Tag Archives: Aimee Semple McPherson

The Roots of Pentecostal Scandal—Romanticism Gone to Seed


A wave of criticism quickly followed the first publication–in 2004, on Christianity Today’s history website–of the two-parter that begins with the article below. Along with that wave, however, came another, larger wave of responses from those within the Pentecostal and charismatic movements who affirmed my analysis.

Now, six years later, I still stand by the argument I present here, which first dawned on me as I was at Duke in the late 1990s, studying the “emotional culture” of the 19th-century holiness movement. The holiness movement was the precursor of modern Pentecostalism, and its emotional DNA contained the troubling “anti-domestic” gene that I describe in this pair of articles. The first of the two articles, below, sets up the argument. The second, to be posted here soon, offers further evidence.

To be clear, I owe my faith to this movement, and I affirm the tremendous blessings it has brought. For more on that, see this article.

The Roots of Pentecostal Scandal—Romanticism Gone to Seed
The sexual stumblings of prominent ministers point to a hidden flaw in Pentecostal spirituality.
By Chris Armstrong

The sordid 1980s scandals of Pentecostal ministers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart will incline some to presume that Paul Crouch, president of Pentecostal-linked television network TBN, did engage in the alleged homosexual liaison.

But whether the allegations in this case are eventually substantiated or not [update, Feb. 2010: Crouch has weathered the scandal and is still atop TBN], the question arises again: why does the Pentecostal ministry seem particularly susceptible to sexual scandal?

It may turn out, in fact, that statistically, Pentecostal ministers fall in this way no more often than do other ministers. I’m sure we make this connection at least partly because of the long cultural shadows of Bakker and Swaggart.

But I don’t think the connection is accidental. Continue reading

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Tavern tunes in church music and “Why should the devil have all the good music?”


After I posted the Gregory piece, a friend, Michelle Myer, chimed in with the following on my Facebook page:

“You missed the bit where the dove landed on his shoulder and taught him the basics of Gregorian chant. 😉

“I’ve also heard him credited (through his adoption of Roman forms of chant for worship) as being the very first to say ‘Why should the Devil have all the good music?’ Larry Norman said it best, but maybe Gregory said it first?”

As Michelle knows, the bit about Gregory inventing Gregorian chant–dove or no dove–doesn’t have an ounce of evidence to support it (and much evidence goes against it). But since she has brought up the topic, here’s a reflection I posted back in the Christian History online newsletter days (2003), related to the origin both of the use of tavern tunes in church music–usually Luther is credited with doing this, but did he?–and the phrase “Why should the devil have all the good music?” The facts may surprise you. And some of the links may not work–this was posted over 5 years ago:

From Oratorios to Elvis
Pop culture has been coming to a church near you for hundreds of years.

Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has entered the (church) building.

Part II: Caveat Gyrator

Imagine a mutton-chop-whiskered, white-jump-suited Anglican priest, posed dramatically on one knee, arm raised skyward, belting out, before a cheering crowd of the pious and the curious, the Elvis hit “Where Could I Go But to the Lord.” (Yes, Elvis covered that song in 1968. His Majesty is not in the Gospel Hall of Fame for nothing—he garnered all three of his Grammies for gospel hits, not rock tunes.) Continue reading