of this approach. He advocated unqualified subjection to all ‘civil governments’, but that Christians should also be active citizens, be in political office and serve in the military in a ‘just war’ – paradoxically, while ‘loving’ the enemy. However, the ambiguity of Williams’ position, and that of many conservative Christians, becomes clear when he allows for certain circumstances where civil disobedience is appropriate because of a ‘higher loyalty’ to God. Amos Yong, in his ground-breaking study on a Pentecostal political theology, refers to the ‘uncritical nationalism, consumerism, and political quiescence in many pentecostal circles’. He suggests, however, that Pentecostals should not simply be categorized as ‘apolitical’ or even as ‘political’ because they have alternative, less conventional ways of being involved in politics.