Pentecostals Have a Home in Both Parties
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

With all the press that Sarah Palin is getting over statements she made at her former Pentecostal church in Wasilla, I failed to notice that the Democratic Party has its own influential leader in Rev. Leah Daughtry (watch a video report with her preaching), a Pentecostal minister from Brooklyn who was the CEO of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Of course, Krista knew.

We’re continually trying to find new relevancy for programs we felt didn’t get the attention or garner the audience that perhaps they deserved. We did so more than a month ago when Rick Warren triumphantly convinced Obama and McCain to appear jointly on stage in his church — before the nominating conventions. News pegs really do matter, and we wanted to contribute to people’s understanding of this mega-church pastor and his impact on the Evangelical community and politics as well. So, we made a decision to preempt our scheduled programming to rebroadcast Krista’s interview with Rick and Kay Warren, which was conducted in their personal offices at Saddleback Church. The results were tremendous and we were proud to serve you in our distinct way.

The same can be said of this week’s program. We wanted to help you understand the importance of this burgeoning religious tradition of Pentecostalism. Not only did we want to point out that influential Pentecostals are involved in the highest levels of Democratic and Republican Party leadership, we wanted to give you a better understanding of Pentecostalism at its lived center.

Two years ago, we covered the centennial celebration of Pentecostalism, returning to its foundational roots on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Krista spoke to the foremost authority on Pentecostalism’s history and significance, Mel Robeck; she spoke at length with a Latina scholar who brings a fresh set of eyes to the tradition, Arlene Sanchez-Walsh. Both practice the faith they study: Robeck descended from parents who were both ministers with the Assemblies of God — Sarah Palin’s former denomination — while Sanchez-Walsh’s story of leaving the Catholic Church and finding a more charismatic tradition in a small church echoes the experience of many Latinos in the U.S. and in their native countries.

Experiencing Pentecostal worship and approaches to life was somewhat of a shocker for a boy raised in a pretty stiff and reserved Roman Catholic Church in central North Dakota. But, after talking to so many Pentecostals from around the world who told such touching, personal testimonies of how the Spirit changed them and “saved” them, I could no longer be so skeptical, so cynical. Pure authenticity. Now when I pass by that Assemblies of God church on Summit Avenue, I don’t just see a standing-seam metal roof but think of the charismatic worship going on inside and the ecstatic forms of expression and lives being lived more fully, even if I’ll never belong. Maybe this program will help your understanding too.

(photo: Alessandra Petlin for The New York Times)

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