Pentecostalism – Protestant Ethic or Cargo Cult?
Published on: July 29, 2010
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  • John Barker

    Considering what outsourcing, artificial intelligence, robots, and online colleges are doing to the learned professions, “anomie” may be a become an affliction of knowledge workers. I wonder if the displaced professors and lawyers will drift into the new religions just as the unemployed bureaucrats of the Roman Empire populated the early Catholic church offices.

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  • Susan

    I can’t help wondering how much TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) has played a role is spreading and sustaining Pentecostalism across the world. It was founded in 1973 and has expanded exponentially. Apparently, they have pretty much reached their goal of reaching every corner of the world 24/7 with their message via satellites to televisions, computers, and mobile devices like iPhone.

    Check out the Wikipedia link:

    Snippet (please note this is a partial list of their satellite network):

    TBN Satellite Network
    The following is a partial list of TBN’s satellite network: Europe and the Middle East are being reached through Eutelsat Hotbird 6 and Intelsat 906; Eutelsat W4 covers Central Africa with direct-to-home service; the Express 6A satellite is providing Russian language programming to the Russian continent; Spain and Portugal are being reached by Hispasat; Intelsat 701broadcasts to Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific islands and Southeast Asia; Intelsat 702 covers Taiwan; Palapa C-2 reaches India, Indonesia and Southeast Asia; TBN broadcasts Portuguese language programs to Brazil on Brazilsat B-2; and PanAmSat 9 blankets all of Latin America and Spain. TBN also distributes their channels on the Southern Ku-band beam of the ABS-1 satellite at the 75E orbital location. ABS’s Hong Kong based digital multiplex, distributed throughout the Asia-Pacific region extending from Mongolia to the South of Thailand and across Eastern Europe, Asia and Japan reaching a potential audience of several billion viewers.

  • WigWag

    More on the escalating struggle between fast growing Pentecostal congregations and entrenched and assertive Islamic extremists,

  • Kevin Donahue

    Very good article ! Pentecostals are just as much Christians as Baptists and speaking in tongues is Biblical ! Praise God for what they are doing for Jesus ! I myself am a Spirit filled Christian Baptist minister who pastored for 24 years and am now involved in a tent ministry called Central Texas Tent Revivals on facebook with Pentecostal preachers spreading the gospel of Jesus that He saves, heals and delivers !

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  • keepinstep

    I love these sociology-style articles in which the writer attempts to puzzle-out the reasons for the success of Pentecostalism, and why it “appeals” to certain ethnic and socioeconomic groups. There’s always the assumption that if one applies the correct analytical tools, Pentecostalism’s “appeal” will yield its secrets and become just as understandable as any other sociological phenomenon.

    Your comment that William Seymour (why is his being blind in one eye so fascinating to outsiders??) “must have been a remarkable man. Within months he managed to assemble a sizable congregation—an interracial one, to boot” discloses your assumption and your cluelessness regarding the true “appeal” of Pentecostalism.

    Ready to hear the “secret” of Pentecostalism’s “appeal,” and how Seymour “managed to assemble a sizable congregation?”

    No — are you *really* ready, not just mildly curious? Hint: it has nothing to do with Seymour’s efforts, or his marketing or teaching skills.

    The answer is found, first, in an individual’s desire for a deep and experiential relationship with God (Ps 63); and second, God’s response to that desire by sending through faith in Jesus Christ “the promised Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33, Eph 1:13-14), who establishes and nourishes that deep relationship.

    People who actually believe (il.e., have faith) that this experience is possible and desirable are more likely to receive it. This experience may occur during the experience commonly known as salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, though it more commonly is a separate experience that occurs subsequent to a salvation experience.

    Seymour, like a number of Christians of his generation, was desperately hungry for “more” of God than was commonly understood. That hunger drove him many places and finally to Los Angeles, where he met other hungry people (think of the “this is important” scene in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but with the driving entity being God instead of aliens).

    There, they waited on God – much like the first believers in Acts – until God sent the fire of the Holy Spirit into them, birthing a new, more intimate and powerful relationship and opening a “door” to Heaven that had been apparently closed to all but a few people since the early centuries of the Church of Jesus Christ.

    Because Pentecostalism has its basis in an actual spiritual relationship that is initiated by God, and controlled primarily by God, standard sociological tools simply can’t analyze and dissect the Pentecostal experience or its dynamics. Pentecostalism is an expression of the otherworldly Kingdom of God (as Jesus said to Pilate), which is not manifested nor experienced as one does an earthly kingdom or sociopolitical enterprise.

    A researcher, or non-Pentecostal writer like you, can glean roughly as much information about Pentecostalism by analyzing outward evidences, as researchers can understand about the actual life and beliefs of “Otzi” (the prehistoric man whose mummified remains were found in 1991 in a glacier) by examining his body and personal effects. By that I mean, not much at all. I say this not in a condescending or arrogant tone, but just simply as a statement of fact.

    Though Pentecostal experiences can vary widely, generally one can’t mistake one’s initial experience of the baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit. (I suggest you read Charles Finney’s account of his initial experience, which is widely available on the Net, as one representative account.)

    Though individual experiences vary, the results of these experiences in individuals’ lives tend to be quite similar (I leave those for your research, as well).

    If Pentecostalism functions as, in your words, a “school for democracy,” it’s because the Bible contains truth relating to personal freedom through faith in Jesus Christ and participation in his Kingdom, and this truth is revealed and activated by the indwelling Holy Spirit — who also provides spiritual power (Eph 1:18-20) for personal and group transformation that should (and in the years to come, I believe will) be the envy of every atheistic revolutionary.

    If you’re at all interested, I invite you to talk with actual, living Pentecostals — and not just the descendants of those in your photo who prayed over the girl in Kentucky in 1946. There are plenty of Pentecostals engaged in business, politics, science and entertainment, with whom you could no doubt have rewarding and insightful discussions.

    Two I can recommend are: 1) Margaret Poloma, PhD, Professor Emeritus at University of Akron; 2) Francis MacNutt, PhD, director of Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville, Florida.

    If you’re interested in how a lived-out. Spirit-filled-power Pentecostal faith is changing an entire nation in our lifetimes, I suggest you contact Iris Ministries (, which is active in Mozambique and neighboring African nations. Be prepared to learn what may seem to you to be unbelievable.

    I hope you will write on this topic again – not as a bizarre curiosity, but as a legitimate spiritual event occurring worldwide. The fruit of the modern-day Pentecostal experience has the potential to disrupt expected sociopolitical trends, in the same way that the (prayer-fueled, BTW) events of 1989 disrupted the world’s established order.

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  • TrustingIH

    Keepinstep…an excellent response and one I’m very happy to have read. I too found this sociological “curiosity” article nearly hilarious in its attempt to define what is the “magic” that drives millions to embrace the rich experience known as Pentacostalism.

    It is my hope the author, in his research for the article, was exposed enough to the “magic” that the “…change has undermined traditional institutions that had given meaning and stability to life” is a personal truth.

    Couple that with “a pervasive sense of disorientation—and, by the same token, an openness to new sources of meaningful orientation” could very well mean the author has a now fertile mindsoil, ready for the implanting of the “magic.”

    Mr. Berger, the article was fascinating…probably one of the best I’ve read from an “outsider’s” (assumed) perspective. I simply love the unanswered rumination about what is it that drives so many millions to believe in this manner (well, I define your attempt at an answer via the natives goods’ showers as either a poorly-researched attempt at derision or a very misguided understanding of what truly is a God-encounter).

    I’ll be even a little more blunt than Keepinstep: You are at the threshold of your eternity (please don’t scoff). You have been exposed to The Truth…you’ve seen its good side (the TRUTH) and it’s bad side (the charlatans on TBN). And while it may be interesting to debate the finer points of the “interesting disagreement about the social function of Pentecostalism,” I would urge you to employ the sense of personal responsibility you so eloquently defined many Pentecostals as having and seek out the TRUE nugget or source in your article.

    I won’t be so crass as to say “400 million people can’t be wrong.” Instead, I’ll say the real value of your article is the little tidbit here and there that describes a vibrant, growing and influential Move Of God that is overwhelming traditional viewpoints and returning people to a true relationship with their Creator. I hope and pray your research leads you to this conclusion as well. God Bless.

  • simon r humphries

    I sent this post to another blog entitled “Does being a oneness Pentacostal make me a member of a cult?” Does anyone agree?

    Q; Why were the Nuremburg rallies so popular with the crowds in Nazi Germany??

    A; To be a part of the atmosphere, to be like/with their friends.

    Q; Were people forced to attend?

    A; No!

    Q; Did they gather round to hear a charismatic emotional leader promise them 1000 yrs of glory, accompanied with exciting music and patriotism?

    A; Yes!

    At certain periods throughout history almost the whole nation (in question) transforms itself into a cult. It is a phenomenon (taken to its extreme form) known as the “crowd mind state”. Andrzej Łobaczewski in his excellent book; “Political ponerology”, says that these kinds of people instinctively seem to find each other, “like attracts like” they say, (among other sayings). here is a quote from Thomas Carlyle (paraphrase)

    “Of all forms of government, a
    government of busybodies is the worst. This is
    very true. (Oh how true!)
    A government by busybodies has neither
    head nor tail; working outside the law, it becomes
    lawless; and having no law to support it, it finally
    depends for its enforcement upon hoodlums and mob
    rule. When the respectable and wealthy elements are
    resorting to this sort of government, abetted by the
    newspapers and by all sorts of busybody societies intent
    upon “government by public sentiment”, we finally
    have a new thing in the world and a most obnoxious
    one, mob rule by the rich; WITH THE ABLE ASSISTANCE OF THE HOODLUMS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR A CHANCE” (emphasis mine).

    A man by the name of John Humphrey Noyse, who was a Perfectibilist/Perfectionist (i.e. Illuminati) in his book; “History of American Socialisms” said this. . .

    “Our hope is that churches of all denominations (i.e. non-denominational) will by and by be quickened by the PENTACOSTAL spirit and begin to grow and change, and finally, by a process as natural as the transformation of the chrysalis,(i.e.MONARCH) burst forth into COMMUNISM”. (my brackets)
    The ostensible author, John Humphrey Noyse, I believe did not actually write this book, but rather it was Huston Stuart Chamberlain. He also wrote the infamous. . . Protocols of the wise men of Zion. . . He was Illuminatis.
    Q; Does being a oneness Pentacostal make me a member of a cult? . . A; Yes.

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