April 2006 marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the
Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, an event that is often cited as
the birth of modern pentecostalism. Since then, pentecostalism has
emerged as one of the fastest-growing Christian movements in the world.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the "global South," which
comprises the nations of Africa, Central and Latin America and most of
Asia, where pentecostalism is reshaping the religious, political and
The Pew Forum, together with the USC Annenberg Knight Program in
Media and Religion and the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture,
held an event to examine pentecostalism's impact on global politics and
its relevance to U.S. foreign policy concerns.
I'm Diane Winston, and I hold the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at
the University of Southern California. As you all know, this is the
centennial of the Azusa Street Revival, a movement that propelled a new
faith worldwide. There are millions of pentecostal believers today, and
all this week there will be events around town to celebrate the
founding of this movement and what it has accomplished. Today we are
going to put this in a political and social context by looking at the
impact of pentecostalism on the global South in particular. And we are
excited to have an outstanding panel of experts to talk with you about
I want to thank the sponsors of this event, the Pew Forum, the
Center for Religion and Civic Culture, and the Knight program. And now
I'll turn this over to Luis Lugo, who is the director of the Pew Forum
on Religion & Public Life.
LUIS LUGO: Good afternoon, and thank you all for
joining us for a discussion of "Moved by the Spirit: Pentecostal Power
and Politics After 100 Years." I'm Luis Lugo, the director of the Pew
Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington, D.C. We are a
research organization and we do not take positions on policy debates --
we're probably the only group in Washington that doesn't take positions
on policy debates. We are delighted to be partnering today with the
Knight Program in Media and Religion at Annenberg and the Center for
Religion and Civic Culture, also here at USC.
As you probably already know, this is the 100th anniversary of the
Azusa Street Revival, which started in L.A. not far from here and gave
birth to the modern pentecostal movement. This event is being
celebrated here this week. I spoke with the organizers just this
morning. They have over 22,000 folks who are registered, not including
the local folks, and over 100 countries represented. The anniversary
offers us a great opportunity to consider, perhaps from a more detached
research perspective, what this movement is all about.
You may be interested, since the Annenberg School is one of our partners here, to see how your newspaper of record, the Los Angeles Daily Times,
as it was called in those days, described the events on Azusa Street
back in April of 1906. I'm reading here from an article entitled, in
the best tradition of impartial journalism, "Weird Babble of Tongues"
(laughter) from April 18, 1906. It was the custom in those days to have
three bullet points, which essentially summarized the article, and the
three bullet points are these: "New sect of fanatics is breaking loose;
Wild scene last night on Azusa Street; Gurgle of wordless talk by a
I will read just the first paragraph: "Breathing strange utterances
and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could
understand, the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles.
Meetings are held in a tumble-down shack on Azusa Street near San
Pedro, and devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical
rites, preach the wildest theories, and work themselves into a state of
mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling
of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the
neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers who spend hours swaying
back and forth in nerve-racking attitude of prayer and supplication.
They claim to have the gift of tongues and to be able to comprehend the
babble. Such a startling claim has never yet been made by any company
of fanatics even in Los Angeles, the home of almost numberless creeds."
That was 1906.
A somewhat more recent L.A. Times piece from earlier this
year adopted a slightly different tone in suggesting that
pentecostalism, "may surpass the movie business as Los Angeles' most
influential export." One wonders whether it hasn't done so already. But
without question, the single most dramatic shift in the world religious
scene in the last 100 years has been the explosive growth of
pentecostalism and associated renewalist movements, which now command a
following of between 250 million and 500 million people worldwide. That
is up to a quarter of world Christianity.
I was just looking through the 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches,
which points out that the fastest-growing denomination in this country
last year was the Assemblies of God. But nowhere is this growth more
evident and dramatic than in the global South, where pentecostalism is
literally reshaping the social, political and economic landscapes of
Latin America, Africa and many parts of Asia.
Pentecostals historically have tended to focus on individual
spiritual conversions and experiences rather than on social causes, but
as you will hear today, that is beginning to change, especially in the
developing world. There, pentecostal churches are creating social
programs that provide food and shelter for the hungry and the homeless,
and establishing schools and daycare centers.
Pentecostals also have become increasingly involved in politics in
countries as diverse as Brazil, Guatemala and Zambia. These
developments, not surprisingly, have led to greater social and
political tension with Catholicism in Latin America, for instance, with
Islam in Africa and elsewhere and with Hinduism in India.
To explore these and other issues associated with the global
pentecostal movement, we have with us today three very knowledgeable
experts. First we will hear from Anthea Butler, an assistant professor
of religion and a fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for
African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester in
New York. She is a past president of the Society of Pentecostal
Studies, and her work on pentecostalism has been published widely. Her
book, Making a Sanctified World: Women in the Church of God in Christ, which, incidentally, is the largest pentecostal denomination in the country, should be out hopefully in the next two months.
Our second panelist, Paul Freston, occupies the Byker Chair in
Sociology at Calvin College and is professor of sociology at the
post-graduate program in social sciences at the Universidade Federal de
São Carlos in Brazil. He is one of the premier experts on the political
impact of pentecostalism around the world and has authored several
books on religion and politics including Evangelicals in Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Finally, we will hear from your own Don Miller. He is Firestone
Professor of Religion, executive director of the Center for Religion
and Civic Culture (one of the partners for this event), and professor
of religion and sociology here at USC. His forthcoming book,
tentatively titled The New Face of Global Christianity: The Emergence of Progressive Pentecostalism,
focuses on the social ministries of pentecostal churches and is based
on his last five years of research in countries in Africa, Asia and
Again, thank you so much for joining us today. We look forward to the panelists' comments and to the discussion to follow.
ANTHEA BUTLER: Good afternoon, everyone. Luis pointed to the first of the Los Angeles Daily Times
articles on the revival, and I have to shoot back with my personal
favorite of all of the articles that appeared. The title is "Women with
Men Embrace; Whites and Blacks Mix in a Religious Frenzy; Wives Say
They Left Husband to Follow Preacher." Now that sounds like a good soap
opera to me. (Laughter.)
The article goes on to say, "Muttering in jargon of unintelligible
sounds, which no man can interpret, the worshippers in the barn-white
Negro church on Azusa Street worked themselves into passions of
religious fervor last night, and brought the meetings, which had been
held for some time, to a climax. They caused a crowd of nearly 500 to
As MapQuest tells me, about 4.8 miles away from this address is 312
Azusa Street, where the former foundations of the building that housed
the Azusa Street Mission are now ensconced in cement surrounding the
plaza of the Japanese Cultural Center. The Azusa Street Mission was the
birthplace of pentecostalism to many. It is perhaps a strangely
inauspicious place for the foundations of a movement that would be the
subject of so much scrutiny today.
All this week, people from around the world are here to commemorate
the 100th anniversary of this revival. I dare say that this might be
just as many as passed through the revival between 1906 and 1910. So
it's good to think about that and put that in your framework.
Pentecostalism has become in vogue, as I like to think of it.
Authors like Harvey Cox and Phil Jenkins are writing popular books in
academic studies on the impact of pentecostalism in the Southern
Hemisphere, or the impact of pentecostalism on social and cultural
issues. What we have not really looked at, however, is the history of
pentecostalism and how its origins begin to project into the future the
trajectories of the social and political orientations that pentecostals
around the globe understand themselves to have today -- and I should
say that that understanding is a very myriad understanding, which
you'll note from this history that I'm about to tell you.
My contribution to our discussion today will be to lay a historic
foundation at the beginning of the Azusa Street revival to see if there
is anything that we can actually point to that might be able to foresee
-- or as pentecostals might say, prophesy -- the future of what global
pentecostalism is today.
In order to do this, what I want to talk about today is something
that we normally don't talk about a lot with pentecostals. We all think
we know what pentecostal belief is, but sometimes it is very hard to
pinpoint that. I want to locate my discussion today in belief because I
think it's in pentecostal beliefs that we can see pentecostal actions
historically in moving through that time.
There are three specific areas of pentecostal belief that form the
foundation for this social and political orientation, and these are as
follows: One, an end-time Messianic apocalyptic vision. That is, we
expect Jesus to return soon. We are in the end of times and because the
Spirit has been poured out on all flesh -- and this is the book of
Joel, chapter two -- this orients us to evangelism; it is a
missions-oriented impulse. And part of this global focus comes out of
the actual speaking in tongues, which I will discuss. Now you see
pentecostals today coming from Korea, the Caribbean, and Africa to
America to evangelize. So it is a reverse evangelization.
The second area of belief is the restoration of the apostolic age.
In other words, things that happened in Jesus' time happen right now.
In 1906, there was an expectation that these things would occur, signs
and wonders from forerunners to the end of the kingdom, that would help
people focus on social mores and concerns like temperance, purity,
interracial harmony, the breaking of gender barriers; things happening
in the last days that would not be like the days before. Pentecostalism
around the world today is looked at as a force for individual change --
social, health, AIDS, addictions and the like -- and, of course, for
economic change. We can look at these signs that the early pentecostals
in 1906 looked to as a restoration of the apostolic age and begin to
see these things in global pentecostalism today.
Finally, the third area of belief is the egalitarian and democratic
focus: The Spirit is poured out on all flesh -- male, female, black,
white, red, yellow or brown. Everyone can receive this gift. And not
only can everyone receive this gift, but the boundaries of nationalism,
gender and race are broken. And we can see today in global
pentecostalism how these things work themselves out among countries and
Early pentecostals also did not have a sense of denominational
boundaries. This was a movement; this was not a church. And so, as
such, it operated beyond the normal boundaries and confines of what we
see. And we're going to talk a little about how you have people from
different religious traditions entering into the Azusa Street Revival.
If we had a longer time to talk about this, I would go forward to talk
about how pentecostalism is one vein, charismatic is another and
renewal is another, and those all come under the big rubric of
The social and political posture of the Azuza Street movement, then,
at the beginning, was rooted in a biblical but not a fundamentalist
orientation -- and there is a big differentiation there; because
something is biblical does not mean that it's fundamentalist. They
looked to the Bible as a template for reading the signs of the times
and interpreting their place within the world and the pentecostal
It is within that context, then, that the actions of early
pentecostals, politically and socially, can be seen as both
complementary and contradictory to many of the things that we see in
global pentecostalism today: a concern for social issues gleaned from
prophetic beliefs and biblical justice, yet acquiescing to social norms
when confronted; an orientation to engage in the political and social
forces of government on the basis of biblical focus and social
injustice, but also a willingness to assist the government and lead
changes to the right intervention; an ability to cross social and
denominational boundaries because of the imminent return of Christ, yet
raising boundaries to protect fledgling pentecostal communities; and
removal of boundaries in worship, yet raising those same worship
barriers to create difference and dissension.
In sum, the mainstream pentecostal movement was a bundle of
contradictions and complexities, all mediated by social and political
constraints of the social vocations of the various participants who
visited and promoted the revival. Much like the multiplicity of global
pentecostalism, one sometimes knows what pentecostalism is or what
pentecostal behavior is if you see it, but defining it to the minutiae
is another task altogether.
In order to set the stage for you, let me just briefly tell you what
the history is in a nutshell. The revival first actually began among a
group of African-Americans at the Bonnie Bray house at 216 North Bonnie
Bray Street. The house still exists today. If you're here this week and
you want to take a tour, there are people there almost around the
clock, and you'll be able to go in and look at some of the original
furnishings that were in the house.
When the revival broke out on April 8, 1906, it happened amongst a
small group of African-Americans led by a man named William J. Seymour,
who had traveled to Los Angeles to preach the message of pentecost that
he learned from Charles Parham, who has sometimes been called the
projector and founder of pentecostalism. Within a week, over 300 people
were beginning to meet there. The porch fell in on the last night. The
Los Angeles Police Department came because people were speaking in
tongues in the street, and they arrested them on a 72-hour psychiatric
hold. (Laughter.) So if you think that this was a small meeting, be
warned; it becomes even worse. The police told the gatherers that they
would need to move, and they moved to 312 Azusa Street a week later,
happening to meet that first day on April 16, 1906.
This was a crucial date because one of the things that happened, and
what Luis did not say to you when he read from that April 18 article
from the Los Angeles Daily Times, was that April 18 was also
the day the San Francisco earthquake happened. Somebody, two days
beforehand, had predicted at the meeting that God was going to do a
great shaking. And so when the earthquake happened in San Francisco,
obviously the confluence of both this pentecostal experience of
speaking in tongues and manifestations of signs and wonders, coupled
with this actual event of the San Francisco earthquake, set the revival
on its course and began to bring people there in large numbers.
This babble that the reporter talked about in the Los Angeles Daily Times
was tongues, and tongues is this first and formidable sort of sign that
pentecostals look to as a way to prove both, A, a sanctification
experience, and, B, this end-time focus. Early pentecostals thought of
this tongues-speaking as not just glossolalia, as we term it in
religious language, but xenoglossolalia, actual languages. So for the
participants at the Azusa Street revival, this sign of tongues, then,
was not just a spiritual language, as some pentecostals will talk about
it now, but it was also an actual language that would help them to
speak to people of other nationalities to spread the gospel. Plans
abounded at the mission of Chinese, Mexicans and others who claimed
they could hear messages from God in their own language.
Xenoglossolalia was a new boundary breaker, a form of incipient
global focus that was present at the beginning of the revival. This
gift was for a purpose: to evangelize the world. And those who believed
that they had this gift of tongues -- that it was an actual language --
set out for mission fields in Asia, Africa and Europe. And I don't need
to tell you that there were many missionaries who found themselves on
the shores of Africa or China who were very upset to find out that
those tongues they spoke were not actual languages.
So in a sense, then, you could look at early pentecostals as being
focused out to this global world mission. For some, their mission's
activity was about going out into the world. For others it was to
influence political focus. John G. Lake was one apostolic missionary
who went to South Africa and found himself in a very interesting
conversation with Louis Botha about the homelands and the natives, and
he suggested that perhaps they might want to do what the Americans had
done in putting Native Americans on the reservation. This would be one
of the other kinds of focus that you can see come out of pentecostalism.
Another is, in a sense, this barrier breaking of gender
relationships. Women at the revival were allowed to speak. People like
Florence Crawford, who came to the revival, ended up actually leaving
their husbands and children in order to go out and minister. We might
see this egalitarian focus today in terms of women who were actually
able to go and preach, even though they are in pentecostal
denominations that don't allow women to be in ministry; this
charismatic gift that is received allows them to go forth and do these
Third, and something that we do need to focus on, is racial
relations at Azusa Street. You hear about whites and blacks mixing.
William Seymour was committed to this interracial revival and keeping
everyone within these confines. What sometimes happened, though, is
that people left the revival and went back to the South and tried to
change the social mores. G.B. Cashwell, for instance, had an experience
here with baptism that was scary. He said at first, "There were blacks
who laid hands on me, but I shuddered and left the revival because I
could not stand their hands upon me." But later he went out and tried
to change the social mores when he found himself back in his hometown.
Unfortunately, society moved in, and society kept the focus away from
So what do we see from early pentecostalism? What can we glean from
this? This egalitarian nature of the Azusa Street Mission allowed, in
one part, many from different denominations to come into the doors and
receive the baptism. On the other hand, you had acquiescence to
political or social mores. When early pentecostals left the mission,
they found themselves in positions like Lake, in compliance with the
government. They often found themselves sometimes -- like Charles H.
Mason, who came to the mission as well -- in direct defiance of the
government because of their pacifistic beliefs. Mason was followed by
the early FBI because of believing in pacifism.
What we can see from the core of the movement is a global focus. The
things that concerned early pentecostals, whether it was economics,
social or political concerns or this evangelistic thrust of
xenoglossolalia, brought Azusa Street Mission people into contact with
the rest of the world. This pentecostal experience that was not
tendered into the denominational structure of strict organizational
lines were able to mutate, proliferate and grow from the imaginations
of those who thought of themselves as being this missing link to the
upper room at Pentecost.
Though often classed as unhistorical, pentecostals connected
themselves to history when it counted for them: the hope of the power
of the Spirit to change the world they inhabited into the Kingdom of
God, where the pains of the world -- disease, hunger and privation --
give way to a new world where boundaries would be immaterial and
suffering would cease.
It is in this vein, then, that we must look at these aspects of
global pentecostalism today that continue to resonate for people around
the world, no matter what class, status or ethnicity they are. The
pentecostal desire for a utopian community is written on the faces of
those pilgrims that this week have arrived in Los Angeles, not by train
or boat, but by the modern conveyances of planes and automobiles. Thank
To understand the political impacts and the political potential of
pentecostalism worldwide we'd have to understand something of its
spread. I would tend to go with the lower estimates of numbers of
pentecostals in the world. Even so, that's quite an impressive number.
And the vast majority of them, of course, are in the global South. They
may be 4 or 5 percent of the world population, which doesn't sound like
very much, but you have to remember that they're highly practicing and
they're fast growing through evangelism and through high birth rates in
many parts of the world. There have been two main areas of impressive
pentecostal growth from non-Christian religions -- that's in
Sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of East Asia -- and one area of growth
from Catholicism, in Latin America.
Today major centers of pentecostalism include Brazil, which probably
has the largest community of pentecostals in the world, Chile,
Guatemala, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Korea, the Philippines and
China. Is pentecostalism then, in any sense, an American religion?
Well, yes, if one attributes relative importance to what happened at
Azusa Street a hundred years ago, which I would say was due largely to
the networks which it managed to establish -- networks of missionaries
and networks of immigrants in various places. But you have to remember,
of course, that this was the underside of American religion, far from
centers of power and wealth, and it was often, in fact, exported by
non-Americans. And also, of course, there were similar phenomena going
on elsewhere in the world at the same time, which were less able to
globalize their influence.
Pentecostalism grows today almost entirely through indigenous
initiatives, not through American televangelists, whatever they may say
about themselves. You will have noticed, of course, that there were,
for instance, no Venezuelan pentecostals anxious to assassinate
President Hugo Chávez because Pat Robertson told them to. (Laughter.)
So the characteristics of global pentecostalism that are important
for its political impact include the fact that it's very
institutionally divided; it's disproportionately amongst the poor in
already poor countries; it's nontraditional; and it often lacks
international contacts, which gives it a certain invisibility and is
why it's often missed by Western academia and media. Pentecostalism, in
short, is world Christianity distant from power and wealth, associated
largely with poverty. And global pentecostalism is usually not at all
dependent on Western pentecostalism.
It's no use, therefore, to try to understand pentecostalism through
the category of fundamentalism, whether understood in its historical
American Protestant sense or the contemporary usage of American
fundamentalism and Hindu fundamentalism. It's a different sort of
religiosity, and it relates differently to global trends. As a large
and rapidly growing religion, especially among the world's poor, its
political doings may in the long run be almost as important as those of
So what are the political impacts in the global South? Does the
pentecostal experience lead necessarily to a particular political
position? I don't think it does. In the past it was often said that
pentecostalism necessarily leads you to be apolitical, and that proves
to be wrong. And then it started to be said that it necessarily leads
you to be politically conservative. But there are many signs that that
is not always by any means the case either. Certainly some pentecostal
theologies do tend either towards being apolitical or towards being
conservative, but that's a different thing.
There are surveys that show the pentecostal experience does not
correlate with being less involved in social and political movements.
There is an increasing involvement of pentecostals in politics, in Asia
to a certain extent, although not so much, in Africa quite a lot and in
Latin America especially. The positions adopted have been extremely
diverse and the record very mixed. Pentecostalism is being put to a
variety of political uses across the globe. Its fragmentation means
that its direct political impact is always smaller than might be hoped
or feared. No pentecostal neo-Christendom potentially dangerous to
democracy is really feasible. In any case, a very small minority of
pentecostals have theocratic political projects similar to those of
Also, it doesn't seem to be true that Third-World pentecostals will
automatically line up with the First-World Christian right on many
issues. While they may do so on abortion and homosexuality -- though
without making those questions so central -- it's far more fractured on
questions of gender and economics, and distant from the Christian right
on geopolitical issues. The results for democracy are paradoxical.
Totalitarian regimes or movements are firmly resisted, as are
non-Christian religious nationalisms, but authoritarian regimes that do
not impinge on freedom of religion may not always be.
Being so fragmented, pentecostalism is less useful during phases of
democratic transition. But during the more extended periods of
democratic consolidation, it helps to incorporate marginal social
actors and instill the confidence and skills which strengthen
democratic culture at the level of civil society. However, it's also
possible the churches may be extremely wrapped up in the apocalyptic
mentality that regards the world as hopeless. Such a mentality is, at
best, not helpful to democratization. But that withdrawal mentality is
now less common, especially in churches at a slightly higher social
level. One now sometimes finds the opposite of that: a triumphalistic
mentality that we are the children of God; therefore we should be
So theocratic ideas are emerging that say believers should govern
their countries in the name of God. In some places, it's better-off
charismatics, used to having a political role in society, who entertain
such ideas -- for example, in Zambia, where a charismatic president
declares Zambia to be a Christian nation, though without establishing
any church or any legal discrimination of non-Christian religions. In
other places, it's more the older, lower-class pentecostal churches
that have grown so much that their leaders have become ambitious and
tried to transform their religious leadership into political
leadership, either simply to strengthen their own churches as
institutions by milking the state, or by dreaming of exercising
political power for themselves. That dream obviously does have serious
anti-democratic potential, but in practice it doesn't happen, because
they don't control the votes of their members like they think they do.
In any case, the churches are too divided among themselves.
So the direct effect of pentecostalism on politics may be less than
is hoped or feared. It's a pluralist form of organization which can be
seen as inherently compatible with democracy, but at times it's also a
civil society bound up in its own limited projects and unable to
develop a more universalistic reflection on public life. Very often
also, third-world pentecostals are cut off from the history of
Christian political reflection. In some countries, the result has been
damage to the public image of pentecostals, associating them with
political naiveté and vulnerability to manipulation and even sometimes
with corruption and hunger for power. They are undoubtedly on a steep
learning curve. But the growing involvement in social projects
sometimes leads to more critical political involvement, oriented more
to the good of society as a whole. In fact, one can even see, to a
certain extent, a shift to the left, or at least to the center left,
particularly in parts of Latin America. In part, this shift is due to
the sudden shifts in the politics of the Catholic Church, no longer
seen as occupying the left so much and therefore opening space for
another religion to do that.
There are also, of course, the class aspects; one finds, for
example, that pentecostals in Venezuela tend to be quite favorable
toward Hugo Chávez. Greater involvement in social projects, as I've
said, leads to a new perception of social reality, the realization of
how many things need to be dealt with at a more-than-purely-individual
level. Also, increasingly, pentecostalism's attraction as a religion of
personal salvation means that you have more and more left-wing
militants converting to pentecostalism and continuing to be left-wing
In addition, pentecostals are often quite nationalistic. Why
wouldn't they be? Pentecostals in this country are nationalistic, but
of course it's a different nation whose interests are being defended.
And in some cases, pentecostalism has been embraced by ethnic
minorities with their own political agendas. At the level of civil
society, very often the impact is very different from that at the macro
level of political parties and parliaments. For example, in Brazil it's
often commented that in the shantytowns, the favelas, really only two
things function: the Catholic Church is absolute and the state is
nonexistent; the only things which function are organized crime and the
pentecostal churches. There is a tremendous amount going on at that
Finally, I've been asked to comment on the relevance of global
pentecostalism to U.S. foreign policy concerns, though I'm not the
person to talk about that. But anyway, if foreign policy concerns and
security concerns mean any questioning of the immense power
differential between the United States and other countries in the
world, then I would say, yes, undoubtedly pentecostal growth will have
some implications for that. If it means will there be pentecostals
blowing up buildings in Los Angeles next week, no, probably not.
(Laughter.) Pentecostalism sees itself, amongst other things, as a
recovery of primitive Christianity. And primitive Christianity, of
course, was largely pacifist. It was persecuted, not persecuting. So
even though you do increasingly have some pentecostals moving in other
directions, they have greater difficulty justifying that tendency on
the basis of primitive Christianity.
There is certainly in pentecostal political militancy some use of
violence. As I said, there are some marginal theocratic tendencies
among pentecostals in some parts of the world. However, since they
don't have a Sharia to implement, their ideas of theocracy generally
boil down to little more than their supposed God-given right to rule.
As to the use of political violence, there have been some incidents in
Nigeria where, of course, pentecostals -- and Christians in general,
and Muslims -- are involved in a fight for the control of a very
important nation state. There have also been some recent cases of
pentecostal vigilantism in parts of Central America as part of the more
general phenomenon of vigilantism. And there has been some involvement
of pentecostals in armed separatist movements in a few countries of
Asia and Africa, which are all based perhaps more on ethnicity and
region than on religion.
But with regard to international terrorism, there is really no
pentecostal equivalent. Some scholars have expressed the fear that
African Christianity might have a serious terrorist potential. Being
from the world's most impoverished region, the argument goes, and being
very religious, which is obviously a dangerous thing, the only
ingredient lacking is the knowledge and technology to be dangerous on
an international scale. However, there is very little evidence for
this, at least so far. As I say, some pentecostals in northern Nigeria
have killed some Muslims who, they would say in justification, were
attacking them. In such a tense context, the tendency of some
pentecostal groups to consider one's religious opponents as
demon-possessed could well be explosive, and there is also a worrying
tendency in some new theologies toward a return to ideas of
territoriality and even to a rule of the saints. However, it should be
remembered that pentecostal Christianity, as compared with Islam, has
had a very different historical relationship to the state, to territory
and to the use of force.
What about a comparison between pentecostals from the global South
and their co-religionists in the United States? Perhaps far from being
a constituency for international terrorism, does global pentecostalism
constitute an extension of American soft power? Does it mean that there
will be a commonality of geopolitical worldviews which will extend the
power of the United States throughout the world? Once again, I'm
dubious. The war on terror, and especially the war in Iraq, has
revealed a deep fissure within global pentecostalism. Before the
invasion of Iraq, a television program in Brazil featured several
Brazilian pentecostal congressmen discussing this issue. However
conservative the political parties that these congressmen represented,
and, if you'll pardon the expression, however wild and woolly some of
the churches that they were involved in, all of them, to a man, were
unanimous in condemning the imminent invasion of Iraq.
While not monolithic, the majority current in Brazilian
pentecostalism seems far closer on these questions to Christian
currents in the United States, which might be labeled mainstream. As
for Spanish-speaking Latin America, a surprising diversity of Latin
American churches made official pronouncements against the war,
including many churches usually thought of as politically conservative,
or which like to imagine themselves as non-political. In addition, a
very conservative South African Christian political party, based mostly
among white and black charismatic churches, the African Christian
Democratic Party, opposed the imminent invasion of Iraq in no uncertain
terms. Their spokesman in Parliament said that selfish interests and
ducking domestic problems were not good reasons to go to war. The ACDP,
they said, rejects, from a Christian perspective, the American civil
religion that says America is pre-destined by God to save the world.
We thus see how risky it is to read Third-World pentecostalism
either through the lens of contemporary Islamic politics, or through
the lens of the American religious right. It is not now, nor is it
likely to become, either the next constituency of recruits for
geopolitical terrorism or an extension of American soft power. Thank
I am going to talk about a very particular slice within pentecostalism,
and this is the way in which I got to that particular point: About five
years ago, I was with a good friend, Ted Yamamori, who was then the
president of a large nongovernmental organization. We were sitting in a
café in Manila and decided that we would like to do a research project
that would focus on fast-growing churches that were in urban areas,
that were in the developing world and that also had very strong social
ministries within their own community. We wrote to about 400 experts to
recommend congregations that could be the focus of this study, and to
our surprise, about 85 percent of the congregations that were
recommended were either pentecostal or charismatic.
So we decided we would write a book on what we are calling
progressive pentecostals. These congregations are not necessarily
progressive in the political sense, but they are progressive in the
sense that they are really moving beyond an other-worldly preoccupation
with the imminent return of Christ. Not that they've abandoned this
idea, but they are equally concerned with following Jesus' example of
ministering to those who are sick, addressing the problems associated
with poverty, confronting societal injustice and so on.
Let me turn directly to our research findings. We found a very wide
spectrum of social ministries in the 20 developing countries where we
did case studies. There was a spectrum that ranged from very
individualistic interventions to approaches that incorporated a public
For example -- and this probably was true even from the earliest
days of pentecostalism in 1906 -- there were mercy ministries, namely,
projects that were focused on providing food to people who were hungry,
clothing to people who needed clothing, shelter for those who were
homeless and so forth. Also, we found a number of pentecostal churches
around the developing world that were responding to particular crises.
Whether it be floods or famines or earthquakes, pentecostals were there
providing emergency services of one sort or another.
We also, in a very interesting way, found a number of pentecostal
churches that were entering the sphere of education. Rather than
children going to schools with 100 children in a classroom, they were
trying to create model schools with 30, 40 or 50 children in a
classroom. Also, a number of these churches were involved in preschool
education of various sorts. In addition, many of these churches had
drug treatment programs; if we have time, maybe in the Q & A, I can
give some actual examples of different drug treatment programs, some of
which very much draw upon supernatural powers related to the Holy
Spirit for assisting people in getting off drugs.
Moving into the social arena, many of these churches are also
starting health clinics, often very affordable ones. Some of them are
partnering with NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] on various kinds
of economic development projects, particularly micro-credit loans that
start small businesses within the community.
Progressive pentecostalism is an emergent movement. I do not know
what percentage of the pentecostal movement this slice may represent,
but my guess is 10 percent or something in that neighborhood; that is,
of pentecostal churches that are really engaging their communities,
moving beyond simply their own religious community.
What are the elements that are contributing to this social
engagement? One interesting comment I received from someone I
interviewed in Argentina was that liberation theology, typically
associated with the Catholic tradition, opted for the poor, but the
poor opted for pentecostalism. (Laugher.) Indeed, I think there is
something to be said for that idea because there is, in a religious
economy sense, a lot of competition within different elements of the
Christian communion, particularly in various parts of Latin America,
but also, to some degree, in other parts of the world.
Another important element, in my opinion, is that the leadership is
not removed from the people. Someone I interviewed in Kenya said that
the shepherd, referring to the clergy, smells like the sheep; meaning a
lot of the clergy within these pentecostal movements are not highly
educated, they don't have seminary degrees, they very much are
connected to the people to whom they are ministering. They know their
problems, they know their pain and they are committed to helping them
move from a position of scarcity into one of greater affluence.
There's another element that has struck me over and over again in
traveling around the world, and that is how innovative, creative and
entrepreneurial many pentecostals are. In fact, on occasion I felt
these people were megalomaniacs of one sort or another in terms of
their goals and ambitions. But a couple years later, when I went back
and visited the same congregations, they had, in fact, realized many of
the social projects they had envisioned.
Why is this focus on social ministries emerging with greater force
at this moment in the history of pentecostalism? Even though
pentecostalism has its roots with the very poor, there is a growing
middle class in many of these countries. And my own sense is that as
people are becoming better educated, they're starting to think in a
more holistic way about, not only their own lives, but about their
communities and about solutions to problems. So, rather than thinking
simply in highly individualistic ways -- how can I feed this person? --
they are beginning to think increasingly in structural terms. This,
again, is not all of pentecostalism, but it's the particular slice I
have looked at.
Also, it's no secret that there's been an exponential increase in
the number of global NGOs -- organizations like World Vision, Food for
the Hungry, Compassion International and so forth. And in many
countries, I've observed growing partnerships between these NGOs, a
number of whom are very sophisticated in terms of their development
theories, and pentecostal churches. I think the presence of NGOs is
starting to have a very direct impact on pentecostal social engagement.
And, also, of course, pentecostals don't live in isolation. They often
attend the same conferences and events and read some of the same media
as evangelicals do. And, of course, there is a fairly significant
element of evangelicalism that also is engaged in social ministries.
To switch gears here for a moment, there's another way of thinking
about pentecostal social development. It has a lot of parallels to the
sociological literature that has been referred to as the Protestant
Ethic Thesis, which is related to the growth of capitalism. Let me just
give a pentecostal angle to that notion. One of the first things that
happens to a new convert to pentecostalism, particularly to the men, is
that they give up, or at least are told to give up, womanizing,
gambling, alcohol, drugs, if they're using drugs and so forth. What is
the impact of that, particularly in relatively poor communities? One
result is that people actually end up having surplus capital, at least
when compared with their neighbors who are continuing those practices.
Where does that surplus capital go? It ends up being invested in their
own petty businesses -- and I could give a lot of examples of that. It
ends up being invested in the education of their children. In short,
pentecostals -- and this also certainly applies to Mormons and other
groups, so it's not exclusive to pentecostalism -- end up then having a
competitive economic advantage when compared to those who are not
abiding by these particular prescriptions.
There are other interesting angles here. Pentecostals very much
believe that one should not be involved in promiscuous affairs, that
young people should have sex only in marriage and that young women, in
particular, should delay sexual debut and delay having children, which
often results in them having more education, allowing them to be
involved in better employment. And that also, I believe, is one of the
reasons we're witnessing upward social mobility in a number of
So far, I've said nothing about the goal of theology, but obviously
theology is extremely important within pentecostalism. One thing I
heard, sitting through thousands of hours of sermons, were preachers
telling congregants, "You are made in the image of God; you have value;
you have dignity." In fact, in one vivid example, I went to a rather
small church of indigenous people in Guatemala, and, repeatedly, the
preacher, who was a local person, was saying, "Stand up for your
rights." And it had a very progressive political quality to it. I think
that there are significant implications, then, for the possibilities of
not only self-worth, but also for the evolution of democratic reform
within various countries.
I'll just end by saying this: What I've observed in my research is
that pentecostals often are creating alternative institutions. They are
creating alternative schools, alternative forms of medical care. To the
extent that they're political, in a number of instances, it is their
conviction that they're actually building a whole new generation of
people who potentially could be involved in the political realm, but in
a noncorrupt and more morally praiseworthy way. To the extent that this
will actually occur, I guess time will tell.
Thank you, Don. I should add, speaking of all the research that these
fine folks are doing, that the Pew Forum, with the help of our friends
at the Templeton Foundation, is about to launch a major series of
surveys of pentecostal publics and leaders, both in the United States
and around the world. It's a very complicated project, but our aim is
to probe their attitudes on a wide range of issues and create what we
hope is a more complete portrait of the global pentecostal movement. In
fact, we're going in the field this week, as it happens, in nine
countries -- three in Africa, three in Asia, three in Latin America --
and then this summer we'll survey pentecostals here in the United
States. We're working with the organizers of the Azusa Street
Centennial so that we can poll the leaders who are coming from those
more than 100 countries to get a sense of where pentecostal leaders are.
We hope to have these results ready by early fall, so stay tuned on
that one. It's probably going to just bear out what these folks have
been saying. A social scientist, a former Secretary of Education, once
defined social science as "the elaborate demonstration of the obvious
by methods that are obscure." (Laughter.) That's what we intend to do
over the next few months.
It's time to hear from you folks. I would ask that you keep your
comments and questions brief, and that you please identify yourself.
QUESTION: My name is Joyce Dillard. My
grandmother's aunt was the white woman who went to the black service.
The whole family left Sweden because they were Baptists. She was a
Samuelson; Osterberg was her married name. And my grandparents were in
the movement with Azusa Street. A lot of oral history is not brought up
here. They rose with the Spirit; it wasn't just talking in tongues. You
didn't address the healing by laying on of hands, but both my
grandparents and many of my relatives have that ability to lay on the
hands, and that is an aspect of the growth of this religion.
Family stability is another issue. Boy, you couldn't divorce like
you can today; that was a no-no. That kept our family stable. And there
was an individualism. My grandfather was one of those that did the
baptisms in the name of Jesus; he was one of the rebels of the
movement, and he was self-educated. He learned the different languages,
Greek and Hebrew, on his own, and it's that self-motivation in
pentecostalism that I think needs to be addressed. You have the power
to do things, to act whenever.
Also, I think as a whole, as far as world politics go, you need to
address the use of the radio back in those times. Again, my grandfather
had a radio. My grandparents didn't even have a TV set. They would come
to our house for the Rose Parade. Later, toward the end of their lives,
they did have a TV set, but most of the time that was taboo. Now, the
use of television has come in with the movement, and I think that
transition from radio to TV needs to be analyzed and reported on.
I've already mentioned international relations. There is the "10/40
window," prayer for all the Muslim countries. Very few people know
about this. This country was prepared, and is prepared today, because
we're still praying for those countries. And it was across the board in
Protestant religions; it wasn't just pentecostal. I was in a Nazarene
church where I was doing that 10/40 prayer. So I think that needs to be
addressed as part of the movement, because that's been neglected as a
component of religions in the world scene, and people, as individuals,
are involved, even though they may be sitting at home or in their
MS. BUTLER: Let me address a couple of things you
said. You made the comment about tongues talking and the laying on of
hands. If we had had more time, I could have gotten into a fuller
history of the movement. What I wanted to do to lay the groundwork was
to talk about the things that are directly related to global
relationships. And tongues, especially, is a very contested part of the
movement theologically. You also mentioned the baptism in Jesus' name.
That's the wonders movement. There are many manifestations of this
around the world.
I appreciate you bringing up your grandparents because I think, in
part, what we often miss about this story is how much this was a global
movement from the very beginning. People were coming from all over the
world to Los Angeles to hear this message, and then they were going
back out again. And what did that mean? How did they go out? What kind
of manifestations did they take?
But I will take issue with one thing you said, and that is
individualism. This individualism comes because of the baptism of the
Spirit; the Spirit dwells in you. If you think about certain
manifestations of pentecostalism, about service and power, it's not
just about the individual. It's what the individual is going to do to
benefit the kingdom, and that's the important part. This is how
pentecostals locate themselves. So it's not just a sense of
individualism for individualism's sake. It's individualism that works
towards what is supposed to happen at the end times -- it's this
eschatological thing that we see. So when you talk about your relatives
being individuals, I would submit that that individualism is connected
to a core.
You also brought up this issue of media, which sort of made me laugh
because I thought, well, if evangelicals thought they had media,
pentecostals perfected it. If you think about media in this country and
media in terms of the first televangelists -- Jim Bakker, Jimmy
Swaggart -- there's a plethora of things that you can see on the
television set right now. Aimee Semple McPherson, was the first woman
to own a radio station west of the Mississippi River. But even before
that media, you had the Apostolic Faith Newspaper that went out all
over the world, from Azusa Street, that began to be printed three or
four months after the mission opened.
So I think this kind of use of media is very important, and how the
secular media reported on Azusa Street is also important. It's not just
a black and white thing; I really want to get you to see that. This is
a much more complex movement than perhaps a lot of people – especially
the scholarly community – give it credit for.
MR. MILLER: I think one cannot underestimate the
role of music within the pentecostal tradition. I mentioned that one of
the liabilities is the bad breath of translators, and one of the other
liabilities is sitting next to one of these huge speakers and going
deaf in one ear.
The music at the congregations -- at least, that I did case studies
of -- often was extremely professional. There was a sense in which
converts were coming directly from entertaining in bars to playing
worship music -- with changed lyrics, obviously. And so I think media
does play actually a very strong role, but I would say the punch behind
a lot of it is the music: the originality of the music, the cultural
embeddedness and appropriateness of the music. Pentecostalism is
oftentimes attracting a fairly young constituency. And my opinion is
that it's because they are attracted initially to the music; that that
is one sort of porthole into this movement.
MR. LUGO: You know, I've heard that even Elvis
learned a thing or two from the Church of God in Christ down in Memphis
(laughter). That may be a rumor. I don't know.
But it's interesting. This pre-Otis Chandler L.A. Times
piece mentioned at the very end that there was a Jewish rabbi at that
Azusa Street Revival -- Gold, and that he converted. This is the
question I want to pose to you, Paul, and it's connected to the Islam
question that the lady posed. In our survey we're trying to probe for a
philosemitism among worldwide pentecostals. Do you find much of that,
particularly in Africa, and we're talking in this context, in
particular? It's a philosemitism that's connected with the apocalyptic
understanding of the end times, and it's already feeding certain
attitudes toward Islam.
MR. FRESTON: By philosemitism, I take it you mean
friendship toward the modern state of Israel. I think you find, again,
a variety of postures. You have some that align with Christian Zionism,
which, of course, increasingly will come in conflict with the actual
policy of the state of Israel, now that Israel has realized that
demography is more important than topography. But on the other hand,
you also find pentecostal missionaries from the global South working in
the Muslim world who are extremely unhappy about Christian Zionism and
about the policy of the United States in the Middle East, and, in fact,
find that they are much better accepted in Muslim countries than they
would be if they were Americans.
The "10/40 window" is this idea that you need to have a major
missionary thrust between the 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator,
basically in Africa and Asia -- basically the area where the other
major world religions hold sway. And why is that important now? Because
there aren't many other people left.
Increasingly, if you're a world religion and you want to evangelize
now, you will be evangelizing people who belong to another world
religion, and increasingly also, the evangelists will be Christians
from the global South. In other words, the idea of the Christian
missionary must be changed quite radically. It's no longer always, by
any means, a wealthy, white Westerner.
And so increasingly you have the possibility -- especially perhaps
between Christianity and Islam -- that these religions are in
competition for an increasingly scarce number of converts.
I think part of the problem there is the question of learning. And
one of the things that I noticed that very often characterizes both
pentecostal missionaries and also pentecostals in politics is the
problem that if you believe that you are chosen, that God has called
you and that you are filled with the Holy Spirit, and if you have the
recipe for making things work -- you have the recipe for evangelizing
because you've done it in your own country. You have the recipe for
politics because you are the cream of society. You don't need to take
the trouble to actually go and study and learn from history, learn from
how other Christians have done it and got it right or got it wrong. So
the problem is how you get into the right frame of mind to go through a
learning curve. And that's been a big problem, I think, both in
missions from the Third World, and also in their involvement in
MR. LUGO: Paul is overseeing a project that is
looking at missionary-sending activities from the global south to other
parts of the global South, but also to the North. So stay tuned for
that piece of research.
QUESTION: I'm a graduate student in theology at
USC, and I study Central American immigrant pentecostals here in L.A. I
have a question for Anthea. I really appreciated your discussion of the
history of pentecostalism, and the racial inclusiveness of the early
Azusa Street pentecostals and how that was central to the early
sexualized stereotypes of Pentecostals. Yet I still work here in L.A.
in the small storefronts, and even to an extent the mega churches, and
I see that it's segregated along the lines of race and ethnicity and
nationality. So I'm wondering if you could speak to these contemporary
manifestations of pentecostalism that are more segregated.
MS. BUTLER: I think part of it goes back to
cultural issues.. From Azusa Street forward, you're in a time of Jim
Crow. You begin to have people go back South and otherwise. What we're
seeing now is partly that Pentecostals really do mirror the city. If I
think about Los Angeles, for instance -- I'm going to pick on some of
the biggies here -- let's think about West Angeles. There are Latinos
living all around the community, but they are not going to West Angeles
because they view this as an African-American church, and vice versa.
There is the issue of language barriers. Spanish, especially, is one.
There's also the class issue. And I think this is important. If you
think about what has happened here in Los Angeles, especially within
the last three or four months with issues regarding the jails and the
prisons, sets of African-American men, Latino men and women who are
incarcerated, their parents are part of these churches. Fighting for
resources becomes very important. Theologically, they may be the same,
but when it comes to the cultural issues and the pressures in terms of
immigration, that is where we step into the political realm. You might
have African-American pentecostals thinking a certain way about all
these immigration policies that are going on relative to Central
Americans' thoughts about immigration here in the United States.
It's a complex issue in the States. What I find overseas, especially
in places like Europe, is that the immigration problem becomes the
biggest problem to interracial relationships. I attend a church in
Zurich from time to time, and the African congregation there has had
some whites in the past, and they also have a very large pentecostal
church there that has about 5,000 members right now. That congregation
has a small contingent of Africans and some people from Latin America,
but it's predominately Swiss pentecostal and white.
So I think what we find is that sometimes it's social and cultural
issues. But I'll lead with this, because I think the things that show
up, even though you don't have race mixing. The "Celebrate Jesus
celebrate" song in the video we saw, is a popular hymn written by a
Pentecostal, Gary Oliver. You can hear that song being sung in Spanish.
You could go to a church like the Church Of the Way in Van Nuys, and
you'd hear that same song.
The packaging is often the same in terms of music and how it is
used, but the social and cultural issues on the ground sometimes
dictate what happens in the church. And so that was the tension that I
was speaking about, when something from the outside comes into the
church and keeps that segregation.
MR. LUGO: You know, post-'65 immigration is having
these kinds of consequences in religious communities throughout this
country. We hear a lot about the number of non-Christian immigrants,
and, indeed, since '65, we've had more religious diversity with
Muslims, Hindus and others coming in. But if you look at the
demographics, the most important lesson in terms of religious
demographics in the post-'65 immigration is not the religious diversity
with respect to non-Christian religions. The biggest story
demographically speaking is the number of Christians who have come in
and are remaking American Christianity. I like to quote Stephen Warner
here, a sociologist of religion, who says what we're witnessing in the
first instance is not so much the de-Christianization of American
society as the de-Europeanization of American Christianity, which is
really quite interesting.
Four out of 10 Catholics in this country are Latino, you know, and
in the Assemblies of God, at least 25 percent are Latinos. So it is
changing, and in other communities as well, not just with respect to
Latino immigration, which is roughly half of the '65 immigration. Look,
even your average Arab in this country is a Christian Arab, not a
Muslim Arab, and that has implications. So we're seeing these issues
negotiated throughout American religion.
MR. FRESTON: I looked at Brazilian immigration to
this country, and a lot of these people are already pentecostals or
become so here. Pentecostalism is a religion made to travel. It does
especially well in diaspora situations, it seems, for a number of
reasons. And it's interesting how in these churches, the vast majority
are illegal, and so before they have another sort of theology, the
theology that they need to develop, even though it's usually implicit
rather than explicit, is what I'd call a theology of the undocumented.
They do, in fact, develop a very interesting theology of the
undocumented based on biblical, historical and pragmatic arguments.
QUESTION: I'm John Wiseman. I'm a Ph.D. student.
What is the role of prophecy, either fulfilled or unfulfilled, in the
current state of pentecostalism? I'm particularly thinking of Dr.
Miller's comments about the social changes taking place, the move to
material and social change in pentecostalism. I'm wondering if prophecy
-- maybe unfulfilled prophecies -- has had anything to do with that
move away from other- worldly conceptions and actions to more material
MR. MILLER: In a number of the churches that I
studied, there would be rather carefully orchestrated moments where
there could be prophecy, but it typically was of a fairly general sort
that was more focused on encouraging the flock and the community -- not
prophecy in the sense that we sometimes think about it in terms of
foretelling what will happen in the future. So it's not that it wasn't
present, but I didn't see its political role. I'd be interested in
hearing my colleagues' take on it.
MR. FRESTON: Yes, there are distinctions out there.
There is prophecy in that sort of sense – general messages of
encouragement. Then you might have prophecies that actually foretell
specific events, which might or might not come to pass. And third, of
course, you have the question of seeing the signs of the times of
biblical prophecies being fulfilled, which would be another dimension
and perhaps what you were thinking of more.
I think in that context, initially, you did have a very strong
pre-millennial interpretation of prophecy, which tended to feed into a
sort of Titanic mentality; you know, the world is like the Titanic,
it's going down; all you can do is get people onto the lifeboats and
off the ship.
But I think that, sociologically speaking, there are encouragements
for that to change as you get a bigger stake in the world -- either as
an institution you get a bigger stake, and therefore the leaders become
more interested in getting a stake in the world, in society, even in
politics, and defending that, or else your actual flock moves up.
Or another scenario is that you start to attract people at a higher
social level. What has happened in someplace like Guatemala, for
example, is that a certain percentage of the traditional elites have
moved into forms of charismatic pentecostal churches. And there, of
course, they're much more susceptible to post-millennial
interpretations because they are used to being involved in politics and
having a share in running the country or discussing political things.
For them just to say, "Now, all that is nonsense; the world's ending
tomorrow," is not very attractive. So there's a greater temptation, if
you like, to think, No, no, no; in fact, Christ returns after the
millennium, and we have to govern first. So you get these ideas of a
kind of rule of the saints coming in.
MS. BUTLER: Some of us like to make a joke that you
could see how much pentecostals really believe in prophecy, because
they continue to engage in large building projects of churches all
around the country and the globe.
Let me sharpen your question a bit. You can think about the
prophetic in terms of the personal. So you may have someone thinking
that God is going to bless me and make my finances increase -- and we
haven't even talked about prosperity here, which is a huge portion of
lots of penecostal movements. And this is where I will have to depart
from my other two panelists and say to you that, from the very
beginning, pentecostalism has wrestled with this deprivation theory,
and we are beginning to see throughout our historical research that not
everybody that comes to the door of Azusa Street and otherwise is poor,
and many Pentecostals after that aren't necessarily poor; they have
some means and they are very educated.
So I think there's a trajectory that you can look at historically
that leans to not just this poverty-based pentecostalism, but a
middle-class pentecostalism from the very beginning, what Grant Wacker
refers to as a pragmatic pentecostalism.
The second part of the prophetic ties back into this question of
Zionism. From the very beginning there was a sense for pentecostals
that there had to be certain signs of the times. And if you want to
know if that still exists or not, I would encourage you to go online,
google Pat Robertson and read about this whole issue of him buying land
in Israel, because that will tell you that there's a real sense in
which there is still this prophetic working out of these things. And in
terms of gas prices being raised, I would imagine that in lots of the
sermons that will be preached this week, many people will say, Here we
are at the end times again. It's not the everyday focus of
pentecostalism, but it's there in the background always lurking.
MR. LUGO: If there are differences between
pentecostals, on the one hand, and American fundamentalists and
evangelicals, on the other, it doesn't sound to me like they are over
these prophetic issues. What are the differences between these three
movements? I have a hard enough time explaining to journalists the
difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical, and now you, in
good academic fashion, make it even more complex. (Laughter.)
MS. BUTLER: I'll make it simple for you and just
read the Bible for all three of them, because I think the Bible is the
one thing you can talk about. Pentecostals would believe in scriptural
infallibility. But they wouldn't believe in inerrancy, that the Bible
is just absolutely perfect in all areas. So, in a sense, you see
pentecostals dealing with extra-revelation, this sense of the
prophetic. We have the Word, but we also have the Word that speaks to
us through the Holy Spirit.
Fundamentalists will say the Bible is infallible and inerrant; God
said it; I believe it; that settles it; this text stands as it is. And
so for fundamentalists, it's very hard to move out of their hard line.
When you see, for instance, a Southern Baptist moving from a
progressive place to a more fundamentalist place, that's in part due to
this hard-line view of the Bible. Pentecostals and Southern Baptist
fundamentalists would agree about abortion. They would agree about
sexual issues. They would agree about gay marriage. But at the same
time, they would look at a biblical text very differently.
Evangelicals have more of an openness, and the importance to them is
also the text, the Bible, but also in thinking how they could interpret
that in new ways in order to do this evangelistic task. They're cousins
to pentecostals in a certain sense, and evangelicals and pentecostals
are perhaps much closer to themselves based on 19th and 20th-century
history. But fundamentalism and pentecostalism, that should not be said
in the same sentence. Class-wise, a lot of pentecostals now would love
to call themselves evangelicals. But if they knew the history, they
could never be evangelicals.
QUESTION: I'd like to muddy the waters even more.
Dr. Butler, can you explain the difference between charismatics and
pentecostals and fundamentalists, because the charismatics that I know
get offended if they're described as pentecostals.
MR. LUGO: Don or somebody else who was up here
mentioned that researchers tend to classify everything under renewalist
movements, and that includes charismatics within mainline
denominations. You know, in South Korea, maybe it's Presbyterian
charismatics. In much of Latin America, it's Catholic charismatics. In
Africa, it's African charismatics. And then you have pentecostals
associated with traditional pentecostal denominations, and then the
neo-pentecostals who are independent, and so forth. But Anthea, you
complicate it even more.
MS. BUTLER: What are classical penecostals? I'm
going to use the African-American example here, because I think this is
the clean way to do it. Think about traditions like Church of God in
Christ. They come out of 19th-century holiness movements. Some of them
come out of Baptist movements. They see themselves as the inheritors of
the Azusa Street Mission. They come out of denominations like the
Assemblies of God. That is classical pentecostalism.
Charismatics are in other denominational movements. For instance,
there was a charismatic movement that started out here in the San
Fernando Valley with the Episcopal priest back in the '60s, Bennett.
That was the beginning of the movement, so you see that cross into
charismatic Catholics in the late '60s, early '70s, and charismatic
movements among the mainline denominations.
There's another kind of charismatic. There's the charismatic that
doesn't connect itself to any sort of denominational construct. If you
can start to think about these larger churches now, like Joel Osteen's
church, for instance, they are sort of a cousin to the Word of Faith
movement, but they stand alone as a kind of charismatic church. They
don't necessarily see themselves as coming out of pentecostalism.
That's the simplistic way to put this for you to help you understand it.
QUESTION: I'm Sonya Geis from The Washington Post.
And I have a question about social outreach and evangelization. Is
social outreach part of how evangelization is done? Is it easier to
bring people into the church when there is outreach going on in the
MR. LUGO: I'm directing that to you, Don, since you
were studying the phenomenon of social ministry. To what extent is it a
means to evangelism? Or is that something that also grows out of the
church's faith, but is not necessarily a means to evangelism?
MR. MILLER: Let me approach it indirectly. In a
number of these very large churches – the five, ten, fifteen, twenty
thousand-member churches -- the way in which they deal personally with
their faith and practice is by having weekly cell groups that typically
meet in homes and may have anywhere from five to fifteen people. Within
these cell groups, they typically study Scripture, they pray and they
minister to each other.
One of the chief means by which people actually become new converts
is that someone who's a neighbor has invited them to one of these cell
groups -- often at a moment of personal crisis -- and the cell group
acts like an extended family that assists that individual, loves that
individual and, from the perspective of the pentecostals, this is
simply their expression of Christ's love to the neighbor. So through
that rather personal connection with a small group, individuals
oftentimes then do make their way to the larger church and the Sunday
celebration and so forth.
I would be very hesitant to say that social ministries are being
done in a kind of calculated, strategic way in order to gain converts.
I think that's far too cynical and that's not how I experienced it
myself, having attended a number of these cell groups. Instead, there
seems to be a genuine spirit of compassion towards others that
sometimes gets instrumentalized in what we might call formal social
ministries, but oftentimes it's done at the highly informal level of
neighbor relating to neighbor.
MR. LUGO: This is a major flashpoint sign
throughout the world in minority Christian countries. Invariably what
you will see, whether it's a Muslim country or a non-Muslim country
like Sri Lanka, which is tightening up on anti-conversion measures, is
this argument that pentecostals and other Christian missionaries are
using the social ministry component in a sort of underhanded way to
evangelize people. They will use the term "proselytizing," which a lot
of Christians therefore run away from because they say, We're not
evangelizing, and we're not proselytizing. But it's very difficult to
We've gotten into this debate in this country about the president's
faith-based initiative with many of these social ministries. And those
who do them are convinced that baiting them, as it were, with religious
motivation and appeals, is a constituent development of making those
things effective. How can the government support that without directly
supporting religion? And so we get into that kind of debate.
On the way here I happened to be reading Deus Caritas Est,
which is Benedict's encyclical, and the second half of it deals with
these issues. And he very strongly in one section comes down and says,
the Church does not do its social ministry merely as a means to
evangelism. But one paragraph later, he says, Nevertheless, the
Church's social ministry is not just a social welfare program; it's
also a witness of the love of Christ manifested through his Church. So
what then is the difference precisely between evangelism and witness as
the Pope described? Well, you read the encyclical and see if you can
parse it. It's very, very difficult to do. But this is a huge issue
wherever we're having legal and political problems with respect to
This transcript has been edited for clarity, spelling and grammar.