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Pentecostal bedlam
October 1, 2006 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Pentecostals are a lively group. According to some, they rank among the fastest growing religions in the world, especially among the poor. A map shows their concentrations in America.
posted by Brian B. (64 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
My sister and her family are Pentecostal. It's a true cult.

Cult or not, if the mainstream U.S. media can brainwash the middle class into becoming Republicans (and thereby consistently vote against their best interests), then this video is not a real revelation (pardon th pun).
posted by wfc123 at 12:04 PM on October 1, 2006


Which comes first, poverty or the death of rational thought?
posted by Artw at 12:08 PM on October 1, 2006


Which comes first, poverty or the death of rational thought?

I think they both decay incrementally in a perverse feedback loop.
posted by SBMike at 12:09 PM on October 1, 2006


Which comes first, poverty or the death of rational thought?

I know, right?? I was at my yacht club last Sunday, and we raised that very question over a bottle of champagne. The debate was so heated, I accidentally dropped my monocle in my champagne glass! Good thing I wasn't wearing my hand-made Italian suit that day, or I would have had to buy another one.
posted by Laugh_track at 12:20 PM on October 1, 2006 [4 favorites]


I'm guessing too much sugar in the Kool-Aid.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2006


But that redhead was hawt!!!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:24 PM on October 1, 2006


I find the map depressing. Has anyone seen numbers on how fast the non-religous groups are growing?
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:25 PM on October 1, 2006


Laugh_track; Heh. Are you insinuating that i'm a faux elitist?
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on October 1, 2006


I bet the video went down something like this.

Everyone in the reserved seating showed up an hour early and for punch and a *special* reserved seating brownie.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:32 PM on October 1, 2006


Surprising how much of it is concentrated in the northwest and how little was in the north-midwest. To me at least.
posted by papakwanz at 12:34 PM on October 1, 2006


Viruses of the Mind by Richard Dawkins.
posted by four panels at 12:44 PM on October 1, 2006


The idea that a religion can successfully proselyte among the poor with a message of getting rich by faith is sociologically noteworthy, because it naturally feeds at the bottom as its mode of recruitment. As wealth is elusive, the disappointment forces the convert into a state of cognitive dissonance, which is believed by many to tbe source of all proselytizing--in an effort to convince themselves by convincing others. A recipe for sectarian success. As far as Christian doctrine is concerned, I'm not so sure it began any differently, because so many parables are based on economic symbolism.
posted by Brian B. at 12:44 PM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


ok that video is jsut creepy as hell
posted by MrLint at 12:44 PM on October 1, 2006


...a lively group: Certainly less stoic than other Christian faiths, but not all Pentecostal and related faiths are snake-handling charismatics.

poverty or the death of rational thought? I can't speak for the US, but there's been significant research on the growth of Pentecostalism in Brazil, where, particularly in urban lower-income areas, it is the fastest growing religion. This is amazing considering the strength that the Catholic church has historically held in Brazilian society, politics, and life.

One of the major contributing factors, it was found, is that the Pentecostals were very active in the communities and supporting the growth and development of their people. Incoming Pentecostal churches and organizations often meant nutritional or educational programs, employment and training services, and even financing programs. Community members were eligible whether or not they adhered to the Pentecostal faith, but as a result of their direct and open-ended involvement with the community, many people eventually find themselves part of the congregration. (Catholic services were found, in contrast, to be more frequently limited to people within the faith and were also based more on donations to the poor rather than empowerment.)

There's a great book on this topic, Coping with Poverty: Pentecostals and Christian Base Communities in Brazil, by C.L. Mariz, which I'd recommend to anyone interested in more details about the above.
posted by whatzit at 12:45 PM on October 1, 2006


I've done magic mushrooms before but didn't realize how much the experience had in common with the Pentacostals.
posted by leftcoastbob at 1:07 PM on October 1, 2006


What has any of this to do with Jesus preaching the Beatitudes?

They act like a troop of chimpanzees, hooting and howling and writhing about -- seems great evidence for evolution, and nothing to do with the dignity of man or the soul.
posted by orthogonality at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2006


That must've been a heck of a joke!
posted by dov3 at 1:24 PM on October 1, 2006


A laugh track is never a positive enhancement.
posted by psmealey at 1:26 PM on October 1, 2006


you know, when he swung his arm out and everybody fell down into their chairs, "drunk"

posted by carsonb at 1:32 PM on October 1, 2006


On the video:

Having been through the gamut of these experiences, from babbling incoherently to spontaneously falling over, I can say there is definitely something to it, something quite similar to the euphoria sometimes experienced on hallucingens. Also, these sorts of things tend to happen after hours of singing, generally something very repetative, making it a sort of mass hypnosis.

The closest experiences I've found since those days have been at trance parties: the repetative music along with the presence of large quantities of hallucinogens creates the same sort of feeling of one-ness with everyone else present.

These days, I'm all set with the "mass hypnosis" thing.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:38 PM on October 1, 2006


And repetative music.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:38 PM on October 1, 2006


They act like a troop of chimpanzees, hooting and howling and writhing about

they call it "being slain in the spirit by the holy ghost" or "taking the holy ghost" and they take it quite seriously ... it's a sign that one has been not just saved, but "annointed" by god

they were an insular and impoverished sect of people, with very stringent rules ... women can't wear make up or slacks ... families can't have tvs ... they were one of the big practictioners of cultural seperatism

in the past 20 years they have become more involved, more affluent and much less strict about "mingling one's affairs with the unbelievers" and "yoking christ with belial"

they're really just like any other group of people ... really ... but i have noticed one thing ... when they turn bad, they REALLY turn bad
posted by pyramid termite at 1:40 PM on October 1, 2006


holy crap carsonb, thats super.
posted by nola at 1:41 PM on October 1, 2006


self-hypnosis.
posted by chimaera at 1:43 PM on October 1, 2006


What has any of this to do with Jesus preaching the Beatitudes?

I think if we knew the answer to that, we would understand Christianity a lot better. The earliest sources we have (Pauline epistles) suggest that the Pentecostals are probably the best modern-day analogue to what the Christian church was actually like at its inception.
posted by Laugh_track at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2006


It's better than doing it in Klingon.
posted by Captaintripps at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2006


The video makes no sense whatsoever...
(Perhaps I forgot to take my 'reality disconnect' pill this morning.)
Interesting map though. Has anybody had a chance to review the raw data? The numbers look a bit high...
posted by speug at 1:46 PM on October 1, 2006


So wait, you're saying that people who believe in a god are crazy?
posted by borkingchikapa at 2:03 PM on October 1, 2006


A friend of mine who is a Christian (a conservative Mennonite actually) tells me that Pentecostal churches often serve as the gateway to Christianity. People convert there, but in six months or a year they go shopping for another denomination. Her husband (who has a completely secular family background) did that himself. It is my experience that those who remain Pentecostals aren't generally very intelligent or well-educated.

Though I am now an agnostic, I grew up in a more intellectually oriented kind of church and was always very repelled by the the emotional and facile atmosphere in the Pentecostal churches I visited. The pastor would stride around the platform yelling, "I'm tired of getting my can kicked around by the devil!" and other such slogans repeatedly, and I would think, "If you don't think of something interesting to say SOON, I shall join Satan in that activity."
posted by orange swan at 2:11 PM on October 1, 2006 [3 favorites]


"yoking christ with belial"

Thanks, pyramid termite, "belial" is my new word of the day.

From Wikipedia: uncircumcised heathens are considered to be "sons of Belial".
posted by leftcoastbob at 2:12 PM on October 1, 2006


Has anyone done much real investigation into this? I used to go to churches that were into this type of stuff, and I've seen it tons of times, enough times to know that it's not drugs like some people here are hypothesizing. I could see the group hypnosis angle... a good worship leader/preacher knows exactly when and how to create opportunity for these types of experiences with music and certain phrases in a certain tone of voice at specific times. I would imagine that motivational speakers rely on a lot of the same devices. Does anyone know if there's anyone doing research into how this works?
posted by heatherann at 2:13 PM on October 1, 2006


metafilter: sitting in the seat of mockers
posted by quonsar at 2:22 PM on October 1, 2006


Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess. That all just looks over the top creepy to me, but then I used to go Killing Joke shows with warpaint on and bump up against other folks in the mosh pit. I'm sure that would look equally strange, and perhaps scary to them.
posted by psmealey at 2:25 PM on October 1, 2006


heatherann: can you be more specific about what aspect you're interested in hearing about? I can point you to quite a few scholarly books and/or peer-reviewed articles on some of the issues raised in this thread... (The short answer is, yes, there's research. Most of it anthropological, but there are tie-ins with a lot of other disciplines, as well.)
posted by whatzit at 2:32 PM on October 1, 2006


From Wikipedia: uncircumcised heathens are considered to be "sons of Belial".
posted by leftcoastbob at 5:12 PM EST on October 1 [+] [!]


actually, no. deceptive editing on leftcoastbob's part completely distorts what wikipedia actually says to make it seem as if all pentecostals consider uncircumcised heathens to be "sons of Belial".

from wikipedia: Belial (also Belhor, Baalial, Beliar, Beliall, Beliel; from Hebrew Bliyaal בליעל) is an evil being in Hebrew mythology. The name means "without worth". In the Book of Jubilees, uncircumcised heathens are called "sons of Belial".

the book of jubilees is a non-canonical hebrew document. but hey, good try bob. it must be the republican in you.
posted by quonsar at 2:36 PM on October 1, 2006


Phew. Thank Knob for Richard Dawson.
posted by Twang at 2:51 PM on October 1, 2006


Does anyone know if there's anyone doing research into how this works?

This article has references to various studies and is an interesting overview of glossolalia. It concludes that glossolalia should be considered a learned behaviour, rather than being down to hypnosis or trance states (is that fancy scientist talk for 'they're all totally faking it'?).

Something I found fascinating was the fact that folk who speak in tongues often do so in private as well as at religious gatherings.
posted by jack_mo at 2:56 PM on October 1, 2006


There is a woman in my very middle of the road Episcopal parish who likes to get all Pentecostal-like during our services. She starts whooping and hollering and getting slain in the spirit must to the consternation of the little old church ladies and the Sunday School kids. Trust me, it's not our preacher hypnotizing her! I think it's more a case of "look at me!"
posted by Biblio at 2:58 PM on October 1, 2006


Of course, there are antecedents to Protestant religious frenzy, specifically Shakerism. and its offshoots.
posted by Brian B. at 2:58 PM on October 1, 2006


On not preview: That all just looks over the top creepy to me, but then I used to go Killing Joke shows with warpaint on and bump up against other folks in the mosh pit.

I think that's the root of it all, really: people tend to really, really like to get fucked up, whether that's gibbering in church, jumping around to loud music, smoking crack, bungee jumping...
posted by jack_mo at 3:00 PM on October 1, 2006


... learned behavior... My take on it is that it isn't so much "faking" it, but it's a behavior that has been associated with some emotional/mental state.

Perhaps something similar to how someone isn't naturally a "moaner" in bed, then after watching some porn then get the notion that it's "normal" to be vocal in a particular way during sex, then just starts moaning and thus "learned" the behavior of moaning.
posted by porpoise at 3:10 PM on October 1, 2006


It's probably very relaxing if you do this just for fun. But the sad part is that they promote superstition.
posted by vertriebskonzept at 3:22 PM on October 1, 2006


On that map showing the density of Pentacostals (heh), the lowest three percentage ranges, corresponding to shades of light pink, are quite small (0%, 0.1 - 2.4%, 2.5 - 6%). But red areas correspond to a rather large range (6.1 to 20.6%) which makes the map misleading. What if most of these red areas really only have, say, 7 or 8%? (A few places obviously have many more, hence the range.) A handy way to make it look like your formerly declasse denomination is strong and growing stronger, methinks.
posted by GrammarMoses at 3:30 PM on October 1, 2006


Excuse me, "déclassé."
posted by GrammarMoses at 3:37 PM on October 1, 2006


actually, no. deceptive editing on leftcoastbob's part completely distorts what wikipedia actually says to make it seem as if all pentecostals consider uncircumcised heathens to be "sons of Belial".

from wikipedia: Belial (also Belhor, Baalial, Beliar, Beliall, Beliel; from Hebrew Bliyaal בליעל) is an evil being in Hebrew mythology. The name means "without worth". In the Book of Jubilees, uncircumcised heathens are called "sons of Belial".

the book of jubilees is a non-canonical hebrew document. but hey, good try bob. it must be the republican in you.
posted by quonsar


I'm sorry, quonsar, I didn't mean to imply that all pentecostals consider uncircumcised heathens to be "sons of Belial." Or that only pentecostals believe it for that matter. Having never read the book of jubilees, I never even knew what a Belial was before, much less anyone's belief in it. Him. Whatever.
Must be an evil creature, though, if he is the instrument through whom I have finally been outed as a Republican, though.
posted by leftcoastbob at 3:45 PM on October 1, 2006


GrammarMoses, all the valpo maps are that way. Catholicism, Jewish, Mormon, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist.
posted by Brian B. at 4:09 PM on October 1, 2006


I've attended a service with these morons and it's a disgusting spectacle. The one I went to had a lot more screaming and thrashing on the floor, and at one point a bunch of hicks started surrounding me and touching me with their grubby little fingers because I wasn't having a jesus seizure.
The reason I went was that a friend of mine had kicked drugs and fallen into this crap, so I wanted to check it out. He has continued to go between smoking crack and gettin' his jesus on for something like 20 years now.
posted by 2sheets at 4:15 PM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Brian B., point taken. However, some have ranges that are more balanced or predictable (Catholics, Mormons, Baptists, Lutherans) than others (Jews, Pentacostals). I'm assuming that's because for Catholics, Mormons, et al., the absolute numbers are greater, so it's possible to divide the categories more evenly.

Speaking of which, it's interesting to me (raised Jewish, longtime New Yorker) that there are places where more than 50% of the population adheres to one denomination.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:06 PM on October 1, 2006


I used to go Killing Joke shows with warpaint on and bump up against other folks in the mosh pit. I'm sure that would look equally strange, and perhaps scary to them.

It would only be scary if Killing Joke was an imaginary band that you worshiped and would put your life down for.
posted by Mr_Zero at 5:17 PM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


re: belial

"Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?"

ps - mainstream protestants and catholics were and sometimes still are reckoned as "unbelievers"

i have actually heard pentecostals say it as "yoking christ with belial", though
posted by pyramid termite at 5:39 PM on October 1, 2006


the Pentecostals are probably the best modern-day analogue to what the Christian church was actually like at its inception

That explains so much about Christianity today.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:15 PM on October 1, 2006


I heard a compelling argument recently about how "Christianity" in America is to real Christianity like Voodoo is to Roman Catholicism. A spiritualist folk-religion culture only superficially related to the source by naming conventions and artifacts.
posted by nightchrome at 6:36 PM on October 1, 2006


Nightchrome: That's a very interesting take on the matter. Do you remember where you heard/saw the argument? I'd really like to chase that one up if possible. Email is on profile.
posted by ninazer0 at 8:52 PM on October 1, 2006


On an tangential note, Robert Duvall's The Apostle is a fascinating movie. Duvall plays a Texas Pentecostal minister, a riveting, ranting preacher. It's a masterpiece performance; a non-judgmental study of how a person can be charismatic, inspiring, and good-intentioned while still being a anger-prone, lecherous, prayer-junkie.
posted by Iridic at 9:59 PM on October 1, 2006


A: Bad example of a single church
B: Wiki article
C: Population map

-------

Conclusion: ....ummm, what exactly?
posted by Kudos at 1:02 AM on October 2, 2006


Does anyone know if there's anyone doing research into how this works?

This article has references to various studies and is an interesting overview of glossolalia. It concludes that glossolalia should be considered a learned behaviour, rather than being down to hypnosis or trance states (is that fancy scientist talk for 'they're all totally faking it'?).


It's classic NLP. I was raised Pentecostal, and we 'caught the holy spirit' (started speaking in tongues) by repeating the word 'hallelujah' over and over again, out loud, for as long as possible as often as possible. It took most people three days to a week before the hallelujahs became repetitive gibberish. You infer meaning in the gibberish, and you're speaking in tongues.
posted by goo at 3:59 AM on October 2, 2006


If they weren't faking it -- I'm sure some of them were making themselves laugh for fear of looking unholy among the holy rollers on the floor, but still -- if they weren't faking it, they were having a great time. I would love a church that could make me feel that good. Of course, they'd have to be hypnotists and really make me feel that good, because ain't nothing going to rationally convince me there are gods, but if I could get hypnosis-induced rolling-on-the-floor laughing once a week without messing up my head the rest of the week, I might pay the dues and wear the cheesy suit and hang out with the comb overs and Texas hairs once a week. But I'd try to find a less polyester version.
posted by pracowity at 5:01 AM on October 2, 2006


I knew a pentacostal growing up. She wasn't allowed to dance or gamble. Her hair and skirts had to be a certain length. I don't think she was allowed to talk to me (because I was a boy). She mentioned speaking in tongues, but didn't go into detail.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:59 AM on October 2, 2006


That video just made my day a lot less bright; this is one of the more depressing things I have seen in some time. I was born and bred and I wish I could say it was not in the least representative, but alas it was.

On a recent trip home, it totally struck me how very very few of those pentecostals I grew up with got a decent education (outside of bible college) and did something contstructive with their lives. It is quite sad.

I try not to paint them all with the same brush, and I know people who were 'rescued' by the religion too (genuinely), but it is hard if you actually were involved with them to see it positively, since I believe the religion does more harm on the whole then good.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:12 AM on October 2, 2006


if I could get hypnosis-induced rolling-on-the-floor laughing once a week without messing up my head the rest of the week

Weed.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:32 AM on October 2, 2006


Looks more like magic mushrooms, in my opinion.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:36 AM on October 2, 2006


My pentecostal babysitter used to practice french kissing on me.

Not sure if this is to blame for my lesbian lean or my atheism.
posted by figment of my conation at 6:34 PM on October 2, 2006


bonar
posted by obeygiant at 1:55 PM on October 5, 2006


Pentecostals widening their influence.
posted by Brian B. at 10:03 AM on October 6, 2006


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