This week and next, I’m preparing for my address to the Society for Pentecostal Studies on what emergence and Pentecostalism can learn from one another. To remind myself of the religious landscape in America at the time of the birth of Pentecostalism, I turned to the trusty A Religious History of the American People by Sydney Ahlstrom.
Ahlstrom’s magisterial tome was first published in 1972. In other words, he was researching and writing right in the thick of the Jesus Movement, and, as such, the Jesus Movement receives merely a footnote, on page 1086, amidst a section on the increasing secularism in Catholicism. The movement is offered as an exception to that secularism.The footnote is lengthy, mentioning charismatic revival among Protestants and Catholics, and “a penchant for guitars and rock music.” But this, the final paragraph of the footnote, particularly got my attention,
The Jesus People soon gained widespread attention and provoked a deluge of published commentary, but their longterm significance cannot be known. Whether they should be considered in a footnote (as here) is a question which only the future will answer. To grim, tormented times they brought the blessings of love and joy; but there is no apparent reason for seeing them as an exception to the larger generalizations attempted in this chapter. Yet surprises are the stuff of history.
Were Ahlstrom writing today, what do you suppose he’d put in a footnote about emergent/-ing?