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Charismatic Christianity as a Global Culture
Cloth ISBN 0-87249-996-0
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What the critics say:
"A fascinating look at a worldwide phenomenon that has been all too easy to compartmentalize or ignore. The shift from a North American to a global genealogy for charismatic religion is especially revealing ..."
David Stoll, from dust jacket.
" ... far-reaching innovative, interdisciplinary collection providing global treatment of a topic usually covered from a regional or country wide-perspective ..."
"...Karla Poewe...in an extremely important methodological and programmatic article urges a `rethinking [of] the relationship between anthropology to science and religion.' This chapter alone is worth the price of the volume. This volume is indeed a tour de force" ..."
"Karla Poewe concludes the volume with a chapter that is "must" reading for all social scientists interested in the study of religion...This collection...makes an important contribution to rethinking how religious reality is constructed..."
"If readers desire to consult genuinely authoritative work on Pentecostalism and charismatic movements generally, then they should read a new volume edited by Karla Poewe...Professor Poewe herself offers a rich and wide ranging introduction ..."
This book is about the history, spread, and characteristics of a growing global religion. It is about Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity because unlike its forerunners, British Puritanism and Methodism, German Pietism, American Holiness and Canadian Latter Rain, Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity are still growing (Barrett 1982, Burgess et al 1988:810-830; Kelley 1977, Hollenweger 1988, Stoll 1990, Martin 1990, Finke and Stark 1992, Synan 1971, Riss 1987). Furthermore, they are still growing even though Pentecostalism became a mainline denomination some decades ago while charismatic Christianity has become denomination-like since the late 1970s ... Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement suffer from the academic biases which Finke and Stark (1992) discuss in their first Chapter.
In brief charismatic Christianity does not measure up to scholars' notions about intellectual progress, progressive refinement, religious ideas and political correctness.
The last mentioned is a particularly popular measuring rod used in South Africa and Latin America to dismiss and denigrate independent Pentecostal and charismatic activities, especially their keen sense for religious business and investment (Finke and Stark 1992:17, Martin 1990, Stoll 1990, de Soto 1989:4; Poloma 1989:215-231; Poewe 1993a) ...
I start this overview from an American perspective because students who are new to this subject matter will find it more familiar. Later comments and the chapters in the book, however, point precisely away from America. The aim is to begin the process of realizing a global perspective, so that we do not lose sight of the impact of the rest of the world on us (Wolf 1982, Wallerstein 1974, 1987; Featherstone 1990:2, 4) ...
From the North American perspective, the immediate forerunners of the charismatic or renewal movement were the healing evangelists including Bill Branham (Weaver 1987), Kathryn Kuhlman (Kuhlman and Buckingham 1979), Oral Roberts (Harrell 1985), and many others (Harrell 1975). While many of these evangelists had Pentecostal backgrounds, they started independent ministries which were non- or adenominational. Independent ministries became especially popular in the late 1970s ...
If we now look at North America again, the significant role played by the media in the making of charismatic Christian history is astonishing. Furthermore, charismatic Christians learned only too quickly to use the media, which usually concentrated on the warts of the movement, to their own advantage. In the 1970s, following a major rise in assemblies and networks, the Wall Street Journal (May 19, 1978) ...
The 1970s is also the decade which was first flooded with popular and scholarly charismatic literature written by charismatic Christians themselves. Dissemination took place primarily through Logos International, Fleming H. Revell, the Catholic Paulist Press, and more recently Mercer University Press. Much of the literature was focussed on healing ...
Fellowship networks exist in any country. We observed several in South Africa, Germany, Britain and Canada. Since these structures are relatively loose and ever changing, I mention only one American fellowship here ...
Fellowships and Networks are impermanent structures. They are sometimes not much more than relationships based on friendships. Many new ones have probably emerged since this writing. In the language of our time, they say something about marketing new expressions of charismatic Christianity, diversifying religious firms, and circulating funds.
Given the wholistic orientation of charismatic Christianity, it is not surprising to learn that most fellowships have overseas connections.
P. Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), a Jesuit and eminent missionary scientist who established a scientific apostolate in China, on one hand, and August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), the German founder of the Pietist movement, on the other, established several traditions which, in different combinations, are part of the discourse and practice of charismatics to this day ...
Charismatic Christianity reverses emphases that we have taken for granted: the centrality of the rational, of calculated doing, of articulate verbal skills, of doctrine, and of things western. It does not deny nor reject these things. Rather it comes to them in unexpected ways. A charismatic Christian comes from the nonrational to the rational, from happening to doing, from experience to talk, from sign to metaphor, from spiritual gifts to utility, from receptiveness to action, from demonstration to theology, from indiginization to globalization. It is often the African, the Chinese, the Latin who leads the western nominal Christian to experience the Holy Spirit and tongues ...
What Enlightenment thinkers opposed were traditions which held that we can also know through revelation and religious experiences. Perhaps because this generation tends to be illiterate in Christianity, these ways of knowing have once again gained currency. More curiously still, they have gained currency simultaneously among social scientists as well as Pentecostals and charismatics.
As said, agnosticism allows social scientists to argue that, since religious beliefs can neither be proven nor falsified, we can at least take them seriously when they are believed by those whom we study. But what about our own beliefs? Do we take them seriously? Do they affect our research and writing?
Droogers uses the parallel interests of Pentecostals and social scientists in religious experiences to construct an heuristic model which gages the openness of believers and non-believers toward their own and other people's beliefs. He starts with the observation that westerners generally have changed their attitude toward what and how we know. The attitudinal change is captured in the popular desire to experience wholeness. Having said this, he describes firstly why, and in what sense, Pentecostals think religious experiences are normal and secondly why, and in what sense, social scientists do. His empirical example to show how the model might be used is primarily western Pentecostalism, although he also researched Pentecostal churches in Latin America.
The charismatic movement of South Africa and the emergence of independent churches are local expressions of a global culture. Researching charismatic Christianity from a local-global dynamic requires that scholars criticize traditional methods of ethnographic fieldwork and representations and imagine new ones. Students are encouraged to become participant-observers of international networks, reconsider ideals of parallel invention and diffusion, discern transnational and trans-ethnic issues and identities, study history, and research the diversity and creativity that occur within one and the same tradition.
Although social scientists have tended to dismiss the phenomenon as reactionary or insignificant, Pentecostalism is growing in Latin America. Indeed, the general expansion of Pentecostalism and other forms of charismatic Christianity in various parts of the world would imply that what is happening in Latin America is part of a very broad geological shift in religious identifications. Pentecostalism is a walk-out from all that belongs to the status quo , especially the corruptions of the political arena, in order to create a space where local people run their own show.
Korean Pentecostalism or, more generally, charismatic Christianity, took off through local leaders and their creative ability to Koreanize, even shamanize, Christianity. Since especially the 1970s Korean mega churches, using hi-tech and international Boards of Directors, have begun to missionize the rest of the world. Paul Yonggi Cho, especially, is seen as an expert on church growth. Consequently, he is a favorite conference speaker not only in Japan, as discussed in this chapter, but also in the States, Britain, Germany, and Latin America. His church and prayer mountain in Korea is a center of pilgrimage for post-modern Christians anywhere in the world.
Because it is common in North America to equate Pentecostals and Charismatics with Fundamentalists, it is useful to distinguish among them. While this chapter, therefore, has more to do with local and specifically local Pentecostal thinking, it is included because even social scientists and their students, not to mention journalists and theologians, tend to start their study of this phenomenon from a North American perspective. It may alleviate scholarly bias when we remember the main point of this chapter, namely, that Pentecostalism and Fundamentalism have separate historical roots and, in North America at least, Pentecostalism has not only been the target of mainline Christians but especially of Fundamentalists.
The process of translating oral into literary culture brings to the surface some fascinating rifts and differences. In this chapter American Pentecostals are distinguished from charismatics on the basis of their respective mythological interpretations of church history. Pentecostals, who were concerned to restore the supernatural powers of their first-century apostolic predecessors, tended to collapse history into an apostolic age then and its full restoratin now. It made for ahistoricism, exclusivism, and sectarianism. By contrast, charismatics who were concerned to keep the movement within mainstream Christendom, created an unbroken charismatic lineage to the first century. The latter historical approach accords well with the notion of global culture as based on an ever renewable and ongoing major tradition.
Legio Maria is an independent Catholic church that combines a Latin mass with charismatic activities. Legio emphasis on the Holy Spirit led to an open, incorporative identity and church history. What we see here is a first effort to transform oral into written culture. As we, who are part of a written culture, quote written texts from respected authors to boost the authority of what we say, so those who are part of an oral culture quote oral texts from the author of the whole universe to boost the authority of what they say. Access to this supreme author, for Legio, the Holy Spirit, is achieved through metonymic and typological patters on thought. As later chapters show, metonyms convince; typological exegeses establish connections to a history of salvation. Typologies enhance the globality of Legio's created history because local events are seen as types of national and international events from any period of time, including that of the Bible. Thus their founder, Baba Messias, is a type of Melchizedek, a type of Elijah, a type of Mau Mau General, a type of Christ.
In this chapter Johannesen describes a third generation White, North American Pentecostal church. It is written from the perspective of a historian and an ex-Pentecostal who looks at what once was his internal symbolic structure with an acute awareness that he ?does not see things that the Pentecostal sees.? He does not, nor does he want to, employ the symbolic tools which Pentecostals use to access ?their reality,? any more than he wants to give an empirical description. And yet, an empirical description of gesture and practice skillfully captured by the author?s choice of powerful metaphors is precisely what this is. Furthermore, through this meticulous depiction of empty gestures, Johannesen manages to recapitulate the history of many an independent charismatic church from its vigorous beginning in revivals and rented halls to its sterile end in institutionalization and modern church complexes. In Nietzschean fashion, he depicts an eternal recurrence at the moment of its regression to the social boundaries of ethnicity, gender and age. We are left with the haunting image of an isolated, affluent Pentecostal church absorbed in the quotidian flow of its ahistorical existence.
Abstract Blurring the language of Pentecostals with that of scholars, and speaking as an inclusive Christian, Hollenweger presents a sharp critique of the world-wide Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The title question follows logically Johannesen?s depiction of an affluent, isolated North American Pentecostal church caught up in the quotidian flow of modern life. Worried that the dialogue between poor and affluent Pentecostals will indeed be missed, Hollenweger takes us back to the beginning of a Pentecostalism which first surfaced among the poor as an inherently ecumenical movement. While Max Weber made us aware that the charismatic tends to become bureaucratic, Hollenweger pinpoints wherein the dangers of bureaucratization and institutionalization lie. They lie not only in the orderly divisions between elite and poor, scholars and practitioners of a religion, but importantly in the transformation of oral and narrative patterns of thought into written and conceptual ones, until language itself becomes a tool of exclusion. It is to the reversal of this trend that all of Hollenweger?s writings, but especially his brilliant works written in German (1979a, 1979b, 1988), are geared.
Looking at Flemish Catholic charismatics, Roelofs ponders the relationship between the charismatic Christian experience and its translation into religious narrative. In the process he uncovers, and pulls together, some of the aspects of charismatic Christian thought which were mentioned in previous chapters and are developed further in Chapter 12. These aspects include surrender, praise, expectation, metonym, orality, and routinization. The last chapter picks up what is missed here, namely the irony that symbolic, in the sense of metaphorical interpretations, may lead to sterility and routinization while literal ones may lead to new discoveries and breakthroughs.
In his Theories of Primitive Religion (1965), Evans-Pritchard concluded with a remarkable statement. He argued that if we were to move beyond the usual ?study of religion as a factor in social life? (p.121), there would be a parting of the ways between the work of believers and non-believers. The latter tended to formulate biological, psychological and/or sociological theories which ?explain the illusion? (1965:121). By contrast, believers tended to explain how people conceive of, and relate to, reality (1965:121). This Chapter starts where Evans-Pritchard left off. Looking at scientists who are charismatic Christians, I explore the relation of this form of religion to reality, science, the receptive imagination, experience, and globality, and puzzle over the consequences of this relation for anthropology. The aim of the Chapter is not to say anything conclusive. Its intent is to open discussion.
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