NeoPentecostalism: Deprivation and Western Pentecostalism Revisited

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  ‘There is something quite pragmatic about their religious search.

      Truths are not accepted because someone says they are true, no matter

      what that leader’s religious authority may be, but because people find

      that they connect, they ‘click’ with their own quotidian existence.’

 (Cox 1994,306)


PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

Online Journal for the InterdisciplinaryStudy of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements

Stephen J. Hunt

Deprivation and Western Pentecostalism Revisited: Neo-Pentecostalism


This is the second of two articles which examine the relationship between Pentecostalism, deprivation and the fulfilment of the needs of specific social groups in Western societies (the USA and Britain are considered here). The first article indicated that this has been a strong and continuing theme for many commentators in accounting for and analysing ‘classical’ Pentecostalism. This paper argues that neo-Pentecostalism has also been approached from within a similar framework. In short, a number of sociologists and historians have linked its emergence with deprivation, broadly defined, although the membership of the movement is largely derived from a different range of social groups compared to that commonly associated with the earlier Pentecostal movement. As with the first article, this second contribution overviews the literature produced by academics from various disciplines in establishing the link between neo-Pentecostalism, deprivation and social-class and ethnic groups. It concludes with a critique of this approach and briefly outlines alternative and rival perspectives.

Neo-Pentecostalism Defined

In much the same way as with the rise of classical Pentecostalism, neo-Pentecostalism (otherwise known as the Charismatic Renewal movement) can be traced back to a number of broad earlier influences which aided the establishment of the early movement. Hollenweger (1972, 4) outlines four such influences: Firstly, the impact of classical Pentecostal churches that opened up contact with the mainstream denominations. Secondly, the work of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International in spreading the Pentecostal message world-wide. Thirdly, the co-called Van Nuys Awakening, California, that is often associated with the precise emergence of Charismatic Renewal. Fourthly, the separate Roman Catholic Renewal movement. Each of these sources can be tracked to some Pentecostal influence a reciprocal one. As classical Pentecostalism experienced a routinization of charisma and divided into organized denominations, the revival of the early decades of the twentieth century that sparked the movement cooled. By the end of World War II, the largest Pentecostal groups were well on the way to becoming established Protestant evangelical denominations (Wilson 1970, 234-5). In part this was due to the more rational and educated second and third generation of believers, who, in their attempt to make Pentecostalism acceptable, also lit the revival of their predecessors. Without neo-Pentecostalism, classical Pentecostalism would arguably now be merely another religious denomination. The fresh spiritual experience of largely middle-class neo-Pentecostals, disseminated through religious and secular communication, helped to revive classical Pentecostal beliefs.

This is not to argue that in the 1960s, with the emergence of Renewal, the two movements became one. Writing nearly two decades after the emergence of neo-Pentecostalism, Margaret Poloma (1982, 16-7), amongst others, noted the differences between classical Pentecostalism and the new developing movement. Despite a common emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit, many departures could be observed some of which were denominational differences unrelated to Pentecostal issues, as well as divergences of beliefs on specific charismatic issues. In the 1960s and 1970s the differences were those related to the basic theology of the works of the Holy Spirit between classical Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals, in particular the significance of the charismata such as healing and prophecy.

Logan, in addition, has identified certain modifications which tended to hone down the sharp edges of the earlier sectarian emphasis of Pentecostalism. For instance, some of the modern charismatics held that the baptism in the Spirit was not necessarily accompanied with speaking in tongues, though tongue-speaking nevertheless remained a desirable objective:

‘Modern charismatics tend to emphasize the rational, linguistic

character of glossolalia and play down the ecstatic or irrational

dimensions of the phenomenon. Where the earlier Pentecostalism

occasionally found historical antecedents in so-called heretical

movements as Montanism, the modern charismatic sprinkles

his writings with appeals to church fathers and reformers.’

(Logan 1975, 34)

Distinctions between classical and neo-Pentecostalism do not stop here. Another alternative classification is that neo-Pentecostals do not share classical Pentecostalism’s world-denying and puritan roots  (Burges & McGee 1988). To this Freston adds the social class dimension in that the rank and file membership of the neo-Pentecostal movement is constituted by ‘ample sectors of the middle class’ and a greater expressiveness which itself is linked to middle-class culture (Freston 1997, 187).

Other interpretations of this classification also see the division in terms of the development of Pentecostalism in the Third World. Notably in Africa and Central and Southern America, there is a clear distinction between classical Pentecostalism, that is, between churches set up by Western missionary endeavours (usually established Pentecostal denominations from the USA and Western Europe) and the home-growth neo-Pentecostal movement with the term ‘Charismatics’ being prefered (Cox 1996; Hexham & Poewe 1996).

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

Online Journal for the InterdisciplinaryStudy of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements


The development of sectarian structures is important in our discussion of the link between deprivation and neo-Pentecostalism – at least in its early stages. While it did not display the same austere sectarian characteristics of the earlier movement and operated within mainline church structures, there were however certain aspects which were clearly sectarian in orientation. In his study of charismatic Roman Catholics, Harper (1974) outlines a commitment to a sect type organization in that it displayed a small, unbureaucratic, voluntary membership which nonetheless was subject to strict social control. It focused on religious socialization, an ambivalence towards the institutional Church and its teachings, and a stress on constant membership interaction ranging from loosely related prayers cells to large-scale renewal conferences. In line with the processes of routinization, neo-Pentecostalism seemed to rapidly loose its sectarian, or at least exclusive, outlooks. Moreover, by the 1980s the differences between classical and neo-Pentecostalism, at least in North America and Europe, had become blurred and it was not entirely clear what were the distinguishing features of Pentecostalism generally since such doctrines as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit were no longer insisted upon in many strands of the movement (Hunt et al 1997).

At the same time, the world of neo-Pentecostalism was not merely located within the mainline denominations. The movement had become increasingly fragmented with literally dozens of different ‘streams’ developing from the 1970s and sometimes derived from independent churches that arose a decade earlier. While retaining all the hallmarks of the Pentecostal ‘family’ the broad movement in the West had undergone considerable evolution and become subject to a remarkable fragmentation, adapting itself to increasing cultural diversity perhaps more so than in any other religion of the world. By the early twenty-first century the movement was identified by its increasing pluralism, enculturation and marketability.

From the early 1970s various strands of neo-Pentecostalism have come and gone, while others have endured. They have included the Jesus Movement which spread from California, largely charismatic in orientation, that run counter to the mainstream Renewal movement. There has also been the continued growth of independent charismatic churches – some of which formed networks of churches that have come to resemble denominations but only after they had evolved from clear sectarian origins. More recently there has been the growth of new types of black Pentecostal churches with a distinct and evolving range of beliefs and practices that are arguably so distinct from what went before that they can plausibly  be put under the rubric of neo-Pentecostalism. In at least some respects this development was indicative of how some of the classical Pentecostal churches had also undergone change so that theologically and culturally they are often virtually indistinguishable from their neo-Pentecostal cousins.

Then there are now movements within a movement: large organizations and ministries born out of Pentecostalism but which have grown to be movements in their own right. This includes the so-called ‘heath and wealth’ gospel of the Faith movement and the late John Wimber’s highly influential network of Vineyard churches. All of these expressions of neo-Pentecostalism and their link with different forms of deprivation will be considered below.

Each of these strands add to the rich tapestry of what now constitutes neo-Pentecostalism that is increasingly marked by its extreme diversity. Yet, there are

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

Online Journal for the InterdisciplinaryStudy of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements

sources of unity. Thus, Poloma (1982, 36-9) prefers to see neo-Pentecostalism as a social movement, one of collective action in pursuit of a clear objective, with a distinct ideology and at least some organizational structure. At the same time she suggests, there are the ‘social causes’ behind the rise of the movement that are largely to do with the ability of fulfilling needs for individuals and social groups. The evidence suggests that the developments within neo-Pentecostalism have, in this respect, dealt with aspects of deprivation largely, but not exclusively, among sections of the middle-classes. Hence, as we shall see below, the link between deprivation and neo-Pentecostalism, particularly aspects of relative deprivation, has been a popular theme for many writers on the movement.

Political Activism

Another overlap between the classical and neo-Pentecostal movement has been the general reluctance of both to be involved in political activism in order to advance the needs of its members. In the first article we saw how this apolitical stance was primarily linked to aspects of sectarianism, above all a retreatism, spiritual elitism, millenarianism, and boundary maintenance with the outside world. Here, however, we have to be careful of generalizations. The older Pentecostal movement had largely refrained from such activism despite the economic and social deprivation of its members -preferring instead the consolation and alternative status provided by the sect, alongside its messianic hope of deliverance from this world. For the most part classical Pentecostalism did not serve as a channel for political protest and the means by which a range of deprivations could be addressed and overcome. In the West, however, the exception to this rule was some strands of black Pentecostalism in the USA which for several decades carried the commitment of transforming society with a social message that attempted to address racial inequalities and injustice.

The neo-Pentecostal movement brought much from the growing apolitical evangelical milieu during the 1950s and 1960s. Church historian Martin Marty (1975, 224) observes that the demise of numerous Christian social action movements in the late 1960s was ‘contemporary with the rise of new Pentecostalism’. Simultaneously, given the diverse roots of the charismatic movement, it is not surprising that no single political perspective has emerged. Nevertheless, those Evangelical-charismatics who have taken positions on politics and social action, have tended to emphasize ‘personal morality’ issues, such as homosexuality, pornography, abortion, divorce and the ‘decline of the family’. At least some Pentecostals in the USA have numbered among the New Christian Right that arose in the 1970s in order to influence the secular political realm on these issues. Evidence of this was that some 37,000 ministers from Pentecostal churches were believed to be active in the movement (Thompson 1997, 163)

In Britain, the Festival of Light of the 1960s, and the campaigning Christian groups which came out of the movement, had also taken up the same issues as their Pentecostal cousins on the other side of the Atlantic, although they were often less distinguishable from the traditional evangelicals, fundamentalists and moral campaigner in mainstream churches than was the case in the USA (Thompson 1992). Like old-style Pentecostalism, the new movement also continued to reflect the same myopic vision of the range of evil and demonic activity in society. Sins such as divorce and homosexuality were condemned but rarely the greed nurtured in

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

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the profit motive or the state of economic servitude, or racism, or exploitation of the Third World (Logan 1975, 42).

For the most part, however, the new Pentecostals turned their back on the world of politics. A probable key to what appeared to be a paradox is that the Renewal movement had deliberately tried to transcend social controversy. It has rarely dealt with social issues nor organized for the purpose of social reform (Fichter 1973/4). This has been in strong contrast to the role of contemporary Pentecostalism in some Third World countries. In Latin America, to give a Third World example, politically active contingents in most countries have dominated the Protestant constituency. Here, concerns were less with the moral issues that preoccupied neo-Pentecostals in the West, but rather focused on carrying capital culture and an anti-collectivist ethos (Freston 1996).

The Middle-Class Constituency

Another reason why political activity has not been a priority for neo-Pentecostalism is because of its narcissistic tendencies. The movement has often been linked with the values of self-absorbtion and self-development associated with the middle-classes. These concerns have brought the ever-extending definition of deprivation into focus. Unlike the older Pentecostal movement, which originated in the lower socio-economic strata, the later Charismatic movement, according to some commentators, flowed on the tide of rising social and economic mobility and found its home with the more affluent and educated. The new Pentecostalism, as Logan (1975, 41) noted at the time of its emergence, was less likely to appeal to the manual classes and he predicted that by comparison, ‘the charismatic movement would continue to look strangely white and middle-class’(Logan 1975, 43).

Writing in 1981, the long-time student of neo-Pentecostalism, Andrew Walker commented in similar vein:

‘Recently, sociologists have been forced into a major rethinking

and clearer understanding of the phenomenon of Pentecostalism.

What has happened, in a way, is that it has gotten out of hand:

what was once thought by many social scientists to be a

sectarian expression of economic and social deprivation has

turned out to be a massive social movement beyond

sectarian boundaries and incorporating the middle-classes……’

(Walker 1981, 89)



Relative Deprivation

In their discussion of the link between the rise of neo-Pentecostalism, the middle-classes and deprivation, many commentators have identified a stark contrast with the social and psychological functions of classical Pentecostalism. At a macro-sociological level, the earlier movement seemed to deal with a wide range of deprivations, but mostly those of an economic nature or related to status in its various social manifestations. The relevant literature largely argued that the deprivations which are identified with Pentecostal sectarianism ultimately led not only to the overcoming of economic and status short-comings in terms of what the sect has to offer by way of compensations, but in practical terms could raise the adherent to a greater status and material wealth by inculcating (selected) mainstream values.

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

Online Journal for the InterdisciplinaryStudy of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements

The emphasis on relative deprivation has concerned commentators of the neo-Pentecostal movement. This concept is derived from the work of Max Weber (1970). For Weber, relative deprivation is a subjective element which allows individuals in a similar social situation to perceive themselves as not achieving the rewards of wealth and honour that they deserve. The distinctive aspect of relative deprivation, is that it is culturally and historically specific – defined in relation to the standards of a particular society at a particular time. Moreover, that such deprivation is not merely economic but linked to status and whatever a society regards as significant and worthwhile possessing. Put another way, a social group experiences relative deprivation when it feels deprived in comparison to other similar groups, or when expectations are not met. It is not the fact of being deprived as such, but the feeling of deprivation which is important.

To distinguish between the deprivations allegedly felt by neo-Pentecostals, as compared to classical Pentecostals, is however rather misleading.  Few of the early Pentecostals suffered absolute deprivation. According to the literature, members of the classical Pentecostal movement, over the decades, were relatively deprived compared to other social groups. In the first article we explored the many forms of deprivation apparently experienced by this constituency: that of economic and status deprivation, as well as the repurcussions of social dislocation and, in the case of black Pentecostals, aspects of discrimination and ethnic status. However, in their discussion of neo-Pentecostalism, a fair few commentators have identified a different range of relative deprivations experienced by social groups (primarily the middle-classes) that are economically more affluent. The major arguments can now be explored at length.



Religious Experience

To some extent neo-Pentecostalism could simply provide for the need of religious experience in much the same way as the older movement. Thus, Gerlach and Hine (1970, 160-78) identify a ‘search for meaning’ among the neo-Pentecostals that, at a very broad level, resulted from the failure of, or a compensation for, the alienation of the contemporary world and the spiritual deadness of the established churches. Pentecostalism displays a dogmatism and certainty in a world which cannot provide either. This is verified in common rhetoric with such terms as ‘baptism in the Spirit’ and ‘being slain in the Spirit’ which are also articulated through action and the demonstration of God’s power. These beliefs and their manifestations are shared by the charismatic group and are thus unquestionably ‘true’ and certain. As with the older movement, neo-Pentecostals are often more dogmatic and closer to the biblical ideal than many Christian churches and this increases the level of boundary maintenance, a superior form of faith that enforces certainty of conviction. But to this are added the gifts of the Spirit which offer personal religious experience and a grounding in the supernatural.

With such strong emphasis on subjective experience, charismatic Christians are said to be vulnerable to what may be referred to as ‘charismania’. This denotes a preoccupation or fixation with the charismata. The power of the subjective experience can become an end in itself. Having the Spirit is having ‘the experience’. The rational faculties are viewed as of a lower order than the affective faculties. Here is the significance of a middle-class narcissism – one which Fichter (1978) has referred to as a ‘spiritual narcissism’. Fichter argues that this spiritual narcissism is

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

Online Journal for the InterdisciplinaryStudy of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements

not to be confused with secular narcissism. In short, the latter, the cult of psychic, maintains that self-improvement is therapeutic, not religious. It is typified by the spiritual renewal of neo-Pentecostalism. Explained with reference to Victor Frankl’s (1970) work, Fichter suggests that the search for meaning arises from the fact that science, technology and rationality have not reproduced the promised Garden of Eden of human progress. The general modernist intellectual outlook, at least, in the 1960s and ‘70s was less dogmatic and less intellectually secure. According to Fichter, religion, based upon spiritual experience, filled this gap.

What is peculiar about contemporary disillusionment, argues Fichter, is that it is not limited to the victims of social oppression, the down-and-outers of society, but the more affluent as well. People who have everything that is supposed to make them happy are still dissatisfied, alienated and insecure. Religion gives meaning to life. It also has links with the desire for community. What social scientists refer to as the increasing tendency of privatised religion is probably exaggerated and the ‘current trend to spiritual narcissism is a group grope’ (Fitcher 1978, 170). The participants exhibit loyalty to each other; and they help to overcome the feeling of alienation that is typical of modern life in a collectivist movement typified by neo-Pentecostalism.

Another way of accounting for the rise of neo-Pentecostalism is to see it as essentially a product of a time and place and merely one of a whole range of new religions. The so-called ‘New Religions Movements’ – arising since the 1960s under which rubric neo-Pentecostalism is often placed, have obviously involved a great deal of academic interest including the theme of who is attracted to what they have to offer. Popular conception is that converts are derived from deprived groups. However, these do not necessarily have to be the poorer sections of society. They may also be relatively deprived middle-class people. The latter are individuals who do not always lack material wealth, but feel spiritually deprived in a world which they regard as too materialistic, lonely and impersonal. While usually not appealing to the needs of the more economically deprived which are, more frequently, provided by what Wallis (1984) calls ‘world-rejecting’ New Religious Movements that are essentially sectarian in nature, the ‘world-accommodating’ variety offer a kind of spiritual substitute for those who otherwise lead fairly mundane respectable lives. In his discussion of world-accommodating movements, Wallis claims that members are generally those who have some stake in the world. However, such movements help members cope with their social roles, sometimes by offering the safe haven of a sub-culture, such as that of neo-Pentecostalism, to which they can retire. Often unconcerned with trying to alter the world or furthering the worldly opportunities of members, numerous movements seem orientated to dealing with the negative repercussion of modern society.

There was much about the Renewal movement which appealed to the middle-classes and, Christian theology apart, had parallels in the New Religious Movement. Wallis maintains that although open to all types of people, the attraction of world-accommodating movements was often to those who seek a measure of compensation for the alienation and bureaucratic experience of employment by a religious expression which enhance their lives by offering a spiritual path to guilt-free, spontaneous self-advancement largely though human potential therapies.

In neo-Pentecostalism this includes healing with its practical attractions -prayers of physical healing, the ‘laying on of hands’, deliverance and new forms such as

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

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‘inner’ or ’emotional’ healing – many of which are secular therapies given a spiritual gloss. Barker (1992, 25-31) identifies such trends among numerous of these  New Religious Movements. She speaks of the attractions of the new religions as multidimensional. While they could release individuals from the negative experiences of established religion and overcome a host of human needs including restoring relationships, they simultaneously offered much in terms of human fulfilment. What they have in common is the promise of community, creativity, self-development, religious experience, and the endeavour to build a kingdom of heaven on earth.



The Post-Industrial Society

In order to establish a counterpoint between the deprivations (usually socially and economic) that was catered for by classical Pentecostalism, and those, by contrast dealt with by neo-Pentecostalism as suggested above, it is useful to develop a broad analytical framework by which to understand the contribution of writers on the latter-day movement. The work of Ingelhart (1977, 1990) provides a good starting point. Ingelhart argued that the values of Western publics have continually shifted from an overwhelming emphasis on material well-being and physical security towards a greater stress on the quality of life. According to Ingelhart, among the many social forces responsible for this cultural change are economic development and the expansion of higher levels of education. Building on the writings of Daniel Bell (1973), Ingelhart identifies the post-industrial society where there is a continuing displacement of industrial employment into the tertiary sector, especially in what is called the knowledge industry. At the same time there is a growing divergence in the cultural outlook between those occupational groups orientated towards scientific and professional goals, and those embracing the more traditional values of profit and economic growth.

For Ingelhart, an unprecedentedly large portion of Western populations today have been raised under conditions of exceptional economic security. Economic and physical security continue to be valued positively, but their relative priority is lower than the past. Arising from the late 1940s in advanced Western societies, and from the 1970s in particular, there has been a transformation from a materialist to post-materialist society; from giving priority to physical sustenance and safety towards the stronger emphasis on belonging, self expression and quality of life. Using ideas close to those of Abraham Maslow (1970), Ingelhart argues that people act to fulfil a number of different needs which are pursued in hierarchical order according to their relative urgency for survival. Top priority is given to the satisfaction of physiological needs and safety. Once an individual has attained physical and economic security s/he may begin to pursue other, non-material goals; the need for love and relationships, belonging and self-esteem becoming more important -what Maslow calls ‘self-actualization needs’. In the context of this paper, to suggest that ‘needs’, material or non-material, are ‘deprivations’ for those who do not have them may be regarded as something of a slight of hand. However, applying notions of ‘needs’ is useful in understanding the observable priorities and cultural attributes of neo-Pentecostalism.

There is however, a cautionary note in accepting the writings of commentators that work within this kind of framework. The problem is that neo-Pentecostals are by no means all drawn from the comfortably-off middle-classes. McGuire (1983, 19) discovered in her study that Roman Catholic charismatics were middle-class, but

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

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less well-off than those middle-class people found in many alternative religions. Quebedeaux (1983, 219-20) has also suggested that a good number of the middle-class individuals caught up in the Charismatic Renewal movement had undergone a limited experience of relative economic deprivation. More speculatively, Wade Roof (1994, 168) has also raised the broader question as to whether the spectacular rise of evangelism and fundamentalism generally in the West is somehow linked to either the experience of downward mobility, or a profound fear of it. If so, neo-Pentecostalism, much like classical Pentecostalism, may still be performing the erstwhile compensatory role of providing an alternative and compensatory belief system and promise of future salvation.

A number of the above tendencies have been distinguished in some of the major strands of neo-Pentecostalism other than merely the Renewal movement in the established churches. The rest of this article will consider how these various strands have much in common in dealing with discernible deprivations linked to the middle-classes, at least according to some writers. On the other hand, these various strands each have unique attributes which may appeal to particular consistencies within the middle-class. This is illustrated here with reference to extant works on the Restorationist movement in Britain which began about the same time as the Renewal movement, the Jesus People which emerged a little later in the USA, and the Vineyard movement which has grown since the 1980s.




The so-called House Churches (otherwise known as the Restorationist churches) had their roots outside of the mainstream Renewal movement and were firmly planted in Protestant sectarianism and displayed clear Pentecostal roots. Although it was true that members of the House Church movement included disaffected Renewal supporters, both the leadership and theology were initially, at least, essentially sectarian. Nonetheless, similar patterns emerged, both of the social background of adherents and the universal range of deprivations associated with them, as with the membership of the denominational Renewal movement. The principal doctrine of the House Churches was incorporated in the vision of restoring New Testament Christianity and the New Testament Church. Its post-millenarian theology carried the notion that the movement would grow and grow and become influential in terms of evangelism and bringing the kingdom of God to the world before the Second Coming of Christ. The existing spiritually dead and worldly denominations would be replaced by the strict organization and hierarchical principals of a kingdom restored.1

Turner (1989, 83) estimated that the overall membership of some 300 Restorationist churches in Britain numbered around 40,000, many of which were small house groups. The roots of the apostolic House Church movement can be traced back to meetings arranged (for Brethren and Pentecostal leaders) by the independent ex-Brethren charismatics Arthur Wallis and David Lillie in the early 1960s. It was from these factions that the charismatic meeting arose, and Restorationism is to be seen as a radical form of that movement which refused to see the charismatic emphasis diluted in denominationalism and ecclesiastical tradition (Hocken 1986).

Restorationism constituted the fastest growing Christian movement in Britain (in the USA its counterpart was a far smaller element of the neo-Pentecostal

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constituency) in the 1980s, although it had almost ground to a halt within a decade. Moreover, it began to loose its sectarian characteristics and to be transformed into what adherents of the movement now call the ‘New Churches’. From the mid 1980s it drew closer to the mainline Renewal movement in the established denominations and was heavily influenced by the ministry of the late John Wimber, the healing evangelist from California (see below). Restorationists placed a great deal of emphasis on healing and deliverance (Walker 1998, 211), and continued to do so under Wimber’s influence.

According to Walker (1998, 201) the House Church movement today boasts a very high proportion of professional people. These include many small-businessmen, estate agents and civil servants. There are a great number of teachers at all levels of education. Nurses are well represented, while there is no shortage of doctors, solicitors and accountants. Among leadership positions in the congregations, are a fair few with degrees or higher education qualifications of some kind. However, the middle-class intelligentsia is conspicuously missing. There are technicians and engineers but, observes Walker astutely, few philosophers, social scientists or post graduate theologians (1998, 201-2). The manual classes are also note-worthy by their absence, as are Afro-Caribbean, Asians, or members of other ethnic minorities.

The transformation of Restorationism from sectarianism to world-accommodating denominationalism is more than just the inevitable outcome of sect to Church developments or the need to dilute teachings to win converts as the momentum of the movement slowed down. Rather, its middle-class clientele forged a movement that was attracted by attributes not that different from that of the Vineyard movement discussed below. Its sectarianism was never for the socially marginalized and economically disadvantaged but appealed to the same middle-class needs as was evident in the Renewal movement. It was, in the words of Walker, in line with ‘the hedonistic individualism of late modernity’ (Walker 1998, 23).



Neo-Pentecostalism and the Jesus Movement

In the early 1970s, Pentecostal and Charismatic popular magazines reported widely of a revival among the ‘hippies’ of California, particularly San Fransisco, and its subsequent rapid expansion across the USA. Most of such publications spoke of a ‘new move of God’ among these social ‘drop-outs’ and drug addicts. Neo-Pentecostals recognized their own style of religion in this movement although the origins and cultural trappings were very different. In terms of its general orientation the so-called ‘Jesus Movement’ marked an assault on the sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, and lure of Oriental religion. In doing so, the movement stripped the gospel message to bare essentials, the chief tenet being that Jesus was the ‘one way’ to God. Coffee houses, storefronts and church basements became the meeting places and centres of evangelizing outreaches. The hippie converts carried many customs developed in the counter-culture into their new life, unconventional dress and long hair being the most conspicuous.

The term ‘Jesus Movement’ was an umbrella one for a many-faceted and much-fragmented movement with several dozen major groupings. Factions included the Lighthouse Christian Fellowship and Calvary Chapel. However, the largest and best known was probably the Children of God (now The Family) that originated around the person of David Berg and his immediate relatives in Huntington Beach, Los

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Angeles, California in the fall of 1968. At first the Children of God amounted to a roving band of missionaries, but enjoyed considerable growth as a movement in 1970. It co-existed with more institutionalised youth movements associated, for example, with Calvary Chapel. The ‘Teens for Christ’ group as the Children of God (COG) was then known, soon developed strong evangelistic characteristics, particularly with young people associated with the drug culture, and evolved a unique and successful style of Jesus rock music. From 1972 onwards there was a considerable exporting of members of the COG to Europe and Latin America in the search for converts. By the mid-1970s, the movement could claim to have 4,500 adult members and a representation in over 70 countries.

Davis and Richardson (1976, 339) refer to the COG as a ‘sect’ since there were definite styles of behaviour and belief ‘boundaries’ and adoption of a theological position similar to a number of other Christian sects in history. Theologically speaking, the community remained strongly fundamentalist and members even affirmed the literal inspiration (and practically the infallibility) of the King James version of the Bible. There was a strong millenarian theme. Members led a fairly austere life-style under an authoritarian and cult-like charismatic leader, while new members were expected to hand over personal possessions to the collective.

The middle-class membership of the COG, however, did not fit the usual ideas of what a sect is and which typified classical Pentecostalism. Most of the young people who joined the CoG in Los Angeles were from upper middle-class families, between the ages of 18 and 22, and from every kind of religious background (Davis & Richardson 1976,323). Davis and Richardson (1976, 322-23) argue that there were particular attractive elements for the young – the strong demand for commitment and its communitarian style of life. It was these attributes which caused most offence to the parents of these young people who often formed together to forge anti-cultist groups. Here were obligations which seemed to contradict the strongly individualistic and ambition-orientated value system of middle-class American society and, when individuals succumbed to the demands, parents lost control over their children.

While Pentecostals saw the growth of the ‘Jesus People’, as they were otherwise known, as part of the global outpouring of the Spirit, sociologists identified them as merely one group among many emerging new religions of the time that sprang up in the USA, especially on the West Coast. These were very different in genre and, if not of syncretic form, then represented one form or another of Eastern mysticism. There was much however, that was different. The Jesus Movement marked a protest against organized religion, although it should be noted that there was also a strong element of protest against the counter-culture that gave birth to the movement in the first place as it turned against and condemned practices such as drug abuse and ‘free love’.

Ellwood (1973) discovered that participants in the Jesus Movement were mostly aged between 14-24 and largely of middle- and upper-class background. These findings raise the obvious question as to why often affluent and well-educated middle-class young people, with so many worldly opportunities before them, should have been particularly attracted to new religions of a world-rejecting nature. The question is particularly pertinent since such people would presumably be the most resilient to forms of religion that are supposed to be coercive and manipulating. A simple answer would be that these individuals are those more fully involved in

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counter-culture experimentation. Indeed, there is evidence of the link with middle-class youth who were more involved with the ‘hippie’, drop-out, drug counterculture of this time, while the longer period of higher education and an unparalleled growth in affluence and job security encouraged a spirit of experimentation (Ellwood 1973). 2

Since the Jesus Movement was perceived as just another new religious movement, accounting for its growth was initially rather limited to a range of explanations applied in a comprehensive style to all such religions. Academic works addressing the growth of these religions in North America appeared to focus less on deprivation and more in terms of ‘crisis’ although forms of social and psychological deprivation were themes explicitly or implicitly explored. Among these so-called ‘crises’ were said to be those of meaning, of moral values, community, identity, and that of alienation. There was, of course, the danger of lumping all these groups together and accounting for them in terms of an all-embracing explanation without teasing out what was particularly distinctive about neo-Pentecostalism and this proved a weakness in several commentaries.

Enroth et al state that ‘the hippie subculture represented a protest against the sterile technocratic society of the middle-class establishment’ (Enroth et al 1972, 226). The youth culture that underlay many of the religious movements was at the time obsessed with feeling and passion as opposed to intellect and reason. It sought to transform the deepest sense of the self and the environment. Technical sophistication and materialism had not brought happiness nor fulfilment. There was a spiritual emptiness. As the use of ‘hard’ drugs declined or levelled off, interest in mystical religion and Eastern religions increased. Others discovered Jesus. Charismatic phenomena satisfied a need in the lives of people experiencing inner conflict. They fulfilled genuinely spiritual needs but also very real and deeply felt inner conflicts. Tensions arose from various sources: relationships with parents and other authority figures in the establishment, from the demands of performance and achievement and, claims Enroth et al, ‘from the desperate search for identity and the means to cope with the problems of our society’ (Enroth et al 1972, 227).

Many of the new religions then, sought an alternative life-style to an increasingly materialistic and atomized society, as well as offering a critique of technical rationality, the scientifically dominated culture, and established social institutions and conventional forms of morality. Growing at the end of the ‘hippie’ decade of the 1960s they advanced a more effective criticism, while also marking an attempt to restore a supernatural worldview (Wuthnow 1976).

A second set of theories were related to notions of moral flux. Anthony and Robbins (1982) saw the emergence of new religions located in the moral ambiguity of contemporary culture that arises from pluralism, social differentiation, and the subsequent decline of civil religion. The new religions bring a form of social integration and overcome dysfunctional social aspects. A similar conjecture is also advanced by Bromley and Shupe (1985) for whom the new religions embodied fresh sources of meaning which reflect emergent needs and aspirations among significant sections of society. In that respect they may be seen as part of a normal cycle of religious movements and revival in the USA, in which periods of stability are followed by a time of religious revitalization.

Thirdly, there is the ‘decline of community’ thesis. Typically, Marx and Ellison (1975) focus on the emphasis that many of the new religions had in restoring

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community by offering bonding, fellowship and a sense of belonging lacking in wider society. This is achieved through an emotional and ecstatic religious experience in movements which combine all the attributes of a surrogate family with a set of universalistic values and beliefs that are often expressed as a spiritual force operating in the lives of all members.

This kind of explanation is not that far removed from Holt’s renowned work on the Holiness Movement (Holt 1940) (see my first article). The Holiness movement, which reached its heights in the USA in the 1930s, spread rapidly among rural people who had migrated to urban environments. Holt’s general hypothesis suggested that the movement was largely the natural product of the social disorganization and cultural conflict which attended the over-rapid urbanward migration and concomitant urbanization of an intensely rural population. While the Jesus Movement of the 1970s catered for the needs of a very different social grouping, the function was essentially the same, to bring a sense of community to young people alienated in an increasingly atomized society.

Finally, there was the ‘search for identity’ theory which insists that there was a link between the new religions and a search for self-identity precipitated by the contemporary world dominated by bureaucratic structures and fragmented social roles. The new religions are said to have addressed this need by promoting a holistic conception of self especially through therapeutic movements and mystical cults (Westley 1978). The more sect-like groups satisfied the search for self-identity by consolidating all of the individual’s fragmented social identities into a single, central, religiously-defined self which is strengthening by the strict control of the more fundamentalist type group typified by the Jesus Movement.

In later years new religions such as the Children of God, the Divine Light Mission, and Hare Krishna were interpreted as partly embodying a retention of certain counter-culture values but translated into a new idiom that rejected its anarchic, ill-disciplined and often destructive life-style. Typical was Tipton’s work, suitably entitled Getting Saved from the Sixties (1982), where he considers three very different groups in California including one derived from the Jesus Movement, a Zen meditation group, and a human potential therapeutic group. Largely middle-class in composition, Tipton sees members as ‘survivors’ from the 1960s and a counter-culture that was an inadequate basis for a new life-style which these new religions could provide.



The Vineyard Movement

Another successful strand of neo-Pentecostalism, again with North American origin, is the late John Wimber’s Vineyard movement. Vineyard constitutes a network of over 200 churches across North America but with a global influence that was exemplified with its part in what came to be known as the ‘Toronto Blessing’.3 Perrin and Mauss (1993) describe Vineyard as a movement that is highly attractive to the affluent middle-classes. In doing so, they operationalize the concepts of Dean Kelley (1972) developed to account for successful religious movements. Kelley recognized a difference between ‘social strength’ in religious organizations (reflected in member commitment, discipline, and evangelical zeal) and ‘strictness’ (identified with absolutism, conformity, and fanaticism). Kelley maintained that strength and strictness are inevitably concomitant, or at least highly correlated.

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Perrin and Mauss offer the highly successful Vineyard Christian Fellowship as a counter example, in which the operational measures of strength and strictness are empirically independent, and the distinction between them is ideologically salient. The study concludes with a discussion of the implications of this finding for more contemporary theories about the religious ‘market’, from the ‘exchange’ and ‘rational choice’ perspectives developed by Rodney Stark (1993) and his associates. In doing so, Perrin and Mauss also engage with the wider sociological debate regarding church-switching in the USA – showing that middle-class converts are attracting to Vineyard because of both its Pentecostal orientation and cultural attributes.

For Perrin and Mauss, those ‘customers’ seeking the rewards and compensators that come from collective sacrifice and participation in evangelism will ‘buy into’ a ‘strong’ evangelical religion that offers prospects both for community solidarity in a worthy endeavour and for the future growth of that enterprize through conversion. By contrast, those ‘customers’ seeking the psychic security of certainty, and the assurance of knowing and obeying God’s purpose in all aspects of life, will be more attracted to ‘strictness’ as a product of the religious market – an orientation that is more inward-looking and exclusive. According to Perrin and Mauss, the VCF appeared to attract those looking for ‘strength’ rather than ‘strictness’.

Mauss and Perrin found that the Vineyard organization was largely comprised of a middle-class clientele and proved that the way members came to join Vineyard churches was significant. Perrin’s survey of Vineyard members in the West Coast congregations found that only 13 percent indicated that Vineyard was their first church they attended after becoming a Christian. They had switched from other denominations. Of these only 15 percent came from liberal Protestant mainline denominations and only 6 percent from Catholic churches. However, when asked about the church they attended while growing up, 40 percent said they came from liberal mainline backgrounds and 30 percent from Catholic. To the extent to which these findings on the Vineyard can be generalized, it can be said there is more going on than merely the circulation among conservative churches of a few who have always been conservative in orientation. Clearly, most of the recruits of the Vineyard did not start out religiously conservative, but had been shopping for a while in the evangelical or conservative element.

The appeal of Vineyard goes beyond the attractions of commitment and evangelism. There was what its founder John Wimber referred to as ‘doing the stuff’ or ‘the stuff which Jesus did’; healing the sick and casting out demons. This amounted to an attempt to restore and ‘live out’ the acts and commands of Christ (Lawrence 1990,35). Alongside this rediscovery of evangelism and healing for the sake of the gospel, has been the application of various forms of healing administered to the saints themselves. Hence, there has grown up under Vineyard’s auspices a whole battery of healing techniques which would appear to appeal to the middle-classes. Much is geared to dealing with emotional and psychological problems. It is through such techniques that the essential narcissism of neo-Pentecostalism is observable. The frame of reference is the individual rather than the wider social environment. Many of these techniques are linked to notions of ‘potential’. Healing frees the believer in his/her spiritual potential and the development of the charismatic gifts.

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Although a good number of these strategies of healing are concerned with immediate problems such as relationship difficulties within marriage, most techniques are involved with looking back over the life-cycle. In Power Healing, Wimber includes a whole chapter on ‘Overcoming the Effects of Past Hurts’ and the need for inner healing concerned with relationship and sexual abuse which may be linked to physical ailments and disease. It is also concerned with ‘blockages’ such as phobias, traumas and psychological damaging experiences of the past.

Here, Vineyard communities are in line with contemporary cultural developments. For instance, Giddens (1991, 32-3) notices that in late modernity the individual’s perception of the life-cycle is not merely forward-looking. It may also be consciously desirable to reach back to one’s early experiences as an obvious part of a relexive mobilization of self-identity and where there is a dialectical relationship between events in the past and the anticipated future. Although Vineyard churches will offer prayer for physical healing, the emphasis of the classical Pentecostals on physical ailments (especially in the early decades when it appealed to those who could not afford to pay medical bills) is not generally given a high profile. Here again, Ingelhart’s hierarchy of material and non-material priorities comes into clear relief: emotional healing becomes the preserve of those who are largely materially wealthy and physically healthy.



The Faith Movement

A very different strand of neo-Pentecostalism from those considered above (and often disowned by the wider movement) is the so-called Faith movement. Its clientele may constitute a contrasting constituency than sections of the middle-class considered so far, but the theme of deprivation still looms large in the extant literature. The Faith movement is one that has grown since the 1970s alongside significant economic and cultural changes in the West. In the light of economic transformations in recent years some strands of neo-Pentecostalism have taken a new direction away from the rejection of the world found in the sectarian-orientated classical Pentecostal movement. The spread of a new global capitalist ethic over the last two or three decades has begun to reshape a number of its beliefs and practices in such a way as to transform its earlier expressions.

Here, Marxist accounts have come to the fore in identifying the implications of a distinct form of Pentecostalism, or certain expressions of it, which bring a thoroughgoing endorsement of dominant Western values. One implication is that Pentecostalism now appears to have become a signifier of a greater integration of Third World countries into a globalized economy. In short, rather than mark a retreat from the harsh realities of economic marginality in the developing countries, the Pentecostal mentality now indicates a capitulation to the hegemony of Western culture. Hence, it has come to furnish theological constructs firmly located within the boundaries of an ideology which extols the virtues of the free market.

This kind of theorising is evident in Brouwer et al’s work Exporting the American Gospel (1996). They argue that Western, at least nominally Christian, countries have come to dominate and control the world’s productive resources, manufacturing, banking, and commercial institutions. In the contemporary, postcolonial setting, Christianity – particularly its fundamentalist evangelical expressions

– becomes part of the resource of the economic and cultural dominance (Brouwer et al 1996, 1-3).

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The most virulent and successful strain of this evangelism has proved to be a new wave of Pentecostalism which has spread across the globe at an extraordinary rate. The new Pentecostal movement then, can be interpreted as a major carrier of the North American capitalist ideology that had followed the collapse of Communism, the demise of the social-democratic consensus in Western Europe and the emergence of a new global market (Coleman 1991; Roberts, 1992). Perhaps the principal carrier of this new ethos has been the so-called ‘health and wealth gospel’ of the Faith movement. It is a movement comprised of dozens of independent ministries which are evidently deeply embedded in American culture. Notions of wealth, health, and personal success have long been powerful in the histories of the USA, and it is therefore understandable that at times these values have become integral parts of religious expression.

The success of the Faith movement, at least in terms of its impact in the USA, has been deduced by its theological critics as merely reflecting the values of a secular society ‘obsessed with upward mobility and crass materialism’ (Hanegraaff 1994,192). This value-orientation marks a significant departure from classical Pentecostalism. For historical Pentecostalism, one of the great evils of the modern world was the increasingly materialist culture of mainstream society and its penetration of the more established churches (Poloma 1982, 33-4). The new brand of Pentecostalism, by contrast, has come to endorse a rampant materialism through a consumer ethic and, in doing so, has proved to have a strong international impact.

On one level there appearsto be many similarities between the Faith ministries and other strands of the contemporary Pentecostal movement. However, beneath the surface likeness it is apparent that the health and wealth gospel constitutes a distinctive wing of the wider Pentecostal scene, with its own style and ethos and is clearly overlain with a materialistic culture. While it is fundamentalist in tone, what has become a movement in its own right, also reflects the long-standing tendency in the USA to instrumentalize religion especially in the form of positive thinking. More recently the movement has come in line with contemporary forms of religiosity. Since the 1980s, numerous new religions have weaved the materialist culture and teaching of prosperity into their theodicies – doctrines and strategies for prosperity and alleged spiritual growth which claim ‘the best of both worlds’ (Heelas & Morris 1991; Keat & Abercrombie 1991). The Faith movement takes many of these ideas to their logical conclusions.

The principal doctrines espoused by numerous Faith ministries can be understood as the cultural and ideological underpinning of both components of capitalism; the ethic of consumerism and the entrepreneurial spirit. In terms of consumerism, there is a kind of consumer ‘instantism’ evident in the Faith teaching that prosperity and health is the automatic divine right of all bible-believing Christians. While it is evident that heaven remains the ideal (the movement carries a strong millenarian and eschatological element), prosperity can be demanded and enjoyed in the ‘here and now’.

On the ‘entrepreneurial’ side, the Faith gospel can feasibly be accounted for in terms of the expansion of Bourdieu’s ‘cultural capital’ (Bourdieu 1977). This is exemplified in some of the teachings of the leading exponents that neither Christ nor his disciples were poor but were hard-working artisans, who through faith in God, achieved the proper fruits of their labour and therefore provided the model life-style for all true believers. Thus, in some ways Faith teachings, rather like ascetic

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Protestantism, see the role of faith and the reward of material abundance resulting from living a life of faithful obedience to the Word of God. It is not surprising then, that the Faith teachings assume that sacrificial poverty is not a virtue since it denies all that Christ has won through his death to secure, that is, prosperity for born-again believers. It also follows that sympathy for the poor without faith is obviously rather limited.

How do all these themes relate to deprivation? There is one argument that the Faith teachings constitute an ideology of the socially upwardly mobile Above all, it appeals to those already of a Pentecostal persuasion who are wealthier and more socially mobile (Bannon 1987,36). However, although there is a lack of factual evidence, it has been suggested that the movement has proved attractive to a more opulent membership particularly drawn by the themes of healing and ‘positive confession’.

In his brief sociological analysis of the Faith movement, Hollinger (1989, 62-64) forwards an account of its growth. One possible explanation is connected to relative deprivation theory. This takes us beyond the conceptual framework that we have developed so far: that the neo-Pentecostal movement is predominantly middle-class and appeals exclusively to their needs and helps overcome a range of emotional-psychic deprivations.

Quoting Schwartz (1970, 40-1), Hollinger suggests that ‘people join sects because they seek to redress the lack of deference and esteem they feel is rightly theirs’. While there is no data available at this time on the socio-economic status of Faith teaching followers, the assumption of most observers is that in the West they come from the ranks of working-class people who are seeking to find a psychological, economic and cultural home in middle-America. If that is indeed the case we can understand why such persons would be attracted to a movement which holds, in the words of one of its principal exponents, Kenneth Hagin, that God

‘wants His children to eat the best, He wants them to wear

the best clothing, He wants them to drive the best cars, and

He wants them to have the best of everything.’

(Hagin 1980, 54-5).

Hollinger suggests it is significant that almost all of the movement’s preachers either grew up in poverty and hardship or at least at some point in their lives experienced destitution and feelings of powerlessness. Coming from such marginal contexts, the faith preachers have often despised their early poverty and deprivation. A gospel of economic and physical well-being was appealing to such persons and continues to provide hope for the thousands of followers who seek release from a life of socio-cultural disenfranchisement.

At this point we may return to Ingelhart’s (1977) thesis discussed above to appreciate the major theoretical contentions of commentators on the Faith movement. As we have seen, his model allows a measurement of materialist and non-materialist values within Western societies. The general shift to the postindustrial society and its accompanying values does not mean that there are not social enclaves comprised by those who are still inclined towards materialistic values. The most obvious variable is that of social class. Ingelhart (1977, 13-14) suggests that it is the working-classes and lower middle-classes who tend to remain materialistic and conservative in their views. The same kind of argument can be applied to ethnic immigrant groups whose needs are materialist rather than those of

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self-actualization. This will now be considered with reference to the emerging new black Pentecostal churches and the literature that has accounted for their rise.



The New Black Pentecostalism

What I would term the ‘New Black churches’ do not fit easily under the remit of neo-Pentecostalism. There roots in the holiness churches of Africa could make them more traditionally ‘classical Pentecostals’. However, their Westernizing dimensions and culture affirming nature radically depart from the earlier black Pentecostal churches and are sufficient different again from white middle-class Renewal movement.

The prosperity gospel of the Faith movement has partially impacted upon a new movement of black Pentecostal churches in the West. These churches are of a very different ilk from those which have grown up from the beginning of the Pentecostal movement in the USA and, in the case of Britain, with Afro-Caribbean and African communities among immigrant populations since 1945. The great bulk of them have been established by West African communities and in order to understand the emergence of these new churches we must also consider events in West Africa over previous years. The historical tapestry displayed shows how this new expression of black Pentecostalism dovetails with the theme of relative deprivation within the Western context.

For decades, Pentecostalism has been the principal Christian constituency in Africa. Pentecostalism began with the denominational mission churches which were established by American and British ministries. Later indigenous churches developed such as the Faith Tabernacle, the Apostolic Church (both of which were connected to the Aladura movement), as well as the Assemblies of God and the more traditional Pentecostal denominations. These so-called ‘holiness’ churches tended to be highly organized and strictly denominational and not significantly different from classical Pentecostalism elsewhere in the world. In particular, they were distinguished by their sectarian teachings which promoted a doctrine that stressed personal purity, a retreat from the world and material possessions and practices, and were strongly Adventist in orientation. The increased Western missionary activity in the 1970s to Africa helped spark a revival in the ‘holiness’ churches and, subsequently, the growth of a new generation of churches and attending theology.

It is clear that in parts of Africa, USA Faith ministries have achieved a spectacular advance. More recently, over the last two decades, churches based upon Faith teachings have frequently overtaken the Pentecostal renewal movement. In countries such as Kenya and Nigeria, American and European Faith ministries have launched evangelizing campaigns attracting millions of people and which, in turn, has allowed the establishment of numerous independent churches (Gifford 1998).

In Africa, the exposure to the Faith ministries from the West, primarily the USA, has encouraged the principal tenets of belief to follow the contemporary Western culture, rather than present an overt challenge to it. Nonetheless, they often merged with syncretic forms and typified the enculturation tendencies of Pentecostalism. Put succinctly, recent developing dogma appears to contain elements of traditional African religious and cultural traits alongside, and indeed integrated with, theological doctrines from North America. This would seem to vindicate Jules-Rosette’s (1994) view that many Third World countries, typified by many in Africa,

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are creating ideologies which bring a synthesis of indigenous and Western religious beliefs as part of the growth of recent new religious movements. At the same time, however, these movements and their accompanying theologies represent the interests, or at least reflect the life experiences, of distinct, and often expanding social groups.

Nigeria is perhaps the best example. The latest generation of independent homegrown churches, as with the old, have continued to attract hundreds of thousands of members who were derived from the poverty-stricken, largely urban population of the country. However, they had been initially created from housegroups led by the middle-classes; by students, academics, businessmen and other professionals. Westernization and modernization, albeit an uneven and erratic process in Nigeria, had thrown up a middle-class that established a radical expression of Pentecostalism which gave vent to its aspirations. Doctrines of prosperity were often imposed from above and were carried by Westernized elites. To some extent this marked the early student involvement in the growth of the independent churches and their influence by the increased activity of the American Faith movement in the 1970s and early 1980s. Thereafter, rather than advocating a retreat from the world, the pastors of the new Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, such as the Redeemed Christian Church of God, came gradually to adopt prosperity doctrines (Gifford 1998).

With the growth of the new materialism, the puritanism associated with the earlier Pentecostal churches is now played down, somewhat to the disapproval of the older churches. For the latter the adoption of strict personal ethics was the central evidence of a ‘new life in Christ’; a refrain from stealing, quarrelling, bribes, alcoholic consumption, smoking, and fornicating. While not endorsing these sins, the new churches are far less concerned with strict rules governing many areas of life, especially related to modes of dress, the wearing of jewellery and worldly entertainment such as cinema and the television. Moreover, there is an increasing tendency to insist that believers should enjoy the fruits of their labour in this world and should not be ashamed of wealth or its trappings.

At a very general level the new churches mark a response to the ever-changing difficulties, demands and constraints of everyday existence -not only those engendered by the political state but the broader economic and social restrictions of urban life in West Africa. While providing a broad means of coping with deteriorating circumstances, the expanding churches have a particular appeal to the middle-classes for whom economic and political crisis had been so devastating. These churches furnish new strategies of survival and the restructuring of personal and collective relationships against a backdrop of severe economic decline. Contemporary black Pentecostalism in the West must be understood within this broader West African environment.

Much of the literature, however, on the rise of such churches in Africa, has not been limited to structuralist explanations, in particular economic circumstances. Insights produced over the last decades have outlined the complexity of developments. Above all, that the growth of such churches display the relevance of African cosmologies. This complements notions that prosperity doctrines are imposed from above and from the West. This also explains why African Pentecostalism has become, in turn, so much part of the wave of intercontinental migration of Africans and their distinct churches to the West.

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The distinctly African doctrinal component is discernible in the churches of such nations as Nigeria in the embrace of a profound theological dualism that appears to reflect more primal forms of religion. There is a fairly articulated demonology which includes the belief that Christians can be affected by curses and that witches in Africa pray to break up Christian marriages. In addition, the tone of religious language is frequently that of triumph over evil. There is constant reference to spiritual battle, to victory over adversary. This emphasis on spiritual warfare is also reflected in worship. In the African context music is perceived to be a indication of spiritual power. This is often evident in its services in the loud volume and the chanting of the name of Jesus since this is believed to empower worship and bring the blessings of God.

The indigenous context of Nigerian tribal groupings is also important in counterbalancing the alleged impact of Western ‘health and wealth’ teachings. In Nigeria the impetus for prosperity originates as much from the cultural traditions and ethos of the major Nigerian tribal groups as it does from North America. In terms of cultural attributes the prosperity doctrine can be said to arise substantially from the core values of the Yoruba and Igbo peoples (traditionally the Christianized tribes) which largely constitute the membership of the RCCG. Traditionally, for the Yoruba and Igbo, savings and wealth gained in the expanding towns, translated into social patronage. However, the mission schools provided the education for the worldly success at a more individual level and tended to erode patronage and familial obligations.

For many decades the Igbo have put particular accent on status and prestige to be gained by individual achievement and facilitated by acquired wealth. Hence, there grew a great deal of emphasis upon opportunism and success on merit. The Igbo readily took to Christianity, especially in its Anglican and Roman Catholic forms although Pentecostal churches have attracted a large number in recent years. In much the same way the Yoruba are a highly heterogeneous ethnic group with a wide variety of dialects and forms of social organization. They are renowned for factionism and for their entrepreneurial and political drive.  Lagos is considered part of the Yoruba homeland, and has been largely shaped by Yoruba migrants. As has been noted, among Nigerians, and the Yoruba in particular, there is not a great deal of distinction made between spiritual and other forms of power. Given the Yoruba dominance in the major new churches, it is not surprising that spirituality merges with economic and social power. Hence, the concern with prosperity is intimately related with the power to influence and change personal and collective life-styles and conditions through the prism of evangelical and charismatic Christianity (Hunt 2001).



The New Black Churches in  a Western Context

As seen in my first article, there is a great deal of emphasis in the relevant literature on the function that black Pentecostal churches in the West have in helping forge a sub-community and mutual culture. This is particularly so in Britain for the first waves of Afro-Caribbean and West African immigrants who experienced a feeling of unfamiliarity and hostility. Hence, Pentecostalism is said to still be a source of identity in that it can articulate black interests and sentiments. The new churches have the same function in caring for the community needs of a new generation of

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West Africans who have migrated to the West in search of educational and professional qualifications.

The new form of black Pentecostalism in the West appeals to a more temporary migrant constituency that can be said to be subject to relative deprivation. In West Africa, notably Nigeria, the political and economic conditions over the last two decades have lowered the standards and prestige of the middle-classes. Although a higher percentage of poorer students now attend Nigerian universities, it has been suggested that the degeneration of the education system in the country has led to standards becoming intolerable for the middle-classes (Jumare 1997). Thus, as Hackett explains, the latter have increasingly sought university education in the West, and those who have gained a degree and/or professional credentials tend to return to Nigeria with the educational qualifications that are signifiers of status within their country (Hackett 1993, 389-90). As immigrants, albeit temporary, in Western countries they have turned to their own churches and a distinct set of teachings and practices which deal with issues of relative deprivation alongside offering a sense of community.

What is unique about many of these churches is that they have not sprung up in the West but have been deliberately planted by the mother church in West Africa. The Nigerian church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), is a prime example -planting hundreds of congregations in the USA and Europe. These are congregations significantly more integrated into white society and willing to accept Western values. Faith teachings are evident, but these are alongside those of self-help and human potential, of the need for a successful career among those who feel relatively deprived in a Western environment. The evolving theology is not one of acquiescence, retreatism and otherworldly piety. Nor is it one of liberation in the frequently accepted sense since it does not offer, at least all that coherently, a critique of prevailing social and political institutions. It is a theology of spiritual development and commitment to faith, alongside a creed of worldly motivation, of materialism and success, and flawless life-styles – taught in a strident, and aggressive form. Much of the evangelizing is accompanied by practical advice directed towards helping members deal with debt and control of finances, while considerable stress is also placed on the effort that individuals make to their own careers and advancement.

As far as the Nigerian version of the prosperity teachings is concerned, there are other significant considerations which have a bearing on their place within the theology of the RCCG. Firstly, the core doctrines are not related to instant prosperity through faith. Rather, they are more bound up with a work and success ethic. Paul Freston (1996) sees prosperity theology as essentially negating the Protestant work ethic. The Faith Gospel places no emphasis on investment, it separates wealth and salvation and thus lacks the psychological mechanism which supposedly impelled the puritan in his rational search for prosperity. In short, wealth is simply achieved through faith, rather than hard work and ambition. In contrast, in the RCCG finance and prosperity is to the fore, but they are far more likely to be advanced in terms of management of monies than any simple formula of ‘health and wealth’ through faith. Hence, seminars, teachings, and more practical help tend to be directed towards aiding members deal with debt and control of finances.

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Online Journal for the InterdisciplinaryStudy of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements



Conclusion: A Brief Critique of Deprivation Theories

This article, and the previous one which examined classical Pentecostalism, has attempted to establish a link between Pentecostalism and deprivation in relation to social class and ethnicity through a survey of the literature produced over several decades. The relationships appears to be at least partly substantiated although the exact connection is a complex one and by no means limited to economic deprivation. At one level, so the literature would suggest, Pentecostalism, through either sectarianism or innovating beliefs and practices, has dealt with broad spiritual deprivations and has done so for generations of adherents. This is not saying a great deal. Religion, almost by definition, caters for this very human need. What is unique about Pentecostalism, at least through a reading of the academic literature, is its ability to do so in numerous different contexts and this is permitted by its emphasis on the charismata and its theological flexibility.

There are also a range of deprivations identified by extant works as associated with social dislocation including aspects of social isolation and alienation which may have an economic origin but display different levels of significance for particular social groups. At the same time, at least some of the academic literature would seem to indicate how the very deprivations which are associated with Pentecostal sectarianism may ultimately lead not only to the overcoming of economic and status short-comings in terms of what the sect has to offer by way of compensations, but in practical terms may raise the adherent to a greater status and material wealth by inculcating certain mainstream values.

In this article we have seen that neo-Pentecostalism is associated, especially within sociological writings, with a broad but largely different set of deprivations. It is argued that contemporary Pentecostalism, or at least certain strands of it, adapts and enculturates itself to the needs of the middle-classes. Others, typified by the Faith movement and the emergent black churches display, to one degree or another, a prosperity theology although the latter, much like earlier black churches, have a cultural orientation directed to an ascetic self-help ethic rather than endorsing a crass materialism.

In my first paper I included a brief note regarding the weakness or potential weakness of deprivation theories. Similarly, in this contribution, implicit or explicits critiques have been weaved into an overview of the literature. We may now offer a more thoroughgoing set of criticisms.

The tendency for deprivation theories is to offer a simplistic blanket explanation for all religious activity, no matter of what religion or cultural backdrop. Here, the emphasis in the literature is on social and psychological factors related to a number of supposed felt inaequacies and ‘needs’. This becomes most obvious perhaps in the simple assertion by a number of commentators in the field that classical Pentecostalism derives from the lower socio-economic strata with clear material needs (the poor, the urban migrant, etc) and that the rise of neo-Pentecostalism is concentrated among the emerging middle-class sectors of Western societies which are interpreted as having post-material and emotional needs. These become ready templates to apply to a variety of sub-divisions within the broad classical-neo divide and frequently applied whether it ‘fitted’ or not.

Although theories of deprivation go back to the early days of Pentecostalism, they tended to proliferate in sociological works in the 1970s and ‘80s. In a sense they are a product of the time, that is, the then legitimacy of the structuralist

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

Online Journal for the InterdisciplinaryStudy of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements

paradigm that dominated the Sociology of Religion in particular. The shortcomings of these theories have now come all too evident. Moreover, a more global view underpins the unsophisticated nature of the theories. While my two articles have been concerned with the Pentecostal movement in Western societies, a wider sweep puts things into context. Pentecostalism in the Third World raises a number of questions. In the case of Latin America how do we explain how the same movements appeal to both rich and poor, those on the margins of society and members of the government elite, the educated middle-classes, and successful entrepreneurs? Similarly, in West Africa the educated middle-classes and businessmen merge in the same congregations as the urban poor and rural migrants. This would seem to suggest that a far broader picture is necessary.

Perhaps there is a more basic criticism. Certainly, not all commentators are happy with the assumption that there is a clear link between deprivation and religion. For one thing, there needs to be a way of testing these theories by measuring subjective emotions and attitudes. Do those who have a religious world view necessarily feel deprived? It is the awareness of a felt deprivation that is so important in comprehending the link between religion and speculated deprivations. The missing part of the equation is how the actors subjectively view the world. Here, the dangers of a one-dimensional sociological approach come into clear relief.  Moreover, structuralist explainations, despite their often crude assumptions, often miss the most obvious point: that there is simply a religious basis of analysis for accounting how people behave and that this realization allows for human action in terms of a distinctly religious meaning.

Within the Sociology of Religion general, and it is probably true to say of Pentecostalism specifically because of its nature, more emphasis has since been on issues such as expression, style, cosmology, emotion and above all meaning. In short, moving away from ‘deprivation’ to a more subjectifying orientation of understanding of the rise of religious movements. Theories of deprivation carry the acute danger of establishing stereotypes and are now largely outmoded. For the most part, they are no longer considered to have explanatory power in themselves. For instance, being ‘poor’ does not necessarily mean being alienated or anomic. All such meaning cannot be established by examining it from a distance, but requires to be understood from the perspective of the actors’ own interpretations and feelings. After all, what if a migrant lives an urban life but does not feel dislocated and alienated at all, but is still a members of a Pentecostal church. Similarly, by describing Pentecostalism in terms of its structure (i.e. ‘sectarian’) or by its political orientation as apolitical or conservative fails to allow for cultural variation and does not precipitate a discussion of an entire domain of culturally based understanding of what ‘politics’ may be in a given situation, or what ‘church’ may mean for local participants and the cultural dynamism being the religious impetus of the movement.

In recent times, particularly in anthropology, an impressive range of literature has emerged which specifically deals with the kind of subjectifying and culturally informed approaches that are often based on ethnographic accounts (for example, Coleman 1991, Csordas 1995, Hervieu-Leger 1993).  Culturally speaking there is a vast repertoire of images, symbols and ritual expressions that may account for ‘needs’, ‘want’ or what is ‘lacking’ in explaining popular appeal.

Particularly in the study of religion there has been a postmodern wave which developed such fundamental critiques as offered by Campbell on The Romantic Ethic

PentecoStudies, vol. 1, nr. 2, 2002

Online Journal for the InterdisciplinaryStudy of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements

and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (1987) and such applied notions to the development of such concepts as ‘power’, ‘identity’ and ‘imagination’. It particularly underspins the performative aspects of all these which for the study of Pentecostalism meant a great deal of attention.

Theories of postmodernity, also tend to play down the significance of both deprivation and social class as relevant variables in the spread of Pentecostalism. Today, Pentecostalism is identified by its variety. This diversity has lent itself to sub-divisions which tend to be distinguished by theology and cultural attributes which are the essential characteristics that distinguish their identity in the pluralist religious marketplace. Each church type has its key features, although many are a kind of ‘mix n’match’ of theology, culture and praxis. In this context, it is extremely difficult to locate matters of deprivation, and far more simple to speak of the significance of lifestyle and identity.

What are the future prospects? Harvey Cox talks about the future of Pentecostalism in terms of a developing postmodern society. In such a society, based upon a good standard of living for most people and the dominance of a consumer ethic, social divisions identified by social class and ethnicity are less relevant. Pentecostalism, with its theological flexibility and ability to enculturate will invariably adapt itself to these new conditions. There is the possibility that it will come to fully embrace the ‘experiential’ spirituality that is so attractive to the postmodern pilgrim – a faith that helps individuals through life in the here and now. If this proves to be the case, then Pentecostalism will evolve into a very different species than that which emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century. Over the decades it has been transformed from a faith of the down-trodden and marginalized in Western societies, to one that has become more concerned with this world and the self-actualization needs of individuals. Disappearing is the sectarianism and the dogmatism of earlier generations of Pentecostals. For the postmodern spiritual journeyman it is potentially something rather different again and is succinctly put by Cox who states

  ‘There is something quite pragmatic about their religious search.

      Truths are not accepted because someone says they are true, no matter

      what that leader’s religious authority may be, but because people find

      that they connect, they ‘click’ with their own quotidian existence.’

 (Cox 1994,306)


  • Jon Ray
    Reply September 12, 2016

    Jon Ray

    This is funny right here where it says “needs of specific social groups in Western societies (the USA and Britain are considered here)” – let’s just forget Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark
    New Zealand
    San Marino
    Vatican City

  • Jon Ray
    Reply September 12, 2016

    Jon Ray

    Henry Volk CrossTheology So true: by the 1980s the differences between classical and neo-Pentecostalism, at least in North America and Europe, had become blurred and it was not entirely clear what were the distinguishing features of Pentecostalism generally since such doctrines as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit were no longer insisted upon in many strands of the movement (Hunt et al 1997). Charles Page Terry Wiles William DeArteaga

  • Reply April 6, 2020

    Varnel Watson

    Deadly errors arise when people believe in a false, unbiblical view of the Kingdom and its establishment. Disc 3 will reveal why this view engenders, not only these problems, but also the false teachings within Christendom that have arisen specifically because of a skewed viewpoint of the biblical teaching of the coming Kingdom of God.

    What are the key false teachings we need to address?

    * Replacement Theology
    * Covenant Theology
    * New Calvinism
    * Christian Palestinianism
    * Dominion Theology (Note that President Bush used this false theology to encourage pastors to support his wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq)

    This DVD will also address some related subjects:

    * The truly Biblical teaching of the Doctrine of Election
    * The true Christian perspective of the modern state of Israel
    * The false kingdom within the Charismatic Movement
    * The New Apostolic Reformation

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