Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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Oneness Pentecostal Growth & Development - Part 2

Anderson continues this rather strained psychological analysis in discussing the "social basis" for tongue speaking among Pentecostals. He asserts that the limited verbal skills, the handicap of racial, ethnic, regional, and foreign accents, and the minimal access to education of the working poor symbolized their social marginality. The early Pentecostals were virtually "speechless" and, therefore, "powerless" in modern society.

Glossolalia offered an alternative, albeit illusory, speech and power. Following the studies of William Samarin, Anderson holds glossolalia to be regressive speech—the regression to infantile speech patterns produced by great stress. "The powerless, voiceless position of the Pentecostals and the anxieties arising from that position provided a social basis for speaking in tongues."9

The early ecstatic and eschatological vitality of Pentecostalism diminished shortly after the Azusa revival. Divisive, racist, parochial, and even reactionary elements depleted the young movement's strength. The movement, according to Anderson, reached its peak by 1914, after which the emerging Pentecostal denominations developed into self-perpetuating institutions rather than centers of religious and ideological ferment. With the stabilization of Pentecostal denominations and adequate social improvement, early ecstatic zeal subsided. Only newer, less stable groups, such as the Oneness Pentecostals, composed of the "most impoverished and socially ostracized Pentecostals" maintained a higher degree of ecstasy.10 For Anderson, the amount of ecstatic activity directly correlates with the depth of economic and social deprivation.11

The maturing Pentecostal bodies also experienced a loss of intensity of the founders' millenarian emphasis. No longer driven to extremes of evangelistic action by expectations of Christ's imminent return, the Pentecostals, nevertheless, retained their founders' aversion to political activism. According to Anderson, this lack of civic responsibility has made modern Pentecostalism just another "bulwark of the status quo." The doctrinal emphasis on Spirit baptism as the great sign of the impending return of Christ has, in turn, shifted to speaking with tongues as a "psychic escape."

As Pentecostalism became more institutionalized and modified its extremes, it came to attract higher social classes. Only after World War II did the larger, more stable Pentecostal denominations move beyond the patterns of socially deprived sects and begin to demonstrate "churchly characteristics." Neo-Pentecostalism, or the Charismatic Renewal movement of the 1960's, further confirmed this movement from sect to church. But the appearance of tongue speaking and other charismatic phenomena among middle and even upper class Protestants and Catholics—an appearance independent from any classical Pentecostal activities—calls into question the deprivation and dislocation theories of Pentecostal origins. Here Anderson modifies his position: while the neo-Pentecostals do not share the economic deprivation of their predecessors, they do "suffer a real or imagined deprivation of respect or prestige." Anderson hypothesizes that "status deprivation and an anti-rationalist, anti-bureaucratic— i.e., anti-modern—temper has combined to predispose most of the recruits to the neo-Pentecostal movement."12 Both classical and neo-Pentecostals demonstrate an inarticulate "emptiness" prior to their conversions.

Although in his lengthy discussion of Pentecostal social origins and development Anderson remains thoroughly convinced of the formative forces of social dislocation and economic deprivation, he willingly concedes three areas explained only in religious, rather than sociological or psychological, terms. First, Anderson is well aware that only a minority of those uprooted by industrialization were drawn into Pentecostalism. Thus, he concedes that a "different religious orientation" distinguished the early Pentecostals from the majority of the working poor. Despite the divergent former religious affiliations of those converting to Pentecostalism, they all held to "a religion of the Spirit," that is, to these, religion was a "matter of the heart in which miracle and wonder held a central place."13 Such recruits almost uniformly came from backgrounds in the Holiness movement, more emotional, revivalist Protestant roots, or more "crudely superstitious" forms of Catholicism. Second, based on case studies of Pentecostal leaders, Anderson argues that among the socially alienated, those suffering some personal crisis—illness, career failure, death of a family member—were particularly susceptible to Pentecostal conversion.

In a final concession to the religious explanation of Pentecostal survival and growth, Anderson admits that the structure of Pentecostal millenarianism and ecstasy, although functioning to meet social needs, arises from the biblical traditions of ecstatic millenarianism expounded most clearly in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, the Revelation, and to a lesser extent Daniel.14 With a crudely naive, literalistic understanding of the Bible, the Pentecostals sought to consciously duplicate these aspects of the life of the New Testament church. Anderson also embarks on a discussion paralleling the social experience of the first century Christians and the early Pentecostals to explain their common emphasis on millenarianism and ecstasy.15 Anderson concedes that the form of ecstatic millenarianism of early Pentecostals arose from their biblicism, not their social condition, although their social marginality linked them with this biblical tradition.

11Ibid., p. 231.

12Ibid., p. 229.

13Ibid., p. 228.

14Ibid., pp. 231-2.

15These conclusions are reached on rather shaky biblical exegesis. This thinking breaks down in that the pneumatics of the first Corinthian epistle, while engaging in excessive ecstasy, rejected millenarian notions. Compare the ecstasy of chapter fourteen with the denial of future bodily resurrection in chapter fifteen.


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