Monday, September 29, 2008

Peter Berger, Pentecostals and Neener, Neener, Neener...

I've been giving some lite (yes, spelled like a diet product) credence to the faith movement, and its mother - the massive Pentecostal movement for some time. Of course I am one, or was one, or am a post-pente kinda guy, or something like that. But, more specifically I have suggested to friends that the sociological benefits of the movement, and the sense of social concern are deeper within these movements than we realize.

So now I want to say in fine deep, proud words of theological self-justification, "Neener, neener, neener I told you so."

Peter Berger's sociological thumbs-up to the benefits of the Pentecostal movement, and even a note of reproof for those who look down upon them as "dupes and victims" are something I have been saying for awhile.

So, I've only blogged about it a couple times, but I've just got to say, "Neener, neener, neener...." So, here I am considering the power of the Pentecostal movement among the poor well over a year ago on my other Blog, and more recently on a post about social activism.

Maybe Peter can help get Emergents and Pentecostals to seriously talk. But, quite frankly, it's about more than talk when one deals with a highly experiential movement like Pentecostalism.


g13 said...

fascinating article. i thought berger's conclusions were original, rational and charitable.

as someone who has often criticized the excesses of the prosperity gospel in the past, i would like to affirm that i have never had a problem with preachers subverting the assumption that God wants people to be poor. the rub, for me anyway, arises when these preachers follow their denunciation of poverty with an affirmation that God wants you to be rich!

i realize that their affirmation of wealth is meant to include more dimensions of reality than economics. but when the preachers are driving their mercedes, air conditioning their dog houses and building, upon Jesus' command no less, failing medical schools in the Bible belt, i think it is hard for people to seek first forms of wealth other than the almighty dollar.

that being said, some of my fundamental assumptions of the results of the prosperity gospel were challenged by this article. good stuff.

Pastor Phil said...

But of course Prof. Berger has done the thing we should all do in respect to judging religious movements - he has not used the wildest, most extreme examples to judge the whole.

It can be difficult to do this with the health/wealth Pentecostals, because the extremists are often the loudest, but we can not judge the others by their extremes.

Berger's voice perhaps will bring some sanity to the discussion.

Steve Hayes said...

Funny, I was just talking about the Bergers in another forum this morning in connection with something else (he said that objections to such things as the inclusive use of "man" to mean both male and female was "infantile misunderstandings raised to the level of hermeneutics", and I rather liked the turn of phrase. Thanks for the tip, I'll try to read the article.

Do you know anything about the Kenyan Pentecostal pastor who is said to have prayed for Sarah Palin?

g13 said...

focusing on the best expressions. point well taken.

when it comes to this issue, i have a hard time leaving behind the tulsa of my youth. although i was disgusted by most of the high level prosperity leaders in tulsa, i never worked beside or knew a student from rhema bible training center, oral roberts university or the church on the move that i did not like and respect.

George Popham said...

Hi pastor Phil et. al., I haven't had a chance to check in since the pagan pride post, but now I have you all on my blog list, so I will be checking in more often. Very encouraging, lovely comments in response to the post of 9-24, btw.

I haven't had a chance to read the Berger article yet, but in the main I've tended to agree with this general attitude toward pentacostalism for some time.

In my experience, the more spirit oriented and praxis/experience focused any religion gets the less politically fractious they become. (the difference between a religious practice like pentacostalism or meditation or Yoga and falu gong and an irrational mass movement like fundamentalist islam, or maoism must be distingushed here, of course, but I think that distinction is fairly easy to make.)

My point is that good spiritual experiences tend to make people inclined deemphasize large scale ideological projects. This seems to me to reflect Jesus's example: just render unto Ceasar and get on with more immediate concerns like healing the sick and clothing the naked. (Not to say there's never a need to protest injustice, but even this is best done from a spiritual place rather than an ideological one.)

This emphasis on spirit over ideology can only help with the overall goal of communication. People are always much more receptive to new ideas when said ideas don't represent a political/ideological enemy coming to steal away their cherished way of life and impose something else.

People always respond much more readily to a spiritual experience than to a doctrinal argument, and that is where I'm inclined to think you have it right.