King's Evangelical Divinity School

9 September 2014

The Politics and Economics of Pentecostalism

Are Pentecostals inherently political and materialist? The established wisdom until fairly recently was that they were neither. With notable exceptions such as stances on moral issues (for example, sanctity of life, sexuality), the occasional televangelist expressing politically conservative views, and intriguingly a long tradition of pacifism, Pentecostals were largely apolitical and otherworldly. They often felt uncomfortable relating to wider society or engaging in worldly issues such as politics, while their pietism, eschatology, and evangelism contributed to Pentecostalism’s political quiescence.
However, since the late 1970s an explosion of Pentecostalism, particularly in Latin America but also in Africa and Asia, has attracted considerable scholarly interest in its social impact and potential as a determinant of political behavior. The ensuing (and substantial) body of interdisciplinary research yields a social, political, and economic picture of global Pentecostalism that strongly challenges the apolitical narrative. Thus, Harvard Divinity School’s Harvey Cox describes how, some years ago while listening to the Pentecostal Benedita da Silva (Brazil’s first black woman elected to congress) speaking in a church, a sinking feeling came over him: “I realized that nearly all my preconceptions about pentecostalism and politics, race and women, would now have to be junked.”
These are the opening paragraphs of my chapter entitled "The Politics and Economics of Pentecostalism" just published in the Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, edited by Cecil M. Robeck and Amos Yong and published by Cambridge University Press. Further details of my chapter and the book are available here. This book is available through all major booksellers.

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