Responding to ‘TheCall’

Ford Field in Detroit has been the scene of many a pep talk. Picture coaches gesticulating and impassioned in a plea to a team who are desperate to hear a word. Players who are perhaps dejected at the advance of the opposing team, the enemy, get all revved up and head back to the grid-iron filled with the necessary rage and enthusiasm to beat back the advances of the dreaded opponent.

On the weekend, Ford Field saw another pep talk of sorts. Again there is a ‘coach’ and there is much talk of ‘defeating the enemy.’ This coach is Lou Engle Co-founder of TheCall, A Pentecostal movement that believes that America is under siege by satanic forces. The ‘coach’ is hoping that the ‘team’ will head out to the playing field fired up and ready to ‘battle the enemy.’ The enemy of the opposing team for Coach Engle is Islam which he says is under demonic control. He spent 24 hours in Ford Field encouraging prayer and fasting to turn around the fate of the Motor City whish he says is a “microcosm of [America’s] national crisis.” TheCall is hoping that this 24 hour prayer event will have ‘Muslims dreaming of Jesus’ while they sleep. Engle and his followers are also angry about homosexuality and abortion and are often seen as negative toward the African American community as well.

I get excited about the thought of gathering together Christians for prayer and for fasting. I love prayer and fasting. The church has a long history of encouraging spiritual growth through prayer and fasting. What frightens me is the need for any Christian pastor to use these time-honoured disciplines to spread a message that is more akin to hate and division than it is to the message of love and healing that is the touchtone of Christianity. Thankfully many pastors in the Detroit also feel that the message of theCall is unwelcomed in Detroit. They decided to turn up on Friday and Saturday to make their voice heard outside Ford Field. “We do not agree with the spread of a message of hate, but a message of peace and a message of love.”Those are the words of the Rev. Charles Williams II, pastor of Historic King Solomon Church in Detroit. He went on to say, “We love our Muslim brothers. We love those who are homosexual and we are not scared … to stand up when the time calls for us to.”

This group needs to be challenged. There must be voices in Detroit and in America that stand up to these messages that really inspire hatred and division. According to Engle’s group, Dearborn is under demonic control because of its Muslim population. On other occasions TheCall has suggested that African Americans have been cursed by Satan in recent decades because they vote Democratic. This theology is really rooted in an arrogance that fails to remember that prayer and fasting is a discipline designed to help one see how he/she might better live in relationship with God. It is not intended to be a magical strategy that when exercised properly on a football field in Detroit will result in Muslims in Dearborn having dreams of Jesus. Engle declared that God told him to go to Detroit on 11.11.11 because of the large population of Muslims living right next door and ‘pray through the night because that’s when Muslims sleep.’ (And to think I thought night time sleep was available to all religions). TheCall believes that the right amount of prayer and fasting would cause Muslims to dream of Jesus while they are sleeping – for real!

William Law wrote that “The greatest saint in the world is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives alms, or is most eminent for temperance, chastity or justice. It is he who is most thankful to God.” Perhaps the thousands who gathered in Ford Field last weekend might need to be reminded of that. Our fasting, our prayers, our almsgiving should all point us to a gratitude for what God is accomplishing in our lives. I believe strongly that faith should be celebrated. When I speak with a Muslim, or a Jew about her faith, I undoubtedly hear stories that give me pause to think about my faith, my relationship with God, my community of believers. Engle and the people of TheCall profess to be a Christian and insist that being a Christian means seeking to make everyone else a Christian too. It is not a Christianity that I subscribe to.

I would encourage folks from the Detroit area to join us for an event on November 27th that very much takes another approach to being a faithful person in a religiously diverse North America.

Assumption University at the University of Windsor will be hosting an event that I have organized entitled “Children of Abraham.” This is a youth led symposium that will focus attention on faith for young people and why it is important in their lives. In this forum there is no need to denounce the ‘other’ as demonic. In this forum there will be open dialogue and exchange of ideas. In this forum there will be an opportunity for God to do God’s work and for mere mortals to make a feeble attempt at doing ours. We will assemble at Assumption University Chapel at 3 PM and hear from three students who are actively engaged in their faith. Zeinab Dabaja is a Muslim Student studying journalism at St. Clair College, Perry Teicher is a Jewish JD/MBA student at University of Michigan and Kieran Maddock is a Christian who is doing Environmental Science and Communication Studies at the University of Windsor. All three of these young leaders are people who take their walk of faith very seriously and are excited to share that. There will be respondents from each of the three religions and an open opportunity for questions and comments from the floor. Our host, Dr. Norman King,
The Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Religion and Conflict at Assumption University, has kindly provided a reception to follow the event in Assumptions Freed-Orman Center. Our goal is to bring people together rather than drive them apart. Spread that word and let people know about this event. Why does the divisive group need all the press? Let’s spread a positive word!

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