Monday, April 2, 2007

American Experience: Sister Aimee

Pentecostals on prime time!

I first studied Aimee when I was a junior in high school. I did a research paper on her, primarily focusing on the "scandal". I guess that was my first historical theological research!

I have been anxious to see the PBS production of "American Experience" on Aimee Semple McPherson. Though I sometimes think Aimeee has been "done to death", and prefer to look at lesser known figures in early Pentecostalism, Aimee certainly deserves the attention of a program where the focus is on a person or event's intersection with America and Americans.

This episode is worth viewing because of the visuals alone: wonderful pictures, film and re-enactments, though they look a little bit staged. The panel of experts includes SPS past-presidents Edith Blumhoffer, Anthea Butler and immediate past-president David Daniels.

The main focus is on her use of media and her fight to outlaw Evolution in schools and place Bibles in the California schools. In many ways, Aimee, foreshadowed the future of Pentecostalism in the US rather than being "typical" of the Pentecostalism of her day.

There are some obvious omissions: her interaction with the KKK, her license with the AG, her discipleship under William Durham in Chicago and little attention is given to her healing ministry. Positively, the program does move beyond the kidnapping scandal and shows her benevolence work during the Great Depression, her recovered Pentecostalism, her "integrated" worship (before and after Hollwood).

The PBS site has some great pictures and information.