charismatic movement(redirected from Charismatic Christianity)
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Charismatic Movement(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Charis is the English transliteration of the Greek word for "grace." Mata is the Greek word meaning "gifts." Charismata, then, means "grace gifts," and the charismatic movement is the term given to the Christian movement that has swept across denominational lines, reaching its peak—at least in America—during the 1970s. It was "uptown" Pentecostalism, with all the holiness fever first evidenced at the 1906 Azusa Street Mission (see Assemblies of God) but now present within mainstream churches of traditional, upper-middle-class membership. Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists: all denominations began to experience, within their individual churches, the same phenomenon. It would typically begin with a few people feeling the need for a deeper, more fulfilling spirituality within the context of the tradition in which they were raised. Meeting in living rooms—often without clergy, who were sometimes suspicious and antagonistic—people would pray together and suddenly find themselves speaking in tongues (glossolalia), gripped by a fever of emotional fulfillment and a sense of God's presence. It was as if the Holy Spirit had taken control of them. The feeling of being right with God, totally in the present and cleansed of all sin, was one hardly ever experienced in formal church services. It was pure, simple, heartfelt religion, experienced rather than intellectualized. It swept the nation. The PTL Club (which originally stood for "Praise the Lord" but was later amended by host Jim Bakker to "People That Love") started its two-hour daily television run. Satellites and theme parks followed. Pat Robertson began The 700 Club and even campaigned for the Republican nomination for president in 1988 (he lost). Jimmy Swaggart had a host of radio stations airing his show, and the Oral Roberts ministry aired once again.
Most of the theology behind the charismatic movement comes from the apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 12 he offers a list of the "gifts of the Spirit" given by God: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. In Romans 12 he adds the gifts of serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leading, and showing mercy. An additional gift of self-control is referred to in 1 Corinthians 7:7.
If it had not been for the gift of speaking in other tongues, and, to a lesser extent, the gift of healing, mainstream church hierarchy probably would have encouraged the movement. After all, who among the clergy is going to object if a parishioner suddenly feels the urge to exercise his gift of giving generously to the church?
But to have people suddenly stand up during the pastoral prayer, raise their hands toward heaven, and begin praying in an unintelligible language can be a bit disconcerting to a mainstream Sunday-morning crowd. Many clergy began to feel they had somehow missed the boat by failing to meet the spiritual needs of congregations who had grown used to a formal, spit-and-polish religion of the mind, not the emotional outburst of tongues-speaking Pentecostal power. Many clergy felt left out. They had prayed for so long that the church would be revived. Now it was happening, either in spite of them or without them. Up to then the emotional outbursts had been limited to mostly southern, small, poor, Pentecostal holiness churches. Now it seemed to be breaking out in more metropolitan areas, in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and even staid, conservative Boston.
Meetings were held and books were written. Discussions followed symposiums. Was it a movement of God? Or was it a work of, at best, hysterical women, who seemed to be at the forefront of the movement, or, at worst, the devil? Was America indeed in the throes of another Great Awakening (see Great Awakening)? Some preachers went to the extreme of throwing out any church members who dared rock the boat. Others capitalized and began to hold healing meetings.
Religious movements come and go. The American segment of the charismatic movement peaked and began to level off. Worldwide, however, especially in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, Christianity with a charismatic cast is growing as rapidly as Islam, and in some cases more rapidly. Trends suggest that by the year 2050 there will be three Christians for every two Muslims worldwide, most of whom will be described as charismatic Christians.
And it's still very much on the scene in American churches such as the Assemblies of God. Robert Duvall's 1997 movie The Apostle shows an example of Pentecostalism. But it was the popularity of the charismatic movement that helped green-light a picture Duvall had pushed for more than fifteen years. He wasn't making fun of the preaching style he portrayed; he really respected the talent of charismatic preachers. Prayer meetings are still held in people's homes, and clergy who came of age during the movement's high point still preach about the more spectacular "gifts of the spirit."
Only time will tell how the charismatic movement will shape our future. Jim Bakker went to jail for embezzlement; paroled after serving five years of a forty-fiveyear sentence, he launched a new television ministry. His former wife, Tammy Faye Bakker, has remarried and still makes the occasional television appearance. Jimmy Swaggart apologized for soliciting prostitutes but remains on the fringes. Pat Robertson lost the election but still has political clout. The Trinity Broadcasting Network is now the world's largest religious television network. The Sky Angel Christian satellite television network, brainchild of Robert Johnson, purports to "free Christian broadcasting from secular news." Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins's apocalyptic "Left Behind" books top the charts. Although many churches have returned to preaching social involvement and a more cerebral sort of Gospel message, one has the feeling it is only a matter of time before things get shaken up again.