Wes Granberg-Michaelson is the author of From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church and Future Faith: Ten Challenges for Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century (Fortress Press). For 17 years he served as General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, and has long been active in ecumenical initiatives such as the Global Christian Forum and Christian Churches Together. He’s been associated with the ministry of Sojourners for 40 years. He and his wife Karin now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Posts By This Author
The Embodied Joy of the Global Church
One year ago this week, I walked into the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, completing my pilgrimage there. This week I witnessed a different pilgrimage as about 100,000 people made their way to Mount Tabieorar, in Ogere Remo, Nigeria. They clothed themselves with white robes, took off their shoes, danced, sang, and prayed through the night and into the early morning with uninhibited joy. This was the 83rd time the Tabieorar celebration has gathered in this holy space.
'Lulled into a Nightmare'
The Mueller report is all but forgotten — its limited focused also not remembered. Mueller’s assignment was to look only at Russian interference in the election and the possibility of a criminal conspiracy with the Trump campaign to assist this. Opponents of Trump labeled this “collusion.” Weeks before the report’s release, I argued that no such conspiracy would be found because none was needed. Putin detested Hillary and his apparatus of political infiltration was smart enough to know how to undermine her campaign. It did.
President Donald Trump is convinced he can sweep aside all his high crimes and misdemeanors if Robert’s Mueller’s report finds that Trump never called up President Vladimir Putin and enlisted his help in the election. Whenever the Mueller Report comes out, all Trump wants to do is continue chanting, “No collusion.” He knows that Fox News will join the chorus and expects that the sound of all else will be drowned out, certainly for his base and maybe beyond.
Keeping Hope Alive on the Korean Peninsula
I worshipped at Seoul’s Myungsung Presbyterian Church, the largest Presbyterian church in the world with a membership close to 100,000, and preached at its English-speaking service. At the main Korean worship service I attended (one of five services that they offer each Sunday), I heard prayers for the reunification of Korea at least three or four times, which is a repeated intercession. Moreover, Myungsung is known for its daily prayer services. One of these gatherings that takes place every Monday is focused on praying for re-unification. It has been doing so for 10 years, normally drawing about 3,000 people.
Not a 'White' Christmas
In 1980, for the first time in 1,000 years, more believers following the babe in Bethlehem lived in the global South than the North, and in four decades since then this has accelerated. Growth in Latin America means 600 million exchange “Feliz Navidad,” or “Feliz Natal” (Portuguese) during these days in crowded Catholic cathedrals, megachurches, and Pentecostal storefronts. This is an increase of 10 million in the past year.
My Foolish Hope
White evangelicals hold more extreme, negative views regarding immigrants, refugees, and the prospect of the nation’s racially diverse future, than any other group in the country. It is a devastating indictment of the failure of white evangelicals to live as faithful disciples of Jesus in these crucial areas. Further, it confirms how this group, comprising about 25 percent of those who vote, is a core component of President Donald Trump’s political support, with his angry, racially laden appeals to an exclusive ethno-nationalism.
The Most Disheartening Survey of Voters
Of all the various surveys and polls I’ve seen leading up to today’s election, one was the most disheartening and depressing: The 2018 American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. While examining voters’ attitudes on a wide range of issues facing the electorate, most revealing are the views of white evangelicals. This constitutes nothing short of moral and ethical indictment, documenting with irrefutable evidence the failure of this group to embody many values of the gospel they confess.
Partisanship Reigns Supreme
Thursday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) changed the narrative from the weight of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's compelling testimony to a matter of completely partisan loyalty against the Democrats, who of course had their own partisan motives. But the greatest blame, in my view, rests with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who made the most partisan move in the history of Supreme Court nominations by refusing to even consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for an entire year. That poisoned the Senate "well" for Supreme Court nominations in toxic ways.
Crimes Against Creation
I confess it is so easy, and tempting, for me to become exorcised over Donald Trump’s daily deceits, narcissism, and shredding of public virtue. But a deeper threat looms, begun many decades before. Humanity is destroying the integrity of God’s creation. The most flagrant and catastrophic assaults are now altering the globe’s climate in ways that already are impacting the world’s most vulnerable people and threatening us all. President Trump’s policies are aimed at liberating constraints on the burning of more coal and carbon, come hell or high water.
The Walls of the Camino
I kept examining these ancient walls. Often, they were slabs of granite laid on top of one another, with thousands of pieces. Their age and the constant moisture of the air in Galicia, blowing from the sea miles away, meant walls were covered the moss, and vegetation wove through them like a net, holding them in place. Certainly, some of this was engineered as the pilgrimage gained in popularity, and political and religious authorities invested in the Camino’s infrastructure.
All Are Pilgrims
The day that I and my three American companions left the Albergue Turistico de Salceda and walked our final 20 miles into the Santiago, arriving exhausted but thrilled in front of the Cathedral, the city was thronged with pilgrims. This happens day after day. But who are these people? Why do they make this journey? And what does this say about the future of faith?
Hospitality on the Way
Walking the Camino with my companions I’ve tried so far, as a spiritual practice, to stop thinking about American politics and Donald Trump. But then I’ve been given tomatoes, and orange juice, and coffee by total strangers, wishing me well on my pilgrimage. I’ve been a vulnerable one on a journey in a strange place.
What the Church Can Learn from Pilgrimages
The great temptation for the church is to remain settled in its comfort zone, doing the same routine. While it may be on the course to a slow death, it can get by and not feel much pain. But the people of God are never meant to be settled; they are called to join in God’s transformational mission in the world, bringing God’s intended justice, healing, and reconciliation to a wounded creation. This requires an intentional commitment by the church to embark on a pilgrimage.
Buen Camino: A Journey Toward a Future Faith
Pew Research just released results of a major survey on why Americans go, and don’t go, to church today. Not surprisingly, the number of those attending religious services regularly is declining, with numbers of younger people the highest. But among these, there is a surprise: Of those who cite a reason other than lack of belief for not attending, 70 percent say that religion is important in their lives. When asked why they do not regularly attend religious services, the most frequently cited reason is this: “I practice my faith in other ways.” That’s what intrigues me about the Camino.
Remembering Peter Borgdorff
We at Sojourners were especially blessed to have Peter’s leadership for 26 years on the board of Sojourners and, before that, Call to Renewal, which we and he helped to found on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable. That was a deep passion for Peter, for those left outside that Jesus told us to bring inside.
An Open Window On a Mutilated Body
Meanwhile, the growth of the world-wide church surges in the global South. Gina Zurlo, Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, explained today’s facts. Two-thirds of all Christians now live in the Global South. During the lifetime of most those gathered in Bogota, Christians in Africa have grown from 134 million in 1970 to 621 million today, making that continent home to more of world Christianity than any other region. Almost as many Christians are in the continent of Latin America where we met. Pentecostalism drives much of this growth. But the complexity, divisiveness, and conflicts between churches in these regions as well as globally clouds the picture projecting Christianity’s future.
Asking ‘Which Jesus?’ in 2018
Isn’t that the question that the thousands gathered in Jerusalem for Passover, and the small circle of disciples and friends, were asking on that first Palm Sunday, and in the fateful week that followed? Who is this Jesus? And is it the Jesus we want to follow? The one we thought we were following? Or the one we now end up denying and rejecting? Which Jesus?
Enclaves of Hope
There is a tragedy happening within U.S. denominations and religious institutions that cripples the witness of the church in the wider society. Bonds of Christian fellowship are being torn asunder by the debate over the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church, creating untold pain and suffering for many LGBTQ people and others, while sharpening disunity in Christ. And all this is unnecessary, and unfaithful.
When Seminary Becomes a Threat
Crucial to our response to all this, however, is a fundamental question: Are we confronted today simply by another set of vexing economic and social developments that require our attention? Or is something deeper at stake? Are we facing forces that constitute a spiritual assault on the integrity and truth of Christian faith in today’s world? Is this a time when our response, however well intended, will be inept unless it is grounded in a spiritual resilience that confesses faith in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Spirit, who unmasks and defies powers that would subdue and crush the public integrity of the gospel in the world?
This is, in truth, the crucial question for us to discern. And it is deeply serious. I’d pose it this way: When rising forces of nationalistic exclusivism are fueled by racial bigotry, when a naked global struggle for money and power shreds bonds of human solidarity, and when unbridled greed threatens planetary survival, is the truth and integrity of our faith at stake? Is the only response capable of addressing the roots of this crisis one of spiritual resistance and renewal rooted in what it means to confess Jesus Christ as Lord? In other words, is it a kairos moment calling us to a clear discernment of what it means, in this present context, to confess our faith? And must such a confession then shape the communities of those who believe the gospel? In my view, the answer is yes.
Artificial Litmus Tests and the Threat to Christian Unity
Differences in the body of Christ over ethical and theological issues have been with the church since its inception. The letters of the New Testament and ministry of its first leaders were focused on how we live together in the face of inevitable tensions. Our call is to display an outpouring of humility, a commitment to the well-being of other brothers and sisters, and a self-giving love that builds a community truly shaped by the Spirit and acting as a corporate body infused with the love of Jesus.