Two scholars argue Pentecostals are “ultimate Conservative Christians.” Do you agree?

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A
ll this week, we’ve been asking what you think about the values of Pentecostalism and how those values may shape Sarah Palin’s political life.
   This is a complicated and very important question this fall. Today, let’s look at how two well-known scholars describe the distinctiveness of Pentecostals.
   In The Truth about Conservative
Christians
, sociologists Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout say that
Pentecostals’ “distinguishing characteristic is their emphasis on
direct contact with the Holy Spirit and resulting glossolalia—speaking
in tongues often in a state of trance or quasi trance.”
   Their
comprehensive study of conservative Christians corroborates the key
findings from the Pew survey I discussed Tuesday—firm beliefs in the
inerrancy of the Bible, divine healing, and so on. They also confirm
a point I made yesterday that Pentecostal believers and Pentecostal churches are not monolithic. There are varieties within this movement.

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   But
Greeley and Hout take one more step, calling Pentecostals the “ultimate
Conservative Christians.”
   Why?
   It’s
not because Pentecostals have beliefs that are different from
conservative Christians. Rather, it’s because (1) a much higher percentage
of Pentecostals share certain beliefs compared to other conservative
groups and (2) they hold these beliefs with greater intensity.
This is a difference in degree, not a difference in kind.
   Relative
to other conservative Christians, more Pentecostals believe in the literal
inerrancy of the Bible, predestination, Heaven, Hell, and miracles. They are more likely to have been born again, and in a particularly
intense way. They are more likely to attempt to convince others to accept
Jesus. More report a close relationship to God, find strength
and support in God, and believe that God shapes the course of our lives.
More Pentecostals than other conservative Christians believe that premarital
sex and homosexuality are always wrong, and these views have strengthened
over time.
   Pentecostals
are the “super-Conservative Christians” (a synonym Greeley and Hout
use for “ultimate”)—which can be said to be another distinguishing
characteristic of this religious movement.

   The
question of the political season, of course, is how the religious views
of a candidate—and not just Palin—shape the course of the person’s
policy decisions. Ultimately, these are all values questions:
Which values does a person have and how does she or he apply them in
the rough-and-tumble of the political world?
   These are very important issues right now. Millions of Americans are discussing them. These also are questions that scholars are trying to sort out so that we can more accurately track the impact of these issues over time.
   So, please, take a moment to add your thoughts today. Do you agree with these conclusions I’ve outlined? How do you think they may shape Palin’s candidacy and her future political life?

   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 a couple of 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.


CARE TO READ MORE?
   The images today are from the Wasilla, Alaska, Assembly of God’s Internet galleries showcasing the church’s congregational life to online visitors. Both photos are from a
“Jesus March” the church held through the streets of Wasilla. Click on
the church’s logo below if you want to visit it’s Web site.
)

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