Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Children of Pentecostal Theology

I am Pentecostal by belief system - pretty much. This is not the case if the point of determination is tradition, and praxis. I don't look typically Pentecostal - perhasp I wold look Charismatic, but that's a distinction to be made by those who know the finer points and care.

I do believe in the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, and am convinced that all the gifts of the Spirit are active today, and are necessary for ministry - especially evangelism. Yet I do not hold altar calls, nor do I feel that the gift of "Tongues" is necessarily initial physical evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that Pentecostalism (and her sister, the Charismatic revival) has given more to the world of Christianity in the last hundred years than any other movement. This point would be difficult to disprove considering the phenomenal growth of the movement. What is has given unfortunately falls into the categories of both good and evil.

Enter stage right: The witch children of the Congo.

Pentecostal theology, and its step sisters have filled the cities, the villages, and the slums of Africa. Faith teaching, and deliverance ministries with their emphasis on spiritual warfare, and faith as thing of power are common theological traditions.

In Kinshasa's slums children as young as 4 or 5 are being accused of witchcraft and sorcery, and people claiming to have spiritual power to cast out demons charge money to deliver these children from the power of witchcraft. Often it does not work, and more money may be required to finish the task, or the parents may be encouraged to cast the child out of the home. These children are being blamed for the ills of the household or even of the neighborhood. Sick animals, sick people, the lack of food and water are all blamed upon them.

Are these children the children of our Pentecostal doctrines of spiritual warfare? Have the superstitions of American Pentecostals bred itself into 3 and 4 generations to bring us "God-fearing" parents who throw their own children out on the street because they believe that they are witches?

Some people are estimating there are 20,000 to 40,000 witch children in the slums of Kinshasa alone.

I think these are the children of American Pentecostal superstition. We are responsible, and we should clean up our mess.

That's what I think. What do you think?

Want to read their story?


cern said...

I don't think it entirely rests at the feet of American Pentecostalism. The Pentecostalism muddies the waters a bit. But the beliefs in witchcraft possession were pre-existing beliefs. The Pentecostalism has added another element into the mixing pot of how to address the issue of witchcraft possession from the perspective of the cultural beliefs.

It's fine line to walk when we begin thinking about how we might want to modify someone elses culture. That doesn't just go for Christian missions entering into those cultures either. In our world today we have a distinct concern about stamping out traditional beliefs and imposing our own. But when those beliefs involve the harming of children... something that is generally a no-no in most cultures, it seems wrong not to look for some way of intervening with the hope that such intervention won't damage other aspects of the culture. This is a problem to which I don't think there is an easy answer. But maybe, just maybe the complication of American Pentecostalism being in the mix might also help lead to a solution- 'when life deals you lemons,...'



Anonymous said...

I wonder if this kind of thing happened before the culture of Kinshasha was introduced to christianity.

If so, I'm not so sure the children of american pentecostal superstition are solely responsible for this but just added an ugly element to the mess, very ugly.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Mike and Carl,

I would agree that Pentecostal Theology is not solely responsible, because there are moderate elements with in Pentecostalism. Yet by personal experience I know that those moderate elements are susceptive to superstition.

For further evidence off the Pentecostal influence exacerbating the problem, and maybe even promoting it:

This quote comes from a BBC report, and is one o many which make this observation.

'In African culture, when something goes wrong, we ask the spirits to find the human cause,' Mafu explains. 'These days children are accused. They can be persuaded to accept it's their fault. They tell themselves "it is me, I am evil".'

Then there are the new fundamentalist Christian sects, of which there are thousands in Kinshasa. They make money out of identifying 'witches' and increasingly parents bring troublesome children to the pastors. 'It's a business,' says Mafu. 'For a fee of $5 or $10 they investigate the children and confirm they are possessed. For a further fee they take the child and exorcise them, often keeping them without food for days, beating and torturing them to chase out the devil.'

for the full story go here

ded said...

Since leaving a charismatic church, I have begun to recognize how easily supertitious conclusions and "faith" can mix in our culture. The situation you describe must include the spiritualism of Africa into which missionary work had entered. The current consequence in Kinshasa and other places in Africa just hurts.

Thanks for making me aware.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi ded,

The church ought to be the breaker of superstitions, not a force to encourage them, or make a buck off of them. It seems that we have been the buck makers in the Congo.

Steve Hayes said...

I think it is a good deal more complex than being children of American Pentecostalism.

First of all, one needs to distinguish between Pentecostal and Neopentecostal. In Southern and Eastern Africa witchhunts are a largely pagan phenomenon, and Christians that have a Pentecostal heritage have often helped to rehabilitate confessed witches, and top help peopkle deal with suspected witches in a nonvioplent way. Neopentecostalism in Western and central Africa seems to have a different heritage, and to be linked to neoliberalism and capitalism.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Steve,

Of course it is more complex, but the church is more responsible than the Pagan world as far as I am concerned. I hold the church more responsible when it exacerbates a problem.

Now of course the problem already existed before they arrived, but when the so called Charismatic exorcists compound the problem, and the Pentecostal church remains to a great degree silent about the exaggerated theology of deliverance, and demonology I find in error aand complicit in tragedy.

Completely responsible - no. Partially - Yes.

That's my take.

I'd love to talk about this with you some more sometime.

Bryan Riley said...

It seems religious practices have always intermingled with the local cultures in interesting and odd ways, some of them becoming norms and others not. May we keep turning back to Jesus and away from the worship of self.

Steve Hayes said...


Yes, we do need to talk about this some more -- a lot more.

For me there are at least three big questions, probably more:

1. What is the reason for the apparent differences between Eastern and Southern Africa and Western and Central Africa?

2. What is the difference between Pentyecostal/Zionist theology on the one hand, and Neopentecostal theology on the other?

3. What is the link between Neopentecostal theology and Neoliberalism? How far have Neopentecostals bought into the Neoliberal ideology, and is Neopentecostalism simply a contextualisation of the gospel in a Neoliberal worldview (thinking of economic liberalism here)

Pete Aldin said...

Regardless of the well-thought comments above, assuming this is even remotely true, it makes me sick to my stomach.

And the good news that these people have heard is ...?

Unknown said...

I am an editor for which is a social network dedicated to the christian community. As I look through your web site I feel a collaboration is at hand. I would be inclined to acknowledge your website offering it to our users as I'm sure our Pentecostal audience would benefit from what your site has to offer. I look forward to your thoughts or questions regarding the matter.

Robert Wright