Pastors with bodyguards and food-tasters

J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma Magazine, takes some of his fellow Pentecostalists to task, urging that they drop six specific teachings and practices.  What particularly interests me here is what he says about some Pentecostal pastors.  They reason that they have been “anointed” by the Holy Spirit; therefore, they are the ‘Lord’s anointed.”  Therefore the pastors take on the modern-day-equivalent perks of the Davidic monarchy, including the right not to be criticized and having “armor bearers”–that is, an entourage including bodyguards, food-tasters, someone to carry their briefcase, someone else to carry their Bible, and people throwing dollar bills at their feet.

Lutheran and other pastors, try to get this past your board of elders and your voters’ assemblies!  Then again, elders and voters–especially those with a higher view of the pastoral office than the Pentecostals have–might learn from them to treat their pastors at least a little better!  I’ll volunteer for food-taster. The list of practices after the jump. [Read more...]

Snake handling

Julia Duin is a Christian journalist who is a real pro.  She has a long story in the Washington Post Magazine on West Virginia snake handlers.  What I appreciate is that she approaches these mountain Pentecostalists with utter respect,without a shred of condescension or ridicule.  She does, though, describe the desperate social context of these folks–the lack of jobs and young people, the rampant drug abuse in these rural areas–though this isn’t the cause of snake handling, which itself is in decline compared to more prosperous times.  Apparently, even these declining churches are trying church growth methods:  They now have electric guitars and drums.  I much prefer the rattlesnakes and strychnine.  Anyway, the profile is very Flannery O’Connoresque and very much worth reading:  In W.Va., snake handling is still considered a sign of faith – The Washington Post.

Oral Roberts, mainline Protestant

The blog GetReligion, which critiques media coverage of religion, points out that most obituaries of Oral Roberts are missing the point. First, as Mollie Hemingway points out, he was NOT the patriarch of the prosperity gospel. Journalists are confusing him with fellow-Tulsan Kenneth Hagin. In fact, Roberts was associated with critics of that movement. Also, Roberts, despite his roots in backwoods Pentecostalism, was a member of the mainline United Methodist Church. His main significance, argues Terry Mattingly, is that he represents the way Pentecostalism found its way into mainline denominations and morphed into the charismatic movement.

I myself prefer him in his old days as a TV faith healer, which, whatever its validity, was spellbinding television. Later, after he founded Oral Roberts University and broadcast from his prayer tower, his show became slick and insufferable, but those black and white broadcasts of the sweaty, shouting preacher was great TV. And if you read Flannery O’Connor–say, “The Violent Bear It Away”–you would appreciate it, even if you didn’t believe it.


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