Catholic / Contemporary / History / Spiritual

Charismatic Roman-Catholic’s with Pope Francis?


Charismatic Christian (Whitsun) movements have been a huge challenge for the Roman-Catholic church in Africa, South America and India largely ignored by Europe’s clerical mainstream. I was first made aware of this by Philip Jenkins “The Next Christendom”.  He gives not an entirely optimistic analysis but a profoundly helpful up-to-date eye opener. To me the election of Pope Francis addressed these phenomena for the first time with the needed attention.  This article offers some thoughts based on empiric analyses of the charismatic movement within the Catholic church in the USA South America,  the Philippines and Africa. “Experiences” with those movement of Catholic priests of the Philippines, from Nigeria, Congo, India, Poland and Brazil show various differences and influencing factors in local education and  liturgy, the dogmatic base and mission of a Church and its effect on personal spirituality and sociological impact on the individual.  As usual, this is neither a scholarly article nor a brief essay, merely working out a few questions I had to sociological aspects presented by Philip Jenkins and to the positioning of Pope Francis and the Pope Benedict XVI emeritus on the Charismatic Christianity.

Pentecostalism is based on a key event in the life of the early Christians: the baptism of the twelve disciples by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.   Thus, Pentecostal refers to the New Testament experiences of the early Christian believers on the Day of Pentecost:

Pentecost, a was originally a Jewish feast, was celebrated 50 days after Passover, and pilgrims had come to Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate the event.  The 12 apostles –  Judas Iscariot replaced by Mathias – were gathered together in a house when a terrific wind came from heaven and filled the place. They saw tongues that looked like fire, that separated and came down on each of them.. Immediately the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, who granted them the ability to address these foreign visitors in their own languages and to do many other miracles and wondrous signs.  Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus had promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to give them strength and wisdom to spread the gospel throughout the world. (Acts 1:8). The crowd was so moved when Peter told them about Jesus’ crucifixion and God’s plan of salvation that they asked the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37, NIV).The right response, Peter told them, was to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. He promised that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Philip Jenkins , a respected professor of history and religious studies made me first aware of Pentecostalism  within Christianity (German: Pfingstler, Pfingstkirche, Pfingstbewegung),  which is steadily winning millions of follower in Latin America, South America, Africa, India, Malaysia, China, and Eastern Europe, including Russia. There is also a Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which Benedict XVI emeritus praised highlighting its positive contribution. According to the U.S. urban specialist Mike Davis “Pentecostalism is the largest self-organized movement of urban poor in the world”.

Those “Pentecostal” or Charismatic Christians are, however, are mainly Protestant movements who believe, that today the “manifestations of the Holy Spirit” can be experienced by modern Christians.  Charismatic Christians are very an emotionally and close knit community often with modern style of religious service. They appeal worldwide above all to simple folk and give them the chance to experience their faith especially under difficult living circumstances and persecution. They gained so a significant momentum because they appeal extremely well to the emotions of the people, and lift “followers” on a center stage.  Those, however, who do not talk in tongues or cure sick people or drive out demons – or have at least one of these three qualities – are not looked upon  as Christians, because if the holy spirit did not come to them, God has not “accepted” them . There are some former members of such Whitsun municipalities who have felt a huge psychic pressure because they feared not to make “it well enough” .

Geopolitical aspects

Recent history

The rapid growth of Christianity around the world (both within and alongside existing traditions) will literally reshape the world, with possible religious and geopolitical conflicts not mentioning its decisive cultural cross road. At the beginning of the 20th century the Pentecostal movement, formed in Los Angeles a “third wave” of the Evangelical revival known as the Azusa Street revival. Their services were increasingly imbued with emotion and the action of the Holy Spirit. Their name derives from the biblical narrative of Pentecost the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire on Jesus disciples descended and empowered them with special gifts. According to the Pentecostal faith, this is done with the today’s believers, which prophecy, healing, exorcising ghosts, or speaking in tongues to be given as gifts. The latter applies in the classical Charismatic Christians a clear sign of “baptism by the Holy Spirit”, which sealed the Evangelical “rebirth”.

The Pentecostal-charismatic movement emphasizes enthusiastic worship and the ability of individuals to discern God’s will through a personal connection with the Holy Spirit. The connection can manifest itself in New Testament practices such as healing prayer. The movement began humbly with the teachings of Charles Fox Parham in Topeka, Kansas, in the beginning of the 20th century, followed in a few years by the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. But in the past century, Pentecostal-charismatic movements grew at nearly four times the rate of both Christianity and the global population, expanding from 1.2 million in 1910 to 584 million in 2010, according to the World Christian Database. The movements are multifaceted, ranging from traditional Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel to independent churches to charismatic movements within older denominations, including the Catholic Church. There were an estimated 177 million Catholic charismatics in 2010, according to the World Christian Database.  To be sure, the Catholic Church, despite losses in much of Europe, is still experiencing dramatic global growth, particularly in Latin America and Africa. From 1990 to 2000, the Catholic Church added an average of nearly 13 million members a year, and by some estimates it is expected to grow to more than 1.5 billion members by the middle of the century, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. But this is a slower rate than the growth of renewalist movements, which are expected by some to go from a quarter to a third of the world’s Christian population as the Catholic Church holds on to about half of Christianity. From 1990 to 2000, for example, the Catholic Church lost an estimated 355,000 adherents a year after adding up converts to and from the church. In contrast, Pentecostal-charismatic churches gained 2.8 million adherents a year through conversions, according to the World Christian Database. .

An uncertain future

In contrast to the Catholic Church, the Pentecostal churches – despite some very large churches with Central bureaucracies – know no all-encompassing central instance. Rather, the Pentecostal movement consists of a fragmented, countless amount of individual churches, church associations and umbrella organizations. This fragmentation lends a high degree of flexibility, the Pentecostal the there them by early on allowed, be adapted and customized to regional realities and to grow together to a certain extent with the local culture. The Pentecostal Churches used this an unique advantage of for their missionary work. Although their spread was accompanied by missionary from the United States and Europe, an independent movement spread in Latin America quickly. So already there own Pentecostal “Awakenings” among evangelicals in Chile and Argentina in the first decade of the 20th century. But proselytizing efforts showed real success only from the 1950s, when a downright explosive spread of Pentecostalism in African and Latin American countries happened. Since then, the number of adherents on the subcontinent is growing rapidly and the phenomenon gaining presence in the public sphere and to a certain extent with the respective local culture to grow together. In Africa, this happens in an utterly hostile environment. Between 1900 and 2000, however, the number of Christians in Africa grew from 10 million to 360 million, and by 2025 is expected to reach 633 million. In a post-modern world, religion returned to center stage in the 90s, and Jenkins revisits Huntington from a Christian perspective and new data. Jenkins contests Samuel Huntington’s thesis in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, that “the relative Christian share of global population will fall steeply in the [21st] century, and that this religion will be supplanted by Islam.” Huntington predicted that “in the long run . . . Muhammad wins out,” mainly because Islam is advanced by “conversion and reproduction,” whereas “Christianity spreads primarily by conversion.” Huntington and Jenkins share many valid points, and it seems we all have had difficulties to predict the future. Both do agree on the danger of potential conflicts caused by religious and cultural differences. Sociological and religious future trends interact – as always – and these perils are unfortunately today’s reality.

Phenomenology

To me Pentecostal movements are the opposite of Gnosticism, but they share one common point – to bring structure in its many deviations and flavors are a lost cause and fruitless tedious work.

When did it start? For a Pentecostal, the day would be “33 A.D. — the Day of Pentecost. And yes, not as much than with Gnostics, but still also roots of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians can be found in early heretics (Montanism in the 2nd century).  There have been further brief movements throughout Christian history that resembled some spiritual aspects of Pentecostalism, What we know as the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement didn’t really get started until the beginning of the 20th Century. Evangelical Christianity stresses a religion lived about rituals and religious affiliation. There is Babel in the Evangelical field. Therefore, the establishment of any classification even for expert is a difficult task. However, there are three characteristics that are commonly used for their description: firstly, a conception of salvation, which is reflected in a radical life change (conversion), which is often described as a rebirth. For this reason, Evangelicals ar often called as “born again Christians”. Furthermore, the Bible is seen as an infallible and final authority in all walks of life for evangelicals. Thirdly evangelicals are characterized by a missionary zeal, which is considered a personal commitment to the spreading of the Gospel. I tried to summarize some info (see also sources in the appendix).

Perhaps no movement has made more of an impact on the church world than Pentecostalism. Certainly no movement has done so in the last ten to twenty years. In addition to the Pentecostal Churches, there is a related movement which has come to be called ‘Neo-Pentecostalism.’ ‘

Tongue speaking (and other miracles and signs) did, of course, occur in the New Testament church. We find references to this in Mark 16, the book of Acts, and I Corinthians 12-24. It is noteworthy, however, that from A.D. 100 to 1900 tongue speaking virtually disappeared and is not to be found in the mainstream of the church. It is found among the Montanists in the second century and in the various other minority groups and sects. I would urge the reader to consult Brunner’s book for an excellent and detailed history of Pentecostalism.

Pentecostals themselves explain the virtual disappearance of tongue speaking and other miracles and gifts from the mainstream of the church as due to a lack of faith in or rejection of the Holy Spirit by the organized churches.  Without the experience the believer, and consequently the church, will remain impotent, virtually dead.

It is out of this conviction that Neo-Pentecostals especially direct a very serious charge at the catholic churches and believers. They claim to hold fast to the ‘faith of the fathers’, the confessions of the church. Only, they claim to have something more, something in addition to the traditional teachings and practices of the church. And, that something more is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with its resultant power and gifts which make the Christian and the church effective in service and life. This, they say, the non-Pentecostals lack; and therefore, the churches today are guilty of dead orthodoxy. They are lifeless, powerless, and ineffective and busy themselves sweeping around dusty dogmas.

(Neo)-Pentecostal (neo) understand that his view of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit radically affects the understanding of the truth of the Scriptures; his view of God, first of all (The Holy Spirit is God!); of God’s Christ. Jesus promised this return in the Spirit in the night of His betrayal (cf. John 14, 15, and 16). This promise Jesus further defines as the ‘baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire’. Noteworthy in this connection is the fact that Jesus commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the Spirit, but Jesus did not lay down a list of conditions which they had to fulfill in order to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. He simply told them to wait.  Most of the heresies of the Pentecostals (if one wants to call of them so) come from the book of Acts.  Acts 2 certainly points to the uniqueness, the once-for-all-time character, of the event of Pentecost. Prophecy has been fulfilled, the Day of the Lord has come, God begins calling His saints out of all nations through Jesus Christ crucified, raised, exalted.  In the Spirit Christ has come into the Church, filling the hearts of the saints, in order to call such as should be saved. The final instance of tongue speaking in Acts is found in chapter 19:1-7 where Paul meets a band of twelve disciples.  The point of this passage is plain. These twelve disciples were still living in the age of the shadows, at the door of the New Dispensation, but still in the shadows. They were unaware of the fact that the day of the Lord had come and had not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit. This event too is an extension of the unique wonder of Pentecost and the tongues and prophecy serves as a sure sign to believers that the Spirit of the crucified, risen Christ had indeed been poured out.

The catholic view

Evangelical Christianity stresses a religion lived about rituals and religious affiliation. There is Babel also in the whole Evangelical field. Therefore, the establishment of any classification even for expert is a difficult task.  The Catholic Church differentiates and recognizes a multi dimension “localized” danger:

Latin America: The sociologist Brenda Carranza from Brazil sees  of a “Pentecostalization” of the Catholic Church for instance in Brazil by the neo-charismatic movement and new Catholic communities which would led by non- professionals and is successful and industrious of the modern media used.  The lack of catholic priest clearly adds to this danger urgency. I am convinced that will be addressed by both Pope Francis.

Africa: The Scholar Paul Gifford sees a direct link between the traditional ghosts and witches on the African continent and the local success of the Pentecostal movement. This brings back an enchanted worldview in Christianity. He criticized the fact that African theologians gave little attention to this aspect of enculturation.

Philippines: The sociologist and political scientist Kessler noted in its empirical investigation in the Philippines that the charismatic movement rather appeals to people with higher education. Hope for a way out of the misery, even on social change by ills such as corruption and violence do connect to the personal relationship with Jesus and the own spiritual transformation. I am convinced that will be addressed by both Pope Francis.

India: The Jesuit father Jerry Rosario from the region of Tamil Nadu in South India described the local Pentecostal as a phenomenon of the middle class. The movement is dominated by young people, to overcome the caste system, emphasize the lay Christianity and grant women more rights in the municipality.

Europe: The Dominican and journalist Tomasz Dante from Poland showed a correlation between the charismatic movement in the Polish Catholic Church and the political beginnings in the 1980s. That means the church must take a stand for the powerless. I am convinced that will be addressed by both Pope Francis.

Global: The theologian Eckholt handles the designation on the Pentecostal churches as “a new, fifth basic structure of Christian churches”. She asks why the Catholic Church could not meet the need of becoming a religious subject through an understanding of the Church as the people of God and sacrament of the peoples in pointing back to the Second Vatican Council.  Clearly that has been addressed by both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI emeritus.

John XXIII said, “It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have were faced with new tasks in the social order at the start of the century; those who, like me, were twenty years in the East and eight in France, were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.” Pope Benedict has declared that a Year of Faith will begin this year on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and yet rather than embrace this movement of the Holy Spirit. However, Pope Benedict warned also 2011 the Lutherans of what he called a ‘new form of Christianity’ that was challenging mainstream Christian churches. While not saying so, it was obvious by his comments that he was referring to Evangelicals and Pentecostals:

  • “Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss.”
  • “This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse?”

So it is with a sense of anticipation that many Catholics, who experienced the megastar papacy of John Paul II, are hopeful that the new Pope and successor to Benedict XVI can find an evangelist-in-chief to compete in the global marketplace.  Having chosen someone from Latin America  does ignite international interest in the billion-member institution , where more than half of the world’s Catholics now reside and not only be a significant affirmation of the global nature of the church, but will  help stem defections to Pentecostal congregations in those southern regions. But what may matter more than the nationality of the next pope,  is his commitment to allowing the growth of lay leadership (in the face of a shortage of priests) and culturally sensitive worship that is at the heart of the success of the Pentecostal movement.

“A new pope would do well to officially sanction some of this, rather than resist it,” said Donald Miller, the series editor of “Global Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity” and the executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.  Catholics have considerable strengths – from a strong tradition and presence in many nations to well-organized networks of schools, hospitals and seminaries. And the church in Latin America and Africa has been in many ways supportive of charismatic practices within worship. But a hierarchical church with a priest shortage also faces significant challenges competing with Pentecostal and charismatic movements led by local leaders who provide an environment that is sometimes compared to a large extended family, observers say.  Pope Francis may want to consider the importance of increasingly legitimizing the role of all people in the congregation, promoting practices such as healing prayer and integrating culturally meaningful music and forms of worship within congregations, scholars say. Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, said the training of local Catholics is critical both to evangelization and to address concerns that worship not veer from church teaching into areas such as advocating a prosperity gospel equating faith with health and wealth. The religious community needs to be more rooted in the actual experiences of the people, “which is of course the major insight of Pentecostalism,  Many Latin American Catholicsstill  consider themselves “the soul of Catholicism,” and electing a pope from the region may be  seen as “a very powerful symbolic statement that they’re accepted and they’re recognized,” said Arlene Sanchez-Walsh, an associate professor of Latino church studies at Azusa Pacific University.

After nearly eight years of what many observers have characterized as a “Europe centered” papacy, the choice the cardinals enabled far-reaching consequences for Christianity’s most dynamic landscape – the Global South. It seems the New Pope Francis has a handful – not only in the pagan West, with a self centered decayed curie  – but also in the South.

Case Study South America

Pentecostal churches are becoming stronger in Latin America. Their followers are steadily growing and its ability to mobilize them far exceeds the Catholic Church in some countries. Often, they occupy spaces, where state structures have failed. But they have also great influence on education and urban elite.

The priest throws a challenging look at the camera. Then he proclaimed his triumph: “today our TV channel  in Mexico City has received collection. Give him a strong round of applause; it was a heroic deed of Jesus Christ! “. “Some people believe a TV show would have nothing to do with anointing, but Show as well as anointing!” Otherwise mostly dressed in a fine suit, on this day the charismatic pastor of Guatemalan Neo-Pentecostal Casa de Dios (“House of God”) wears a military uniform. He shows his finger at the camera and calls: “now you, who you sit at home, which only stands up to criticize the station listen to: this is the channel, which is now taken in honor of the Lord in the greatest city in the world.” The first broadcast in Mexico City is at the same time the opening of the Youth Congress “Hechos 29” in the Mexican Neo-Pentecostal Church Casa sobre la roca (“the House on the rock”). The representatives of the Neo-Pentecostal Church from Guatemala is here to attract new adherents and to spread his community’s influence beyond Guatemala’s borders- by stepping up to mass media.

In Latin America, are the largest religious group after the Roman Catholics already evangelicals and thus increasingly compete with the historically influential Catholic Church. Although still some over 80 percent of the Latin American population belong to the Catholic Church their number decreases steadily for 20 years. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of the Latin American population is Evangelical. Especially where poverty and exclusion are felt, Evangelical churches have large crowds. So Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, or seventh-day Adventists have become widespread. The overwhelming majority of Evangelicals in Latin America are members of Pentecostal churches – about 70 percent.

Media savvy

A new branch contributed to their rapid spread: the so-called Neo-Pentecostal, which later spread to Latin America, particularly from the 1970s onwards. These differ from the classical movement mainly through its strong media presence and the enterprises mentioned churches.  Also female preachers dominate today the field of media savvy religion and are based on a diverse culture.  Their repertoire includes concerts, international camps, conferences, plays, Telenovelas and healing spectacle that resemble rock concerts. Thus, Neo-Pentecostal is a pioneer a business-like, commercialized and transnationalized religion.

It is particularly noteworthy that the Neo-Pentecostal Churches in Latin America have developed their  own regional “style” and thus now become now  “Exporters of medicinal goods”.  I think generally that is a concept looked by us European Catholics too. I am not advocating Healing spectacle like “Noches de Gloria” (glory nights)which are an export hit in all Latin America or Bill Graham.  However to listen to Latin America’s or Africa’s or Asian’s preacher and understanding spirituality is probably what both popes have in mind.  In the US those are  often  guests at thematic conferences in North America. That a country where the American evangelism by evangelicals played a very strong role – proselytize in the United States, testifies especially for  Pentecostal churches – a reversal or at least change the traditional North-South order in the spread of Christianity of late modernity.

Prosperity theology

In addition to the targeted use of modern mass media, the Neo-Pentecostals are characterized above all by their “prosperity theology”.  Their view of the world is less hereafter, but the here and now. This is a common to protestant and modernization activist and in my opinion a dead end.  However, one has to acknowledge how Pentecostal pastors show the faithful strategies in dealing with their difficulties and desires in everyday life. Not only the material level, but also areas such as health, social relations or the peace of mind are part of the preached self help. As a Jungian I can related to this.  However,  it is not entirely helpful if Neo-Pentecostal address social problems only on individual success and God loyalty. While some Pentecostal churches maintain social programs as part of the good tone, they seem not interested in structural conditions of poverty and inequality nor would they live like pope Francis did in a Favellas. For this reason, I agree with sociologists, who see close parallels between the neo-liberal economic paradigm and Neo-Pentecostals. The rise of capitalism in the 19th century was to a good deal connected with protestant “work ethic” or money orientation In some Pentecostal churches, the trail to God’s blessings leads directly on the budgets of municipalities and their pastors. The faithful blessing is a “cause to donate”, where the wealth of the pastors should serve as a role model to the members of the community. The followers are taught that the more they are willing to sacrifice, the more God will show ready, to meet the needs of the faithful.  On may arguably criticize this as a form of “exploitation of their believers”.

A large business Empire derives com from those Churches, for example of Latin America’s largest neo-Pentecostal Church: the Igreja universal do Reino de Deus (“UniversalChurch of the Kingdom of God”, IURD) from Brazil which  is present in 170 countries. Highly controversial even within the Pentecostal churches, the IURD recorded impressive achievements not only in Latin America but also in Asia and Africa. The sale of religious talismans and financial offerings earn the IURD millions of dollars, as it called their mostly poor clients to dispose of a large part of their income to the Church. How influential the religious global player are, highlights the fact that the IURD has globally now 16 TV stations, 36 radio stations, two newspapers, two printers and a variety of other kinds of businesses.

Spiritual warfare

Popular is  “spiritual warfare”,  where demons will be forced out with neo-Pentecostal believers worldwide. Unemployment, family disputes, infidelity, illness or addiction are listed at the spiritual problems, caused by obsession or curses of demons. The persons concerned should be freed from the demons exorcism, laying on hands, and other techniques of blessing. The following scenario is happening similar every day in one of the numerous neo-Pentecostal churches of Latin America:

In the Church of Dios Amor (“God is love”) in Buenos Aires on a Thursday morning a suffering from insomnia woman of healing at the pulpit asked. With his hand on her forehead, the pastor prays aloud, prompting the woman to tremble and to yell begins. Her face warping to a grimace, her voice is dark. “Demon, in other words who you are?” screams the pastor and roars, as no answer of the woman: “responses, demon!” The supposedly possessed screams also, trembling all over his body and eventually falls to the ground. The pastor tells “Disappear from this body, Daemon!”, the woman winces and cries again. The following is an antiphonal between preacher and Congregation: “Fire of God!”, “Burn demon!” After about fifteen minutes, the battle is over and the pastor announced their healing.

Quieter it is, however,  in a small and classical Pentecostal Church just in Mexico City, where daily a modest number of creditors come  together. The modest Temple of the small Congregation is surrounded by the worldly hustle and bustle of the street market. While out there loud music accompanied the colorful range of street stalls, there is indoor devotional silence.  This is a place to escape the reality of his life, which lurks out there not only loud, but often mercilessly. On their clothing to recognize the members of the community who enter the small temple: women with covered heads in long skirts, men who wear suits despite the heat – all in discrete colors, nothing reminds of the current Flash mode. In this temple, they praise the Lord, sing and pray in the catharsis, to requested the gifts of the spirit: healing, prophecy and speaking in tongues. The great spectacle from as in Dios but is Cupid.

From the above examples, it is evident that both communities belong to the Pentecostal faith, but are very different. While the classical Pentecostals rather represented traditional and conservative values, the Neo-Pentecostal tend to be spectacular mass rituals.  Is should clear be understood, how difficult it is to define the Pentecostal movement as a whole. There is a diverse range of different styles. This increasingly blurs the boundaries between Neo-Pentecostal and traditional Pentecostal. Today, a large part of the Latin American Pentecostal churches is mixed. In addition, that Pentecostal is very dynamic, constantly changing and constantly adapts to new conditions. It characterizes the religiosity of other Evangelical churches, historic Protestant, as well as sectors of Catholicism so “Pentecostalization” of Christianity is indeed happening (although what does it mean really is in the eye of the beholder). The various versions of the Pentecostal offer a religious strategy in dealing with extreme marginalization and social shortcomings in large sections of the population. People seem to find a plausible alternatives, solidarity and community far from the consumption and capitalist meritocracy: spiritual worldview may seem at first glance as an escape from reality, but solidarity and networks generates also very concrete and substantive results.

In many Latin American countries the evangelicals are an increasingly important factor and influence  in social processes and issues. Today, the very different Pentecostal churches assess and position increasingly their common interests publicly. In many Latin American countries, associations representing a Evangelical lobby, which brings together churches with remarkably social and faith substantive differences. On issues such as abortion or gay marriage, they even form a common front with the Catholic Church. This was recently highlighted in Mexico and Argentina: when the Governments acknowledged the right to adoption to homosexual couples, the evangelicals together with the Catholic Church, however, made the front.  Pope Francis was an outspoken critic in Argentina and clashed with the Kirchner government with ties to lots of former “turncoat terrorists” and very hostile to any religion. However, the Evangelicals succeeded in many Latin American countries to take influence on the economic and political elites notable in the Brazil Parliament.  In Guatemala, a country with long Evangelical tradition and about 30 percent of Evangelical population, the neo-Pentecostal movement is so strong rather questionable elites like nowhere else.  Also in Chile, the influence of the Pentecostal on the policy is great. The national church Iglesia Metodista Pentecostal de Chile (“Methodist Pentecostal Church of Chile”, IMP) had always been close ties to the leaders. Although a vast majority of its adherents supported the Government of Salvador Allende, the leadership of the IMP predictably switched sides after the Pinochet coup.

The example of Chile makes it clear that it is difficult to measure whether the Pentecostal churches really influence the political elites, as is often claimed. Furthermore, the basis of the churches must not necessarily share the political tendencies of the church leadership and can resist attempts of influence or stay silent at the ballot box. One principle applies throughout Latin America: not just Evangelical churches have more and more supply, but also the group of those without religion is growing. And many opponents of the historic hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church are also skeptical to the rise of Evangelicals.

Revolutions are never prettier…

Religious revolutions were not, as Western intellectuals too often propose against the history, only  mere spiritual, private matters. They bring with them profoundly this-worldly repercussions like genocides, wars, and what Samuel Huntington has famously termed ‘the clash of civilizations’. They can also renew and uproot societies. Arguable a ‘Christian revolution’ is already underway in the developing world, one that our political leaders ignore to the peril of all of us: “We are currently living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide. ” The Christian center of gravity has shifted to Africa, Asia, and Latin America “By 2050, only about 1/5 of the world’s 3 billion Christians will be non-Hispanic Whites.” “The era of Western Christianity has passed within our lifetimes….” “The emerging Christian world will be anchored in the Southern continents.” Growing from a handful to several hundred million, the Pentecostal movement is the most successful social movement of the past century that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

There are parallels between the developments in the ‘South’ and those that characterized a similar time of awakening, urbanization, and religious effervescence in the industrializing North. Jenkins states, that “Up until the end of the eighteenth century, large-scale missionary efforts were strictly the preserve of the Catholic powers….” To connect the spread of Christianity only with imperial expansion is not entirely correct, since fate of the religion would be affected by the breakup of the old European empires. The countries with the largest number of Catholics are Brazil (137 million), Mexico (89 million), Philippines (61 million), the United States (58 million), and Italy (55 million). Catholic growth has been particularly dramatic in Africa, usually in former French and Belgian territories. In 1995, there were 16 million Catholics in all of Africa. Today, there are 120 million. Jenkins states, “For the foreseeable future, the characteristic religious forms of Southern Christianity, enthusiastic and spontaneous, fundamentalist and supernatural-oriented, look massively different from those of the older centers in Europe and North America.” and “In the coming decades, the religious life characteristic of those regions may well become the Christian norm.”

… Than evolutions

The history of Christian expansion shows us that it developed globally from the beginning.  Particularly the modernization requests to and attempts the whole idea of ‘Western Christianity’ distorts the true scope of the religion’s development. In the Middle East, African and Asian regions subjugated by Islam, Christian loyalties survived for centuries in some cases until today: , “Arab Christians remained politically powerful until the rise of a new Muslim fundamentalism in the 1980s.” Westerners apologize for the Crusades but do not suggest that Muslims apologize for the aggressive acts that gave them power over these various lands in the first place. Westerners have forgotten the once-great Christian communities of the Eastern world. Undeniably, the Christian missions of this historical phase were intimately connected with political and imperial adventures, and Protestant and Catholic fortunes followed the success of the different empires. All the hypocrisy and the flagrantly self-serving rhetoric of the imperial age, the dedication of the missionaries was beyond question.” Jenkins states, “amazing as it may appear to a blasé West, Christianity exercises an overwhelming global appeal, which shows not the slightest sign of waning.” and “Many Westerners…see missionary Christianity as a kind of cultural leprosy.” But why did Africans and Asians adopt Christianity? “One all-too-obvious explanation is that individuals came to believe the message offered, and found this the best means of explaining the world around them.” Their convictions are illustrated by the many stories of zeal in the face of persecution.

 New Christianity

Population growth and contraction look poised to reduce European populations radically while a boom in many southern states continues apace. When turning to religious indicators, all of them suggest that the surge in southern Christianity has barely begun. The picture becomes even more interestingly when population mobility is factored into the equation. Immigration to Europe may well establish a renewed Christian presence on that continent. America looks set to become even more of a Christian nation than it is today, again due to immigration. Southern nations are growing rapidly but Northern states are relatively static. – “The stagnation of Northern and particularly European populations will be one of the most significant facts of the twenty-first century.” “By 2050, there will be an ever-growing contrast between the age profiles of the global South and North, between the world of the young and very mobile and the world of the old and static.” “In another epochal change, these urban centers will be overwhelmingly Southern.” “A largely secularized First World confronts a rapidly growing ‘South’ in which religion thrives and expands.” But many in the South are moving north. “ “Looking at the spread of mosques across urban Europe, it would be easy to believe that Islam might indeed be Europe’s future religion. Yet a great many other European immigrants are Christian, and they raise the prospect of a revitalized Christian presence on European soil.” The number of Muslims in the U.S., is probably about 4 million or so, much less than the up to 8 million claimed. Many Arab-Americans are in fact Christian. “Any likely Muslim growth through immigration will be far exceeded by the continuing Christian influx from Africa, Asia, and above all, Latin America.” – “Christian predominance is likely to be still more marked in decades to come.”

Re-Designing secularity coexistence

There are varying models of “church and state§ that can be expected as important southern countries become demographically. The predictions are not all reassuring to heirs of a strong tradition of separation between the two. Americans keep church and state separate, but such a distinction is incomprehensible in much of the world. ‘Not only is Christianity flourishing in the Third World, but so are distinctively Christian politics. “Northerners are going to find themselves ever more out of touch with the religious dimensions that shape the new world, and literally unable to communicate with the new people of faith.” – “In one possible scenario of the world to come, an incredibly wealthy although numerically shrinking Northern population espouses the values of humanism, ornamented with the vestiges of liberal Christianity and Judaism.” “Meanwhile, this future North confronts the poorer and vastly more numerous global masses who waves the flags…of ascendant Christianity and Islam. …the have-nots will be inspired by the scriptures and the language of apocalyptic, rather than by the texts of Marx and Mao. In this world, we, the West, will be the final Babylon.” – “The North would be secular, rational, and tolerant, the South primitive and fundamentalist. The North would define itself against Christianity.”

Re-Designing interfaith coexistence

A world in which powerful adversaries take religion far more seriously than does today’s sophisticated North should keep strategic analysts alert. Simple parents like myself imagining the world in which my son will come of age already plans immigration for him out of Europe. Religious loyalties are at the root of many of the world’s ongoing civil wars and political violence, and in most cases, the critical division is the age-old battle between Christianity and Islam. The parochialism of Western (and World) public opinion is striking. When thousands are massacred on the grounds of their faith in Nigeria, Indonesia, or the Sudan, the story rarely registers. Come lives are worth more than others. This is bad news, as no less than 10 of the world’s 25 largest states in 2050 could be profoundly divided between Islam and Christianity, and judging by present trends, any or all of them could be the scene of serious interfaith conflict.  Jenkins reminds, that “A number of European nations face huge disparities between very fertile immigrant groups and relatively static old-stock populations, and religious instability could easily result.” – “The fundamental question here is whether Islam and Christianity can coexist.” “Bitter lesson may be in progress in…Egypt, the home of the ancient community of Coptic Christians.” Some of the likely winners in the religious economy of the new century are precisely those groups who have a strongly apocalyptic mindset, in which the triumph of righteousness is associated with the vision of a world devastated by fire and plague.  Jenkins warns, “the situation could become so sensitive that a global catastrophe could be provoked by the slightest misjudgment –just like 1914.” There is a pressing need to re-designing interfaith coexistence, which was recognized started by the Pope emeritus already.

Re-Thinking spirituality

The Pentecostal movement is very diverse but in addition to the key beliefs common to all Christians, there are common elements:

  • The experience of adult baptism is the central rite and key concept.
  • Holy Spirit comes personally into our hearts and lives, bringing to us the “charismata” – gift of grace.
  • Presence of the Holy Spirit will become manifest and evident by speaking in tongues, but other supernatural phenomena are also possible.
  • Individuals need to make a personal commitment to faith and to obtain presence of the Holy Spirit. If not. it indicates failure or worthlessness.
  • The style of worship is emotional, marked by clapping, chorusing, contemporary music and dynamic preaching.
  • Many Pentecostals believe that God rewards materially, as well as spiritually.
  • Scripture is interpreted literally.

The key concept in Pentecostal belief is: ‘The Baptism in, or with, the Holy Spirit.’ We find this in all four Gospel accounts; Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:18, Luke 3:16, and John 1:33. In these passages we learn that John the Baptist baptized with water unto repentance but prophesied that ‘One mightier than I,’ Christ, was coming after him and would baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. In Acts 1:5 Jesus speaks of the fulfillment of this prophecy: ‘For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.’

When in addition to being baptized into Christ by the Spirit we are baptized by Christ with the Spirit, the Holy Spirit comes personally into our hearts and lives, bringing to us the charismata (literally, ‘grace things’), the gifts and power that we need for personal growth and service to God in the Church and in the world. This baptism in or with the Spirit is evidenced initially by speaking in other tongues. When a believer is filled with or baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit so overpowers him that he is in a state of ecstasy with no control over his faculties. The Spirit then enables him to speak in other languages the praises of Jesus. This is the sign that one has been filled or baptized with the Spirit. This experience of Spirit baptism and its initial evidence must be earnestly sought by believers. It doesn’t just happen; conditions must be met. Consciously, fervently, actively the seeker has to do these things. Often, too, he needs the assistance of others already filled with the Spirit. These must pray for him, lay hands on him before the Spirit will come. Conditions vary, but generally they are: worship, joyous faith, earnest expectation, praise and thanksgiving, obedience, separation from sin, intense desire, baptism, asking of God,.

Jenkins notes how churches in the Two-Thirds world `inculturate’ the gospel in their cultural contexts. Though the results are sometimes alarming to Western Christians, Jenkins’ view is rather more sanguine, claiming that most of these adaptations are well within the parameters of recognizably Christian faith. As demographic changes favor the Southern churches, their patterns of life and worship-often visceral supernatural in their orientation-are bound to become the dominant ones in a new Christendom. “The rising churches usually preach a strong and even pristine Christian message.” “Another new ‘missionary century’ may dawn, although next time, the missionaries would be traveling northward.” Events since the late 90s have given the author some hard facts to work with. The southern churches are almost all theologically and culturally more conservative than their northern partners. But are they so distinct so as to be incapable of re-evangelizing secularized Europe and the USA? A fundamental issue: How will the global North change in response to the rise of a new global Christianity? Will its religious character remain Christian, perhaps with a powerful Southern cast? Or will it entirely lose its Christian character?”While traditional Christianity is weakening in large sections of the North, it is indeed being reinforced and reinvigorated by Southern churches, by means of immigration and evangelization.

Conclusion

Theological answer

The Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, do not forbid the proper use of tongues, neither do will he command it. Obviously even in the New Testament Church where tongues had a place they were not emphasized as by Pentecostals today. Now, some conclusions. First in the Acts passages (chapters 1,2,8,10,11,19), in none of the four occurrences, assuming the Samaritans spoke in tongues, were the believers fulfilling any conditions, praying for the baptism with the Spirit to be evidenced by speaking in tongues.  In each of the four instances all the believers present received the sign of tongues along with other signs. It was not just some who received the baptism in the Spirit as Pentecostals teach.  Second point is this. Tongues and the other miraculous gifts, healings, etc., suddenly are no more in the church. They were of short duration. Why? Because they are designed by God to serve as a sign, a sign not only to authenticate the gospel, but a sign to serve also as a means of making the content of prophecy and knowledge known. But when they have served their confirming purpose as a sign they cease without the least affecting the church’s possession of the mysteries of the faith.

Political Answer

From the view 2050 A.D., the persecution and poverty of which so much are made in the New Testament literatures very well in the context of the majority of today’s Christians.  The cut back of Western investment in missions, which has been cut back dramatically at just the point it is most desperately needed, at the peak of the current surge in Christian numbers might be revised by the new pope.  For the average Western audience, the New Testament passages about standing firm in the face of persecution have today little immediate relevance – they are mostly pagans. Millions of Christians around the world, however, do in fact live in constant danger of persecution or forced conversion, from either governments or local militia

Sociological answer

There is in our day a terrible despising of the pulpit. It is because the Church generally fails to expound the Word and comes with excellence of speech and worldly wisdom rather than preaching Christ crucified that a movement like Pentecostalism can make such an impact. The sheep of God are hungry and thirsty and are not being fed with the Bread and Water. These weak and sickly sheep are swept along by the bizarre, spectacular ‘successes’ and enthusiasm of Pentecostalism.  What one could say then to a Pentecostal neighbor? Having shown him from the Scriptures the truth he will invariably say to you, ‘But how can you dismiss this? I’ve had the experience. It’s real.’ The answer you must give is, ‘The Bible teaches that tongues have ceased. I cannot and you may not base your faith on your experience. That is pure subjectivism.

Historical answer

But here we go.  Looking at Christianity as a global phenomenon, not merely a Western one, makes it impossible to read the New Testament as before. “The Book of Revelation” shows that Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and persecuted, while it declines among those who consider themselves rich and secure.” The Western modernization response to empty churches is wrong and globally irrelevant. Pope Francis may prove a point again: “Christianity is never as weak as it appears, nor as strong as it appears. And whether we look backward or forward in history, we can see tat time and again, Christianity demonstrates a breathtaking ability to transform weakness into strength.”

Sources

A Theology of the Holy Spirit [Paperback]  Frederick D. Bruner (Author), Frederick Dale Bruner

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Future of Christianity Trilogy) [Paperback]  Philip Jenkins

 

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