Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back to the Margins

My friend, Mike McMullen has written a very helpful post on the recent uproar over the very offensive Washington Post cartoon lampooning Pentecostals and especially speaking in tongues. He wrote a brilliant letter to the Editor of the Post. Thank you, Mike.

When I first saw the cartoon, in emails sent by several friends, I was offended but also immediately reminded of the cartoon, above, which appeared in the LA papers during the Azusa Street Revival. The Revival was extensively "covered" (and ridiculed) by the press. This cartoon, by the way, is excellent proof of the kinds of manifestations which were going on at 312 Azusa St.

In the latter part of the last century, and early part of this one, in the US, Pentecostals have seemed to "come of age" and moved from the wrong side of the tracks to the places of power and affluence: Pentecostal ministers are often consulted in the way Billy Graham once was, there have been some Pentecostal layperson who have made it to high level government positions, etc., etc. This rise to prominence (or "rush to respectability" as Steve Land has called it) has often, but not always, been accompanied by a compromise of doctrinal distinctives and holiness standards. In fact, in the mind of the Press, some scholars, the American public and even some Pentecostals, there is little difference between Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and Pentecostals. This may be lauded by some, but is grieved by me.

The good news in this political season (and there has been little of it, IMO) is that we may not be as mainstream as we have believed. We have been marginalized by the Post. Maybe they see a Movement that we are unable to see in our too-comfortable offices, houses and churches on the right side of the tracks. I pray they are right.


joel w. clackum said...

Thanks for another nice post!

If any group actually focuses itself on the call and message of the gospel and attempts to fulfill the call of the scriptures to purity, love, passion and communion with God, then that group will inevitably be marginalized. I'm not extremely excited about the world looking at Palin as a model of Pentecostalism, but this does serve as a reminder that while the beauty and power of communion with God is the call of the Pentecostal's heart, it is foolishness to the world. Pentecostals (I use that term meaning a condition of the heart not an association with a particular sub-culture/church)cannot ever be in the mainstream on this side of Glory.

Peggy said...

What great insight. Thank you for being such a bold advocate for the true Pentecostal experience.

Fred Alton said...

Thanks for these challenging thoughts. My mind immediately raced to Luke 6:26 "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets."

Fred said...

As a child of a Pentecostal preacher, we were the subject of ridicule by a few classmates and even a teacher now and then. But - "Oh, the Glory" when the few saints got to church and the Holy Ghost would come down and a Holy Ghost Shout would break out in the form of a Holy dance with tongue speakers fully active! What wonderful compensation it was just to be in God's presence in this awesome way. Having God's approval was/is far more important than any comment from those outside our ranks.