Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal background

Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal background has been under scrutiny. But the Alaska churches she’s attended are only a small slice of a vast, diverse, under-told religion story.

I writing this blog to explain what Iknow about the Pentecostal Church and movement.

The CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, and Barack Obama’s director of religious affairs are also Pentecostal, like one-quarter of the world’s Christians, spanning every denomination.

Sarah attended the Wasilla Assembly of God until around 2002 and the Boston Herald and Newsweek have both identified Wasilla Bible Church as the Alaska Governor’s most recent church.

In 1906 the Pentecostal movement began on Azusa Street in Los Angeles.

Azusa Street Church 1906

Azusa Street Church 1906

Pentecostalism is sometimes confused with Fundamentalist Christianity, but it is historically distinct and spiritually different. In Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where it is growing most rapidly, Pentecostal Christianity is often associated with emancipation for women, the poor, and the disenfranchised.
Penticostalism began on the American frontier, with an African-American son of slaves a century ago.

I felt compelled to write this in light of all the scrutiny of churches Sarah Palin has attended, and remarks she has made in them. I believe, since nothing is off limits to the Obama campaign and his billionaire backers that have invested so much money and don’t want to come away empty handed, that the Pentacostal Church is next to be ridiculed to bring Sarah Down.

These churches and Palin’s experiences are reflections of a major, movement that is literally changing the face of Christianity and culture.

Pentecostalism is the largest and most influential religious movement to originate in the United States. There are over 100 Pentecostal denominations. But Pentecostalism is not essentially a set of institutions and beliefs. It is, in the words of believers, a charismatic, spirit-filled impulse and practice that has penetrated the spectrum of the world’s Christian traditions. At its present rate of growth, one billion people will be part of this movement by the year 2025.

William J. Seymour

William J. Seymour

The founding figure of the modern Pentecostal movement was an African-American son of slaves, William J. Seymour. Around the turn of the century, he attended classes of another Pentecostal forebear, the Reverend Charles Parham of Topeka, Kansas. There, Seymour sat in the hallway because he was black.

In 1906, he accepted a call to ministry in Los Angeles, and he soon began to draw a vast sweep of humanity to what became known in the course of three years as the Azusa Street Revival. As the Los Angeles Herald described it at the time, with some scorn, “All classes of people gathered in the temple last night. There were all ages, sexes, colors, nationalities and previous conditions of servitude.” At one of the early services, so many people packed in the little church that the floor caved in.

The Azusa Street Revival the new church and faith came under fire of the established media for their inter-racial whorship services.

Like his mother and father before him, Mel Robeck is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God — the denomination of the church Sarah Palin attended until 2002. He’s proud of the fact that Pentecostals ordained women from the first, just one measure of the egalitarian impulse at the heart of this tradition. He is also learned and frank about the ways in which this religious revolution — like every revolution — has often failed its own highest ideals.

Still, as the inheritors of the Azusa Street revival commemorated it with a parade through the streets of Los Angeles in 2006, they reflected a vast and improbable mix of humanity in one place with one purpose. There was a brass marching band from the Bahamas. There were Native Americans carrying the shofar, the sacred horn of the Hebrew Bible. There were Romanian Pentecostal teenagers from Orange County and a delegation from Uganda and Kenya. Azusa Street bikers came with shaved heads, leather jackets, and tattoos. A young Christian rock group and a gospel choir performed on flatbed trailers.

Another of the many Pentecostal churches is The Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American denomination with six million members, which traces its roots directly back through Azusa Street. It is now the fifth-largest Christian tradition in the U.S. Bishop Blake gave an important speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, representing the perspective of a “pro-life” Democrat.

William J. Seymour once said this: “We are not fighting men or churches but seeking to replace dead forms and creeds and wild fanaticisms with living, practical Christianity.” In such words, one hears the appeal of Pentecostalism in his time and in ours. It is impossible fully to describe or analyze this experiential faith with the scholarly and journalistic tools of rationality and objectivity.

Outsiders often focus their attention on the aspects of this faith that they find most puzzling, especially its ecstatic forms of worship and excesses that can result from that. But all of us — journalists, policymakers, and citizens — must find new ways to understand and take this movement seriously, for it is changing our world.

Barack should leave this one alone, but I don’t see that happening. I think he will just have others trash these people and act like his hands are clean.

by Ken Maddox of

~ by Leonidas on September 19, 2008.

3 Responses to “Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal background”

  1. Well Said.

  2. you should have written the origin of pentecostalism and how it affects our present society, and also the problem associated with it.

  3. you should have written origin of pentecostalism and its significance, and how it will affect our society possitively. May the Lord bless you as you do this to His glory in Jesus mighty name

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