Three things that are interrelated. Last night I saw the 2001 movie documentary “Hell House.”
It may still be airing on the Sundance channel and in reruns of This American Life. Michael and I set it up in the dining room here and many other young folks came in and out. A young lady sat on my left who had never before been exposed to a Pentecostal worship service. You may remember that I recently review Jesus Camp.
The Hell House experience is similar to Jesus Camp, but provocative in different ways. Jesus Camp is a much more politically prescient and provocative experience. The subjects of Jesus Camp are harder to watch than Hell House because they are little children. With Hell House, an AoG church attracts thousands of people into a Halloween experience that’s really all about sin, culture, and a final invitation for conversion. In Jesus Camp we follow a number of families around in their subculture and then watch their Christian camp experience. Its interesting that I feel like more action is going on in Jesus Camp even though its much more internalized. Hell House is a church reaching out, Jesus Camp is really the day to day (albeit intense) workings of a church subculture among its own kids.
In other news, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has just released a 10 country 233 page survey of Pentecostalism. Bible Belt Blogger calls it “Everything you wanted to know about Pentecostalism.” I just have to say that you can read up all you want on Pentecostals and still miss the fact that it is a uniquely lived experience. From the outside looking in, it could appear downright Shamanistic. Having spent a good deal of time in Assembly of God churches I would warn that that appearance is severly misleading. AoG services can be just as boring, maybe more than elsewhere at times.
Always remember too that members inside are as capable of self-criticism as the most vitriolic outside scoffer. A church worship scene from Hell House last night brought back memories of the style of preaching that smacks more of a pep rally than sermon. But I also remember the opposition to this style among professors in my AoG college. I learned well the lesson in my Pnuematology course: “The Holy Spirit’s work always points to Christ. Anything other than that is really not Him.” I remember that professor asking and really listening to our different youth group “horror” stories. Illicit use of the Holy Spirit’s name for personal ego or monetary gain. One woman with tears recounted how she sought in vain the gift of Tongues and was made to feel sinful and unspiritual for not having recieved it in a certain time-frame. My professor expressed his sorrow and assured her that was not AoG teaching but hurtful error.
Finally, Walter Russell Mead’s article God’s Country? in Foreign Affairs is worthy of attention. He seems very interested in what Evangelicals can contribute to foreign policy. He writes:
“Evangelicals are likely to focus more on U.S. exceptionalism than liberals would like, and they are likely to care more about the morality of U.S. foreign policy than most realists prefer. But evangelical power is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and those concerned about U.S. foreign policy would do well to reach out.”
Well this will make somebody happy. It would be very difficult for me to sit at a table with Richard Land with an open ear toward most anything he has to say on foreign policy or the environment. I went over all this with Ron Sider last year.