The Roots of Pentecostal Scandal: Romanticism Gone to Seed
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, 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.
It all started in the time when Pentecostalism's parent, the holiness movement, was born: the 19th century, the Victorian period. In that warm-hearted, dewy-eyed era, both marriage and the Christian life promised to satisfy all emotional desires and meet all emotional needs.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries—the time of the First and Second Great Awakenings, both marriage and revivalistic conversion were communal events. They were fostered, supported, and celebrated by friends, family, and church members. Courting in the colonial era involved the couple's whole social network. It took place under the watchful eye of all who knew the young people involved. Communal customs and ceremonies marked every stage of the relationship, through the wedding and beyond into the couple's early married life.
Similarly, in the mid-18th-century Great Awakening or the early 19th-century Second Great Awakening, friends and loved ones brought you to the evangelistic meeting. They "prayed you through" to joyous conversion. They received you into the church ...