Pentecostals

Denzel Washington Preaches Gratitude to Church Members at Pentecostal Convention

Image via Roberto Rodriguez / St. Louis Post-Dispatch / RNS

Hollywood star Denzel Washington, the son of a pastor, preached a sermon of gratefulness Nov. 7 to hundreds of members of the Church of God in Christ at their annual Holy Congregation in downtown St. Louis.

“I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed at night, so that when you wake in the morning you have to start on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, say thank you,” he told the crowd at a $200-a-plate banquet at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel to raise money for the denomination’s charity work.

“It is impossible to be grateful and hateful at the same time,” he said.

“We have to have an attitude of gratitude.”

Brazil Tries to Combat Religious Intolerance of Minority Faiths

Juliana Lima and Jenifer Felicio, Candomble young women, pose for a photograph. Photo via RNS/by Robson Coelho

The couple practiced Candomble, an African-Brazilian faith with roots in Brazil’s slave trade.

They dressed in white and believed in an all-powerful God who is served by lesser deities, blending Catholicism with African spiritualism, or the belief that the dead communicate with the living.

But their neighbor, who attended a local evangelical church, disapproved. On a balmy day one year ago he shot and killed the husband as he was screwing in a light bulb in his yard.

Public Spirit

“We have holy-rolled our way up to the White House in our limo, but now that we’re there, what are we going to do with this extraordinary opportunity?” That’s how Morehouse College president Robert Franklin, speaking at a 2005 conference at Harvard University, described Pentecostal preachers being invited to the White House.

Now, just four years later, a Pentecostal preacher, 26-year-old Joshua DuBois, has rolled into the White House—as the director of its Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This office helps both faith-based and secular nonprofits that work to reduce poverty, support women and children, provide well-paying jobs, encourage responsible fatherhood, and foster interfaith dialogue. And President Barack Obama has announced that, in his administration, the office will also “work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.”

What does it mean that DuBois—who embraces a faith known more for emotional exuberance and financial excess than for public engagement on domestic and foreign policy—will fill this role? As a political appointee, DuBois will speak for the government, not for the Pentecostal tradition. But his Pentecostalism is evident in his interpersonal style, as he shares testimonies of transformation and speaks freely and joyfully of his faith in Jesus Christ.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2009
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A History of Separation

Writing in the late 1920s about one of his many trips back and forth across the United States-Mexico border, American Pentecostal missionary Henry C. Ball mentioned that he received his certificate of fumigation after re-entry to the United States. However, while he received this official document, it is unthinkable that Ball, a white man, was actually sprayed with pesticides.

Fumigation was a humiliation reserved for Mexicans crossing into the U.S. from the early to middle 20th century. The mention of the certificate by Ball, one of the pioneers of Pentecostal missions to Latinos/as, seems to have been an aside: It did not offer any insight into the fumigation procedure, was not critical of the overall program, and reveals no evidence that the incident caused Ball to be introspective about the plight of Mexicans who endured this treatment. He did not articulate any theological response to this program or indeed to any other injustice that befell Mexican immigrants. He, like most white Pente­costal missionaries, viewed such injus­tices (and they knew and wrote of others) as secondary to salvation.

Influenced by such missionaries, Mexican and other Latino Pentecostals historically did not view the established political process as a place where they would find relief from their grievances. One seeking to examine modes of resistance among Latino Pentecostals will find few if any of the traditional markers of political activism. But one will find many examples of Latino Pentecostals engaging in alternative modes of resistance by seeking to reclaim their autonomy from mostly Anglo Pentecostal denominations that, more often than not, did not accept that Latinos could govern themselves.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2008
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Where the Spirit Leads

The enigma of Latino Pentecostals is found in their ability to resist labels and simple classifications. Or maybe it’s just that most people’s assumptions about them are all wrong? Either way, Latino Pentecostals have been ignored, misunderstood, and mislabeled for too long.

The Latino community has functioned almost undercover for many years, hidden for the most part from the eyes of mainstream society. In The Labyrinth of Solitude, writer Octavio Paz calls the “masks” that Mexicans and other Latinos wear in society “a wall that is no less impenetrable for being invisible.” The image of Latinos in mainstream U.S. society is as unfocused as our ability to agree on what we will call them—Latino or Hispanic, Chicano or Boricua. The name we choose for Latinos tells us more about ourselves us than it does about them.

Pentecostals, too, are unknown, even suspect to many. People don’t know what to make of their unknown tongues, miracles, or outlandish holy roller ways. Pentecostals from Aimee Semple McPherson to Pat Robertson are partly to blame for this—with a striving to be in this world but not of it that sometimes borders on the bizarre and sensational. Most Pentecostals, however, deserve more down-to-earth reputations. By preaching that everyone has a right to enter into direct contact with God regardless of their education, race, or class, Pentecostals have become the fastest growing Christian movement in the world today.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2008
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