Racism, police brutality, American politics, President Trump, MAGA caps, Christianity – and Aotearoa

Racism, police brutality, American politics, President Trump, MAGA caps, Christianity – and Aotearoa

Amidst all the rancour and toxicity issuing from a troubled USA, some questions to ponder and discuss. And some suggested responses…

  • Is racism ever okay, for Christians? No, it is abhorrent, and contrary to the New Testament Gospel (e.g. Galatians 3:28)
  • Is systemic racial injustice ever okay? No.
  • Is police brutality ever okay? No. Police are meant to uphold justice, not act with cruelty or injustice.
  • Is peaceful protest okay? Yes, and it can sometimes help bring positive change.
  • Is violent protest helpful?  No. It undermines a cause, and deepens divisions.
  • Is the Republican Party or the Democrat Party the more Christian option? Both parties have some good people and good principles, and both parties have some policies, emphases, and tendencies which are less than Christian.
  • Are all Republicans Christian? Absolutely not.
  • Are all Christians Republican? No, very large numbers of American Christians (including many Afro-American and Hispanic Christians) vote for the Democrats.
  • Why did many conservative American Christians vote for Mr Trump? Because many of them were Republican voters already, because over the years the Republican Party had actively courted the conservative Christian vote, and because many Christians were particularly concerned about late-term abortion.
  • Do all Christians who voted for Mr Trump approve of everything Mr Trump says or does? No. Many have misgivings.
  • Is President Trump personally Christian? God alone knows his heart, or truly understands him. Politically, Mr Trump makes some pro-Christian statements, and supports some Christian agendas. But many of his own words and actions do not seem very Christian.
  • What does the Bible teach about universal human nature? That we are all made in the image of God, and we all reflect something of God’s goodness and glory. That we are all deeply flawed and marred by sinfulness, including selfishness, hostility, and self-deceit. That Christ is the way of love, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, healing, and transformation.
  • Are American politics relevant and transferable to New Zealand? The contexts and dynamics are very different, and the crossover is limited.
  • Is there some racism and injustice in New Zealand? Unquestionably yes.
  • Have the police in New Zealand sometimes acted illegally, or with brutality? Sometimes, yes.
  • Is politicising Christianity good for Christianity? No, it is fraught with danger.
  • Is linking American politics with New Zealand Christianity helpful? No, not at all.
  • Would wearing MAGA (Making America Great Again) caps be a great and wise thing for New Zealand Christians to do? No. It would be confusing and inappropriate.
  • What is some great biblical advice for everyone, especially in times of ferment: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.
WEA Joins National Association of Evangelicals in Lamenting Racial Injustice, Calling for Prayer amid Recent Turmoil

WEA Joins National Association of Evangelicals in Lamenting Racial Injustice, Calling for Prayer amid Recent Turmoil

Deerfield, IL – June 2, 2020

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) joins the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), its national member body in the United States, in lamenting the recent killing of a black unarmed man at the hands of a white police officer – a symptom of the racial injustice that continues to exist in the country. The WEA and evangelicals worldwide join together praying for an end to the violence that is overshadowing peaceful protests.

“Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota illustrate severe racial injustices in the United States,” the NAE that represents some 42,000 churches said in a statement. “[We] lament the recurring trauma experienced by African Americans. We condemn racism and the violent abuse of power, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We are grateful for law enforcement officers who honorably serve and protect our communities, and urge our members to uphold them in prayer.”

Bp Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the WEA, said: “As a global family of Christian believers, we feel the pain of a nation in turmoil strained with broken relationships that have suffered from decades, indeed centuries of injustice between people of various ethnic backgrounds. We also wish to express our concern about the evident violence that is overshadowing those whose intent is to register a peaceful protest. This violence only adds to the pain Americans are suffering amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today as a world body, understanding the complexity of this social unrest, we stand in prayerful solidarity, asking the God of creation and the Lord of our salvation to restore peace, to establish His justice and to bring about a lasting healing and reconciliation within the United States,” Bp Tendero continued.

He concluded: “We pray that Christian believers will be at the forefront of reconciliation as did Jesus Christ who himself reconciled us to God and to each other. Further we pray that Christians will be at the forefront in advocating and working for justice, in the footsteps of our God of justice who shows no favoritism. And finally, it is our earnest prayer that believers will take on themselves the calling to be peace builders, living the life of Jesus who came to this world as the Prince of Peace.”

 

To read the full NAE statement, visit: nae.net/nae-addresses-racial-turmoil-calls-for-action/

 

Over two billion Christians in the world today are represented by three world church bodies. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is one of those, serving more than 600 million evangelicals. Launched in 1846 to unite evangelicals worldwide, the WEA continues to be a dynamic movement with 9 regional and 134 national Evangelical Alliances, and over 150 member organizations. WEA’s mission is to establish and strengthen regional and national Evangelical Alliances, who in turn enable their national Church to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ and effect personal and community transformation for the glory of God. For more information, visit Worldea.org

NAE Addresses Racial Turmoil, Calls for Action

NAE Addresses Racial Turmoil, Calls for Action

Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota illustrate severe racial injustices in the United States. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) laments the recurring trauma experienced by African Americans. We condemn racism and the violent abuse of power, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We are grateful for law enforcement officers who honorably serve and protect our communities, and urge our members to uphold them in prayer.

Christians believe that racism is an affront to the value of individuals created in God’s image and to the divinely designed diversity of redeemed humanity. This denial of personhood and belonging runs contrary to the peace and unity that God intended in the beginning and that the Bible depicts as our destiny.

Racism appears in beliefs or practices that distinguish or elevate one race over others. When accompanied and sustained by imbalances of power, prejudice moves beyond individual relationships to institutional practices. Such racial injustice is the systemic perpetuation of racism. Its existence has unfairly benefitted some and burdened others simply due to the color of their skin and the cultural associations based upon perceptions of race.

No race or ethnicity is greater or more valuable than another. Evangelicals believe that the good news of Jesus Christ has the power to break down racial and ethnic barriers (Ephesians 2:14–18). Racism should not only be addressed after tragic events. Our communities of faith must pursue sustained efforts in this labor of love and justice.

This article appears here, on the NAE website
NZCN and NAE are both members of the World Evangelical Alliance

“I wish all religious people in NZ would get together at once and die from COVID-19”

“I wish all religious people in NZ would get together at once and die from COVID-19”

Religious freedom really matters. New Zealand Christian Network has a keen interest in publicly proclaiming and defending the right to religious freedom here in New Zealand. This is important, as it’s becoming more and more obvious that there’s a lot of deeply ingrained prejudice and even hostility toward religious people in our country.

Last weekend there was a very disturbing illustration of that. A talkback radio host expressed the desire that all religious people in New Zealand should meet together and catch COVID-19 and then die from it, so that “we won’t ever have to hear from them ever again”. On Monday, it was also available as a podcast. It has been taken down since, so we can’t provide the whole segment, but here’s the heart of it…

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Honestly, it is quite surprising that publicly wishing the death of all religious people in New Zealand is now considered okay by NZ broadcast standards. Would this type of language be acceptable about any other group of people in New Zealand?

However, let’s take as charitable an interpretation as we can. He most likely doesn’t wish to see a million or so (religious) New Zealanders dead. So, what might be a more accurate understanding of what this host is really trying to say? Maybe he is wishing that all religion would end? Or maybe he hopes religious people would just give up speaking?

But we have to ask the question: is either of these scenarios (death to religious people, death to all religion, or the removal of freedom of speech for the religious) really what we want in New Zealand? Countries that have gone down this road (like the Soviet Union or North Korea) don’t strike me as very pleasant places to live…for anybody.

Freedom of religion, which our host seems to have forgotten about, is in a lot of ways the ultimate freedom. It is deeply tied in with freedom of speech, and with human freedom in general. It’s an integral part of the basic freedom that allows anyone (Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Slob, Whatever) to think and live the way they want to, and not just how the government or the majority want us to. Remove freedom of religion, and then watch the dominoes fall in all aspects of freedom.

How about instead of wishing the people that we disagree with would just die, we instead fight bad ideas with good ideas? How about we take the time to consider more generously why someone might be religious (or not religious)? I’d be interested in hearing this radio host’s story of why he hates religious people so much. Maybe there is a lesson there we could all learn from (and hopefully it wouldn’t involve killing!).

I will continue this line of thinking in a later article, where I’ll explore some of the reasons why the non-religious might hate religious people so much and what can be said in response to those reasons.

“These are the victors who
valiantly surrendered life
to keep our island home
a land of peace and liberty.”


Whanganui Cenotaph

Alert Level 2 and New Zealand Churches

Alert Level 2 and New Zealand Churches

There is a sense of relief and gratitude around New Zealand that the situation with the Covid 19 virus has now much improved, and the move to Alert Level 2 is widely welcomed. It will be great to meet again with family and friends. The present restriction to gatherings of 10 means however that churches cannot yet gather together, and this has caused some anxiety and frustration for some.  Against that backdrop, the NZCN team proposes these reflections…

  • We support the desire of the Government to protect human lives by managing and reducing the risks of infection wherever groups are gathered. Keeping people safe is part of any government’s God-given responsibilities.
  • We accept (with some misgivings) that because of the potential irresponsibility of a few, the Government felt that police needed some temporary extra powers at this time so that they can swiftly intervene when some people act in ways that put everyone else at risk.
  • We do not see any clear evidence of some underlying Government agenda to actively single out and discriminate against Christians and churches at this time.
  • We do look for greater consistency in how many people are allowed to gather in different contexts, and for the Government to weigh more fairly the relative risk of various settings.
  • We eagerly look forward to when churches are permitted to gather again, physically. We recognise that this will probably happen incrementally, and over some time, and that larger churches may be affected for longer.
  • We urge all churches to be very cautious, to respect the restrictions, and to scrupulously follow all safety procedures. Society is still facing a highly dangerous contagion, which could very easily kick back and re-establish itself. Church gatherings are not without significant risk. Just one person could infect many others in a congregation, and as a result some could die. We have a responsibility of care both to our own people (including those most vulnerable), and to society around us.
  • We continue to embrace the many opportunities of this time for Gospel proclamation, for greater reach on-line, for innovations, for small house gatherings, for small groups, for pastoral care, and for loving our neighbours.
  • We remain in prayer for the Government, for the health of New Zealanders, for those who mourn, for the spiritual renewal of our society, for the recovery of the economy, for those who have lost jobs and businesses, and for those many less-privileged and less-resourced societies around the world which are much more vulnerable than our own.

Arohanui from the NZCN team

Alert Level 2 and New Zealand Churches

Three Realities for New Zealand Churches in Alert Level 2 and Beyond

As New Zealand slowly begins to re-open, a question many churches will be asking is, “How do we approach ministry in Level 2 and beyond?”

It’s easy to be scared of change. But in reality, the NZ church has already proven that it is more than ready to adapt to changing circumstances. Think about how the NZ church has innovated over the last 60 days, we’ve gone from:

  • FROM meeting in-person, TO meeting online
  • FROM leading our ministry teams in-person, TO leading our teams remotely
  • FROM having a stable financial plan, TO our finances now all up in the air 
  • FROM having predictable staff roles, TO redeploying staff in new areas for which they were not trained
  • FROM having no previous idea how to do what we needed to do, TO now succeeding in making it all work 

With that in mind, I suggest there are three realities to now help the NZ church continue on the path of innovation, for the sake of more effectively reaching New Zealand with the Gospel.

1. Online ministry is here to stay

Most of the people we want to reach are now online. The younger the demographic, the more true that is. Furthermore, it appears that many churches are actually growing at the moment. The reasons for this are multi-faceted, but one key reason is that online church has a much lower barrier to entry then in-person church.

This is not only true for guests. Think about families with young children getting ready for church, or seniors who are more vulnerable, or people who are sick. Online ministry provides a way for people to be involved when in the past they wouldn’t have been able to.

At the same time, it should not be treated lightly.  Are you having a serious conversation about investing in new digital equipment? When adults join an online group, do you have a plan to help reduce the awkwardness and make them feel welcome? How might online group leaders take advantage of Zoom features like ‘Breakout Rooms’? How will people respond to the gospel if they are not at the church’s worship service?

2. While online ministry is here to stay, physical gatherings are the church’s calling

With all that said, it’s important to remember that physical in-person gathering is key to the church’s calling. In the New Testament the word for church (ekklesia) refers to how it is a gathering, a calling together. Moreover, God created an actual world, not a virtual world. God in Genesis declared that the actual world of creation is very good. God wants us to live in his good world, not just watch it on a screen. Resurrection, one of the central beliefs of Christianity, means the restoration of all things, not an escape to a non-temporal, non-corporal spiritual (virtual?) afterlife.

With that in mind, what are some questions that you should be asking before starting up your physical ministry? For starters, what adjustments will you make to the Lord’s Supper, baptisms, offering plate, meet and greet time, door greeting, or children’s ministry? How will you sanitize your building, before, after, and during church service? For example, should all doors be kept open to prevent spread of disease? How will you create a safe environment for those who are most vulnerable in your community? What about those who can’t meet physically but also don’t have the capability to meet online?

3. Churches need to help people make the transition from the online to in-person

Given that online ministry is here to stay, and yet we are called to physical in-person gathering, we need to carefully consider how we will move people from the relative comfort of the online experience to in-person encounters and fellowship.

Homegroups have always been a good stepping-stone to involvement in church life. It’s a smaller setting, and (at their best) are much less intimidating and much more welcoming. Here in New Zealand we will probably be limited to small gatherings for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, is it possible to encourage people to move homegroup from online to actual homes? Is it possible to have Sunday morning watch parties at different people’s homes?

There have been many times in the past where Christians could not gather in large groups, particularly in the early stages of the church. The outcome was a church body that exploded across the globe. This happened as a result of the intentional, meaningful fellowship and discipleship centred around the Risen Christ. There will be a strong desire to get back to normal. The danger is that we will re-embrace a model of ministry designed to reach a world that no longer exists. Let’s continue innovating and moving forward.

Some useful resources on this subject!

NZCN doesn’t necessarily endorse everything in them, but did pick up some good points from some of them

 

Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK’

An example of using technology and the internet to do mission.

The World Evangelical Alliance has put together a site with resources to help families, church leaders, national alliances, business leaders and health professionals. Check it out here >

The Opportune Time
Ps David Dishroon

Romans 13:11-14 encourages us, as it did the the Jews and Christians in Rome in the late 55 AD – early 57 AD, to consider the drastic changes to the world we live in as an opportune time to do something.

This message was shared as a devotional thought during one of our weekly Pray As One NZ online prayer gatherings taking place 8-9pm on MONDAYS.

Join the meeting from the website and look for updates on Facebook.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has created a global health crisis that has had a significant impact on the way we perceive our world and our everyday lives. This crisis has rapidly pushed us into the unknown and left many facing an uncertain future. However, it has been proven throughout history that New Zealand is no stranger to adversity. Time after time, New Zealanders have shown the ability to come together, with the desire to help one another demonstrating the resilience of the nation and this situation is no different.

This handbook aims to help with issues that have arisen during the Covid-19 crisis.