A fascinating new report on Pentecostalism. Do you agree? Does Palin fit in?

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T
his week, we’re talking about challenging issues in the presidential campaigns and we started by asking about the role of Sarah Palin’s Pentecostalism.
   This subject is so timely that there also is a fascinating new report from the Pew Forum on Pentecostal believers and I’d like to know what you think about it.
   
I am finding that experts in Pentecostalism regard Palin as “the real deal”—her words indicate
clear Pentecostal beliefs. Whether beliefs translate into policy
decisions is an open question, but let’s look at the values and culture of Pentecostalism.
   On Friday, the Pew Forum published this new portrait of Pentecostals, based on its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey
conducted in 2007. Here’s some of what the Pew researchers found:
   PART OF A LARGER RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE. Many Pentecostals are part of long-established Protestant groups. They make up 13 percent of evangelical churches and 14 percent of historically Black churches.
   ABSOLUTE
CERTAINTY THAT GOD EXISTS. Ninety percent or more of Pentecostals
are absolutely certain that God exists, which is about the same for other evangelicals
or members of Black churches.
   LITERAL
INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE. On this issue, Pentecostals are more likely than
other evangelicals or members of Black churches to believe in a literal
interpretation of the Bible.
   DIVINE
HEALING. Three of four Pentecostals say they have witnessed a
divine or miraculous healing, compared to about 50% of members of other
evangelical and Black churches.
   SPEAKING
IN TONGUES. More than one-third of Pentecostals say they speak
or pray in tongues, much higher than members of other evangelical or
Black churches.

   Politically, Pentecostals
are socially conservative—they are against abortion and homosexuality. However, they favor bigger government. They support the government
playing a bigger role in the economy and helping the needy. Eight of 10 or more Pentecostals favor an active role of religion in politics and public life, and believe that it is important for political leaders to have strong religious beliefs.
   BUT, Pentecostal voters are not all the same. Perhaps
the biggest difference among Pentecostals is voting—evangelical Pentecostals
tend to be Republicans, while Black Pentecostals tend to be Democrats.
   PLEASE, tell us whether these data match your experience. Some of our readers are Pentecostal. If that’s the case, does this description fit your congregation? If you’re not Pentecostal yourself, tell us what you think about this issue and the role it may play in American politics this fall.

   Click on the “Comment” link above, or if you prefer to drop us a quick Email,
you can do that as well. We’re also still inviting readers to sign up
for two in-depth surveys Dr. Baker plans to conduct a little
later this fall. To take part in that effort, add your Email address to
the box in the upper left area of our Web site.

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