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- Azusa St # 213 - Where the Holy Sprirt fell and started the New Pentecost
June 13, 2007 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand, the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles. Meetings are held in a tumble-down shack on Azusa Street, near San Pedro Street, and devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. [mi]
posted by bigmusic (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another speaker had a vision in which he saw the people of Los Angeles flocking in a mighty stream to perdition. He prophesied awful destruction to this city unless its citizens are brought to a belief in the tenets of the new faith.
posted by bigmusic at 8:21 PM on June 13, 2007


But the question is: Are they as bad as Scientologists?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:27 PM on June 13, 2007


I had no idea penacostals started around Los Angeles, I always associate it with the South.
posted by mathowie at 8:29 PM on June 13, 2007


I love the writing style on that first link. Throw in an "eldritch" here and a "nameless" there and it could be the opening to an H.P. Lovecraft story, right down to the squeamish distaste for non-whites.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:33 PM on June 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Mathowie, Pentecostals actually started in Jerusalem (try the book of Acts) but yes, the modern day pentecostal movement in America did start on Azusa Street.
posted by konolia at 8:34 PM on June 13, 2007


Mathowie, Pentecostals actually started in Jerusalem (try the book of Acts)

Oh, snap!

You just got served, mathowie!
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:39 PM on June 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


I prefer to hang out at Pico and Sepulveda, where nobody's dreams come true.
posted by cog_nate at 8:55 PM on June 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


I had no idea penacostals started around Los Angeles, I always associate it with the South.

There's a historical plaque on the site, in what is now the Little Tokyo area of LA. It's kind of anticlimactic, I mean, if you're really into the history of religion. I guess the church itself has been long since torn down, and Azusa Street is more of an alley.
posted by bcveen at 9:21 PM on June 13, 2007


Acts has nothing to do with modern day Penecostals. Or at least very very little and only superficially to do with the movement. If born again tpes would learn some primary source history (or koine and some historical perspective) the world would be a better place.

either way I support Konolia ia the metatalk thread
posted by psmith at 9:35 PM on June 13, 2007


Damn, I've been knocking around a huge Pentecostal post for about a year (since the centennial last April). And I can't find all the links I was going to use.

But what's interesting about the Pentecostal movement is that:
1. It's not only an American movement, it was a wholly West Coast religious movement. It was carried to the east and southeast by tent revivialists such as Oral Roberts and over the airwaves by the first radio evangelists. Still, Pentecostals make up a substantial portion of the Christian population in the Northwest.

2. William J. Seymour, the glass-eyed minister who ran the Bonnie Brae Street and Azusa Street meetings, was black. His congregation was multi-racial. Charles Fox Parham, the founder of the Pentecostal Holiness Movement, didn't like that.

3. The Pentecostals were among the first to embrace the new medium of radio, led by Aimee Semple McPherson, the first female minister of note in the US. (McPherson deserves her own post.)

4. And Pentecostals != fundamentalists. There are significant differences between pentecostal (charismatic) and fundamentalist theology, enough that some fundies consider Pentecostals to be heretics.
posted by dw at 9:52 PM on June 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


The problem with "speaking in tongues" as its currently practiced is that's NOT what Acts is describing: the gift of tongues at Pentecost was that the Apostles started preaching in the (real) languages of (other) foreigners, as if a Korean tourist were "witnessed to" in perfect Korean by a Kenyan Muslim stranger in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The implication of the Bible story is that the apostles had not studied the (real) languages they suddenly started speaking, but that the Holy Spirit blessed them with this new ability.

What people nowadays call "speaking in tongues" is just jabbering gibberish.
posted by davy at 10:34 PM on June 13, 2007


Davy, you're partly wrong. The Pentecostals jabbering in front of folks are wrong, and the way they display it is wrong. However, from scripture, it is clear that this sort of tongue-speaking thing is correct in private. Otherwise, you are correct in describing the initial incident.
posted by Goofyy at 11:35 PM on June 13, 2007


Anyone who has read Snow Crash should probably remember that the revival began back at the turn of the century. The wiki article on glossalia is quite interesting too - particularly the part about the recent research showing that the language centres of the brain actually become somewhat suppressed whilst the emotional side becomes stimulated.

/claims 500 Goombah points and heads back to Nova Sicilia Frachulate #3549.

longbaugh "the fist pumper" parker
posted by longbaugh at 11:52 PM on June 13, 2007


...and that's glossolalia thus indicating that my own language centres aren't firing on all cylinders today...
posted by longbaugh at 11:53 PM on June 13, 2007


Pentacostal? Certifiable.
posted by telstar at 12:38 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that these sort of "cults" and new religious movements kept sprouting up in California in the first few decades of the twentieth century. I was just reading Dashiell Hammett's "The Dain Curse", where such a cult in San Francisco is central to the plot. It mentions that the founders started it in San Francisco instead of Los Angeles to have less competition for socialites' money. The novel is set in the early 30s, so the tendency lasted for some 30 years at least.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:10 AM on June 14, 2007


Pentecostals actually started in Jerusalem

And the Roman Catholic Church started with Peter.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:15 AM on June 14, 2007


Davy, I don't have time now but if you like email me and I can show you Biblically that the gift of tongues is legitimate as practiced by Pentecostals and Charismatics.
posted by konolia at 4:35 AM on June 14, 2007



It's interesting that these sort of "cults" and new religious movements kept sprouting up in California in the first few decades of the twentieth century. I was just reading Dashiell Hammett's "The Dain Curse", where such a cult in San Francisco is central to the plot. It mentions that the founders started it in San Francisco instead of Los Angeles to have less competition for socialites' money. The novel is set in the early 30s, so the tendency lasted for some 30 years at least.


See also Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust. (West is probably one of the two or three best writers to have written in the 30s)
posted by nasreddin at 7:48 AM on June 14, 2007


AWESOME! I was raised Catholic and am now and atheist, but I think that any forum that gets people both young and old to come together and wig out and have fun in the name of peace and love is a-ok, even if God does get mixxed up in it.

From what I've seen, Pentecostals are a hell of a hoot as far as Christianity goes. They're rivaled only by black Baptists in their willingness to turn church into a rock concert (and i don't mean a shitty watered down praise concert. i mean a RAWK FRIGGIN CONCERT!)

Ever see that footage of the snake handler pentacostal church in depression era Kentucky? those are some happy people having a crazy old time in the midst of a rough breadline existence.

I like my old time religion with a little drop of hedonism, thank you very much.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:49 AM on June 14, 2007


the gift of tongues is legitimate as practiced by Pentecostals and Charismatics.

Some legitimate gifted tongue practice would be nice right about now.
posted by nofundy at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2007


Well waddayaknow. An fpp about something that actually bears upon my family heritage. When she was young, my Grandma Beulah preached alongside Sister Aimee Semple McPherson at her Foursquare Gospel Church in Echo Park. During the depression era in particular, it was a BIG deal in LA. And trust me, if my grandma could be a Pentacostal preacher, ANYONE could... that lady was a trip. (She went through every widower in her neighborhood. Married five times.)

Anyhow, I wish I wasn't late for a client meeting or I'd tell you more about what I know of it all. But I gotta go do paying stuff right now...
posted by miss lynnster at 10:17 AM on June 14, 2007


If people are actually interested at all, I'll check back after work and try to tell you what I can.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:20 AM on June 14, 2007


Pentecostals actually started in Jerusalem

And the Roman Catholic Church started with Peter.


You're both wrong! Pentacostals started on some mountain in the Sainai about 50 days walk from Thebes. Take that and shavout!
posted by Pollomacho at 10:34 AM on June 14, 2007


"that this sort of tongue-speaking thing is correct in private"

Then whose language would they be speaking? Can't God understand English, Afrikaans, or any other real vernacular?

If "speaking in tongues" is Biblical and the Biblical story is the basis, then the gibberish Pentacostals jabber is not "speaking in tongues."

At least when one scats one is vocalizing musical notes. And if you're talking about getting so emotional that you make nonsense noises, when kids and puppies get emotional they piss themselves; neither is evidence of "the sacred" any more than having a nickel proves I'm Donald Trump.

According to the Bible's Book of Acts, for it to be "speaking in tongues" one must suddenly and miraculously produce a real human language you did not previously know. Of course the Bible could be WRONG about "speaking in tongues," or maybe it could be that the Bible says one thing but means another and only Holy Rollers have the Secret Decoder Ring.
posted by davy at 11:01 AM on June 14, 2007


There's quite a bit about this in Simon Winchester's "A Crack in the Edge of the World", a book about the '06 SF quake which I recently finished. (Awesome book, btw.)

Apparently the quake fulfilled that prophesy (first comment above) and was what seriously strengthened people's devotion to the Azusa church.
posted by GatorDavid at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2007


Davy, you could email me and I can show you where, as practiced by Pentecostals and Charismatics, speaking in gibberish, I mean "tongues" without a translator for the congregation is considered wrong.
posted by chimaera at 2:11 PM on June 14, 2007


There's more about the spiritual gift of tongues along with other spiritual gifts such as prophecy, etc. in First Corinthians.

One can quietly speak in tongues-here you are speaking to yourself and to God. If you speak more publically an interpreter is required as one is expected to be edifying OTHERS in such a circumstance.

(and for those who aren't familiar with any of this, the unknown language or "tongue" could be that of men OR angels. Yup, angels have language too.)

BTW I have a close friend who was practicing this gift at a small gathering in her home recently-someone else could understand her as she turned out to be speaking HIS language. She did not know what she was saying but HE did.

Oh, and Miss Lynster I would LOOVE to hear about Grandma Beulah. I'm a little....hm, what's the word...curious about Sister Aimee but apparently the Foursquare churches she founded are cool. At least my husband says so-he's from out west. We don't have that denomination here.

But the Pentecostal Holiness denomination was founded in my county from what I have been told. They have a honking big church on the other side of town plus a "children's home" located in a small town elsewhere in the county.
posted by konolia at 2:56 PM on June 14, 2007


speaking in tongues is very important! It is the evidence of the holy ghost!

(giving all you own to the poor, being meek, and NOT ENFORCING GOD'S LAWS ON OTHERS -- ie exactly what christ condemened the pharisees for doing -- and other shit that jesus talked about: meh, not so much)
posted by lastobelus at 1:36 AM on June 15, 2007


"BTW I have a close friend who was practicing this gift..."

yeah, B.S.

And I say that as someone who grew up speaking in tongues, whose brother is a prominent evangelist, brother-in-law also a preacher, 2 uncles are missionaries, 3 more uncles & a grandfather are/were preachers.

It's bullshit. The same people who told such stories would in the same breath tell you that science wasn't all that because according to science bumblebees can't fly, that Einstein believed in god, that Darwin recanted on his deathbed, and other such nonsense.

In seventeen years of growing up in the U.P.C. I heard a bajillion stories about tongues being understood, people being healed, etc. and never saw it once. And it wasn't for lack of believin' nor lack of prayin' neither. My unbelief took a lot of work to come by.

Pentecostals in my experience are all very much like the Dover xians: they'll say pretty much anything they've heard, imagined, or just wish was true in order to push their beliefs, without making any effort at all to ensure that they are not, in fact, bearing false witness. Because the unwritten rule is that the biblical edicts against bearing false witness, despite being featured prominently in virtually every list of sins in the bible, is safely ignored when it comes to pushing xianity on others.
posted by lastobelus at 1:48 AM on June 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


miss lynnster, I would also like to know about your Grandma Beulah.
posted by redteam at 3:13 AM on June 15, 2007


Interesting links. I knew some Pentacostals growing up, but I never knew the extent of the Pentacostal movement's scope and influence, or that it originated in California.

miss lynnster, I'd also be interested in stories about your grandmother.
posted by Drop Daedalus at 3:51 AM on June 15, 2007


from the second link...

Pentecostalism took "Spirit Baptism" and the restoration of New Testament gifts one step further. In January, 1901, holiness minister Charles Fox Parham asked the students at his Topeka Bible school to study the scriptures and determine what evidence might be given of Spirit baptism. Using the pentecost account in Acts chapter two, they concluded that speaking in tongues was the confirmation of Holy Spirit baptism. This first wave of Pentecostalism spread in the revival that followed, but remained regional, moving into Kansas, Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas.

The 1906 revival at Azusa street, Los Angeles marks the second phase of the Pentecostals’ origins.


wouldn't that mean it didn't start in California?
posted by mikoroshi at 7:07 PM on June 15, 2007


miss lynnster, I'll check back.

It's close to home for me, too. My folks pastor a Foursquare church, and I even went to the college that Aimee McPherson started.
posted by puddleglum at 7:19 PM on June 15, 2007


Oh, okay. When I checked before nobody sounded interested.

From what I understand, when my grandma was in her late teens she got involved with the Foursquare Church at the height of Sister Aimee's popularity. Because of the depression, a lot of people were really searching for something and she apparently really was one of the first preachers to really nail the showmanship of evangelism on a large scale. People traveled thousands of miles to see Sister Aimee, and she traveled the world to hold her sermons. During the time of the Scopes trial, she held the attention of many new followers by focusing on fighting the idea of evolution. Early on she was preaching to poor people, but she decided she wanted to go for bigger fish... she always called it "Fishing for whales, not minnows." She decided that LA was the place to be so she started to hold tent revivals in Echo Park and eventually built the Angelus Temple.

My grandma preached alongside Sister Aimee. Did the whole speaking in tongues thing & all. Was a mini-celebrity. Ate it up. She told me all about how while the offering plates were being passed around Aimee would tell the congregation that "God doesn't like noisy money" so people would give dollar bills instead of change. She also told me about Aimee entering the stage on a horse declaring herself a warrior/soldier for Jesus. She was brilliant when it came to theatrics. She was quite literally the precursor to the television evangelist.

In 1926, Aimee disappeared and the rumor was that she was abducted. Panic spread. Deep sea divers searched for her. People LOST IT. My grandmother was pregnant with my mother at the time so she was no longer preaching with her, but she knew of Aimee's philandering so she had a feeling it was something else. After Aimee reappeared, people figured out that she had been shacking up with a married man. Many people forgave her though. She ended up dying of a barbituate overdose years later.

My memory of my grandmother is of a 60-70 year old woman wearing miniskirts and gogo boots and hitting on men, telling them that I was her daughter. I remember from a super early age thinking "If my grandma could be a preacher, ANYONE could." Her stories about Aimee didn't help me to trust organized religion much either. I was really impressed with what an amazing businesswoman and showperson Aimee was, though. Loved hearing stories about her.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:58 PM on June 15, 2007


I'll check back here again if anyone has any other questions. Sorry I dropped the ball earlier.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:00 PM on June 15, 2007


Miss Lynnster - you should probably put those stories down on paper before you forget about them or on the web somewhere. I know alot of people would like to hear about those times.`
posted by bigmusic at 1:47 AM on June 16, 2007


Thanks, miss lynnster. Yep, write that stuff down!

I'd read biographies years and years ago about Sister Aimee (this was before I became a Christian, and during the time I was fascinated with the time period) so nothing your grandma could tell me would surprise me.
posted by konolia at 6:02 AM on June 16, 2007


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