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.