Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Club - God is Back #3 Winter 2011

In Ch. 8-9 of God is Back, the authors focus on the exporting of American religion, and Pentecostalism is identified in Ch. 8 as one prime example:
Pentecostalism is the great religious story of the twentieth century. (P. 217)

The success of Pentecostalism is a strange mixture of unflinching belief and pragmatism, raw emotion and self-improvement, improvisation and organization: it is as if somebody had distilled American-style religion down to its basic elements and the set about marketing it globally. (P. 218).
Many scholars trace the origins of Pentecostalism to early 20th Century Los Angeles (pp. 81-84), but its reach is now global. It is particularly successful in Latin America where it is challenging the long-standing religious monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church (p. 215).

The authors identify many reasons for Pentecostalism's success, and you should review what those are. One of those may be surprising to you:
Indeed, one of the things that attracts people around the world to Pentecostalism is its very Americanness. (p. 219)
If that is true, it would not be the first time that a highly influential nation or empire helped cause the spread, either deliberately or inadvertently, of a particular religious group. The existence of the Roman Empire helped Christianity spread, for example. In fact, you could ask if there has ever been a case of a religious group going global that did not have behind it some helpful connection to an influential nation.


  1. Rick Chao (50057181)February 28, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    I remember asking a question in discussion, "When using an economic approach, is religion defined by the culture surrounding it or by its dogma?"

    The answer was the culture surrounding it since economics is a study of behavior and actions.
    If religion must be defined by the culture surrounding it when using an economic approach, every single religious group that goes global will have a connection from an influential nation--since that is how the religion was defined to begin with.

  2. I especially liked this part in the book because of they way it discussed and explained the success of Pentecostalism. The more I read about how it became successful the more it occurred to me that maybe the key all along was to strip everything down to it's basic element, as stated in the passage quoted above. Maybe it's due to the fact that Pentecostalism is not overly ritualistic and complicated, but simplistic and heartfelt. This kind of worship, unique to American-style religion, is easy for people across the world to adapt because it requires minimal work, but maximum faith. It centers its gospel around true belief in the teachings and the application of those teachings to their everyday life. It's because of these reasons that I can fully believe that this American-style religion has the potential to stick around in the long run.

    Rochelle Ballecer


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