Pentecostalism

Did GOP candidates really avoid moral and religious talk when courting black voters?

Did GOP candidates really avoid moral and religious talk when courting black voters?

If you follow trends among African-American voters, you know that they tend to be more conservative on moral and social issues than other key players in the modern Democratic Party coalition. There have been some small shifts among younger African-Americans on issues such as abortion and gay rights, but the basic trends can still be seen.

So, African-American voters are more culturally conservative than most other Democrats, but they have remained very loyal when venturing into the voting booths -- especially in the Barack Obama era.

But one other factor should be mentioned. If Republicans are going to find any black voters that are willing to cross over and ACT on their more conservative values, it is highly likely that those voters will be found among those who frequent church pews. That isn't surprising, is it?

Thus, I would like GetReligion readers to dig into the following Washington Post story that focuses on attempts by GOP candidates -- including Dr. Ben Carson -- to recruit some additional black voters to their cause. The headline gives zero clue as to what this very long political story is about: "Clinton takes a swipe at Jeb Bush’s ‘Right to Rise.' "

What are readers looking for?

Well, personally, I find it interesting that the story contains, as best I can tell, zero references to religious, moral and cultural issues. Even in the material from Jeb Bush. Even in the references to the remarks of Carson, who is, of course, an African-American religious conservative who rarely gives a speech without talking about social issues.

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Did Pope Francis really embrace 'unorthodox' practices among charismatic Catholics?

Did Pope Francis really embrace 'unorthodox' practices among charismatic Catholics?

Time for a quick trip into the thick tmatt file of guilt, full of GetReligion topiccs I had hoped to get to several days ago.

During the papal trip to South America, the New York Times veered away from political analysis in one story and hit on one of the most important two-part developments in world religion in the past few decades.

Part one: The rise of Pentecostal Protestantism in the once solidly Catholic culture of South America. Click here for tons of information from the Pew Forum. Part two: The rise of the Catholic charismatics soon after that in the same region, and elsewhere in the Global South.

This led to an interesting, and to me troubling, Times team use of an important doctrinal term. Then, that mistake hinted at a key hole in the story. Let's start at the colorful beginning:

QUITO, Ecuador -- The rock music boomed as the congregants at this simple, white-walled church sang and clapped, raising their arms skyward as they prayed aloud and swayed to the beat. The sermon included jokes and a call-and-response with people in the pews. There was even a faith healing testimonial.
But just when it seemed like a Protestant revival meeting, the blessing of the host began and the parishioners filed to the altar to take communion, as in any other Roman Catholic Mass.
Afterward, many of the worshipers bought T-shirts and scarves with the logo of Pope Francis’ visit to their country this week.
“They’re not so Catholic, are they?” joked the priest who presided over the service, Ismael Nova, referring to the Masses he conducts at San Juan Eudes parish church. “They’re different.”

Not very Catholic? Really now.

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Must read: Baltimore Sun explores rich world of ushers, in black church traditions

Must read: Baltimore Sun explores rich world of ushers, in black church traditions

During my two decades -- sort of -- teaching journalism in Washington, one of the sharpest and most talented journalists I got to know was Hamil Harris of The Washington Post.

Now, this ultra-energetic man -- a student once called him Hurricane Hamil -- is talented in so many ways. Name me another former Florida State University gridiron lineman who is a great multi-platform reporter, speaks Russian, is a talented Gospel musician, has worked as a tech aide (hope I got that right) in emergency room surgery and has a theology degree. Does he fly airplanes too? I forget.

I could tell so many Hamil stories. But the key for this post today is his constant emphasis, speaking to my students, on never losing sight of the human element in reporting. Journalism is about people, their voices, their stories, their pain, their joy and, yes, the information in their heads and at their fingertips. Journalism is often about famous people, but wise journalists know that everyone they meet knows something about some story, information that could be crucial in the future. Treat them right. Respect them. Listen to them.

That's Hamil talking. This brings me to his insights, through the years, into the role that ushers play in African-American church life. They are more than doorkeepers. Ushers are a crucial part of what these churches do, both in worship and in community building. They are the eyes and ears of the body of the church.

So I thought of Hamil when The Baltimore Sun ran a fine news feature the other day under the somewhat bland headline: "Ushers serve as 'doorkeepers' to worship." The opening anecdote captures the "eyes and ears" concept.

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Crux chronicles Mormons versus Catholics in Salt Lake City evangelism efforts

Crux chronicles Mormons versus Catholics in Salt Lake City evangelism efforts

The massive immigration of Hispanics to northward into the United States over the past 50 years and how that influx has shaped American churches is one of the century’s biggest religion stories.

Even back in the 1980s, when I was covering religion for the Houston Chronicle, the word on the street was that for every Latino Catholic who made it across the border, plenty of Baptists and Pentecostals lay in wait to evangelize them. The mainline Protestant churches got into the act as well. Fast forward to around 2009 or 2010 at my Episcopal congregation in Maryland. At our Spanish-language service, 90 percent of the congregation were former Catholics.

The Roman Catholics haven’t taken this lying down, but it’s been an uneven fight, with one side undergoing a priest shortage with a typical congregation numbering in the thousands versus smaller and more nimble Protestant churches.

The Mormons have gotten into the act as well, as this article from Crux illustrates. This passage is long, but crucial:

The allure of secularism combined with efforts by other Christian denominations to appeal to Latino sensibilities has resulted in a mad scramble by Catholic leaders to create welcoming communities before a mass Hispanic exodus dramatically reshapes its once certain future.
Here in Salt Lake City, where the dominant Mormon population is known for its strong emphasis on community, the Catholic Church faces a specific set of challenges…

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Why do Mississippians oppose same-sex marriage? Los Angeles Times editors know, for sure

Why do Mississippians oppose same-sex marriage? Los Angeles Times editors know, for sure

On one level, the new Lost Angeles Times news story about the status of same-sex marriage in Mississippi is quite interesting, in light of the current Kellerism state of affairs in American journalism in the wake of the 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The story does offer quite a bit of space for leaders of the American Family Association, which is based in the state, to voice their viewpoints on the case. Then again, the Times team seems to assume that the AFA is the perfect, if not the only, example of an organization in that state to oppose the decision.

What are preachers in black churches in the state saying? What about the local Catholic hierarchy? How about the Assemblies of God? Does any other religious group -- black, white, Latino, etc. -- back the decision by Mississippi's attorney general, Jim Hood, to reject the high court's ruling?

However, it appears that the AFA was the perfect conservative voice to balance the following remarkable passage -- which was offered as unchallenged, unattributed, factual content in a hard-news report, as opposed to being in an editorial column or an analysis essay.

So, what is this?

To understand Mississippi's resistance to gay marriage, it helps to look at its legacy as a deeply religious and conservative state. This is where three civil rights workers were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s; where James Meredith became the first black student to enroll in Ole Miss, but only after a violent confrontation; and where the Confederate symbol is still part of the official state flag.
It is where 59% of residents described themselves as “very religious” in a 2014 Gallup Poll, higher than any other state, and where 86% of voters in 2004 approved a ban on same-sex marriage.

That was really subtle.

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NYTimes magazine lands graceful piece on Pentecostal child preachers in Brazil

NYTimes magazine lands graceful piece on Pentecostal child preachers in Brazil

Every once in awhile, there’s a story that just sings. And this New York Times Magazine feature on the child pentecostal preachers of Brazil is such a piece.

Some background: Although Pentecostalism began in the United States in the early 1900s, it has really taken off in Latin America (see the massive Pew Forum studies of this), especially Brazil even more than in the U.S.  This growth, especially in the closing decades of the 20th century, was enough to alarm the Catholic authorities that held sway over much of Latin America for four centuries. Some say one reason for the election of Pope Francis, from neighboring Argentina, was part of a Catholic effort to regain lost ground on this continent.

But child preachers? Pentecostalism in the U.S. has such a tradition but Brazil? And female ones at that? The article starts thus:

It was fall in Brazil, and rain drizzled under a gray moon. The faithful were beginning to arrive at the International Mission of Miracles, a Pentecostal church in the poor and working-class city of São Gonçalo, 10 miles from Rio de Janeiro. In front of the church, which was located between a supermarket and an abandoned lot, a banner staked in the muddy ground advertised a young girl named Alani Santos, whose touch could heal …

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Sunday at 'Mother Emanuel': What happened to the 'J-word' in many news reports?

Sunday at 'Mother Emanuel': What happened to the 'J-word' in many news reports?

Talk to African-American pastors for any time at all -- as a journalist -- and you will almost certainly hear a common theme emerge.

Many of these preachers and civic leaders are tired of having their work and ministry reduced to political language. In particular, they are fascinated that reporters seem so afraid of specific words that are repeated over and over in worship in their churches, words such as "Jesus," "Lord," "Redeemer" and "Savior."

So if you want to understand where these preachers are coming from, watch the sermon at the top of this post -- start about 9 minutes in -- and then dig into some of the national news coverage. In particular, look for the phrase "in the name of Jesus." Cue up the key passages at 15 minutes and, again, near the end at the 25-minute mark.

So I was worried when I opened up the New York Times report this morning on the first service at Emanuel African American Episcopal Church and read this passage:

In the front pews of Emanuel, Nikki R. Haley, the Indian-American Republican governor of this state, sat among Democrats -- Representative Maxine Waters of California, who is black, and Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. of Charleston, who is white -- and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is black and a fellow Republican. In the back of the church, an unlikely pairing sat next to each other -- Rick Santorum, the conservative Catholic and Republican presidential hopeful, and DeRay McKesson, a liberal activist who is black and gay.
The service beneath Emanuel’s vaulted barrel roof opened with an emotional hymn as nearly the entire congregation stood and sang, “You are the source of my strength, you are the strength of my life,” rounded out with a big “Amen” that was followed by a standing ovation.

You see, the name of that Gospel song in the second paragraph -- after the inevitable (and necessary) litany of political names -- is "Total Praise" and the key lyrics, as commonly used in worship, go like this:

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What can experts tell us about growing 'nondenominational' churches? (Also, new podcast alert)

What can experts tell us about growing 'nondenominational' churches? (Also, new podcast alert)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out Richard Ostling's update on the next wave of mainstream media coverage of trends in atheism, in this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

RACHAEL’S QUESTION:

In the recent Pew survey showing America’s religious changes, how were nondenominational churches categorized?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Rachael asked previously what America’s biggest Christian groups are, and now has another demographic item about the Pew Research Center’s important “Religious Landscape Study,” which continues to spur discussion. (.pdf here) This blog scanned key findings May 20).

Pew’s 2014 polling tells us how 35,071 U.S. adults identify themselves on religion, with important new fundings about these independent (a.k.a. “nondenominational” or “interdenominational”) local congregations without national affiliations. The huge sample size provides accurate breakdowns for groups, and Pew’s similar survey in 2007 shows trends over time.

The 2014 survey establishes independent congregations as a growing factor in American life and American religious life. By definition, they’re Protestant (neither Catholic nor Orthodox).

U.S. Protestantism gets more complicated by the year and, because they’re nearly impossible to track, the independents are often neglected in religious analyses. Now, thanks to Pew, there’s solid current data.

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#DUH — Key to Boy Scouts story is located in pews, pulpits and debates on doctrine

#DUH — Key to Boy Scouts story is located in pews, pulpits and debates on doctrine

When I was growing up in Port Arthur, Texas -- certainly one of the most racially divided cities in America -- one of the primary forces for change was the Boy Scouts of America. My father was the pastor of an inner-city Southern Baptist congregation and working with children in the neighborhoods around our church was one of his priorities.

As you can imagine, some of the people in church pews in the late 1960s didn't share his perspectives on that issue. My father did what he could.

Thus, there was a simple reality: Look at a church's Boy Scouts troop and it told you quite a bit about the leadership of that church, as opposed to the policies of the Boy Scouts.

That's why I was interested, to say the least, in the following passage in the recent Washington Post story about the remarks by Boy Scouts of America President Robert M. Gates in which he urged the organization to reconsider its ban on openly gay Scout leaders.

... Steeped in tradition as they were, the Boy Scouts often struggled to handle change. Though the Girl Scouts formally banned segregation of its troops the 1950s -- prompting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to call the group “a force for desegregation” -- the last Boy Scout troop wasn’t integrated until 1974, according to NPR. ...

And unlike the Boy Scouts of America, from the beginning the Girl Scouts declared themselves to be “non-sectarian in practice as well as theory.” In 1993, when a prospective member protested the phrase “serve God” in the Girl Scout Promise, the organization ruled that members could substitute whatever phrase fit their beliefs. The Girl Scouts have never had a policy on homosexual members and have admitted transgender members since 2011.

The Boy Scouts, on the other hand, have long been inextricably tied to tradition and religion. The Scout’s oath pledges boys to “do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” A 2011 study of messaging in the Girl Scout and Boy Scout handbooks found that the Boy Scouts handbook relied on “organizational scripts” rather than autonomy and critical thinking, promoting “an assertive heteronormative masculinity.” Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of all troops are chartered to faith-based organizations, most of them Christian.

It doesn't take a doctorate in gender studies to find good and evil in that paragraph.

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