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Sister Aimee | Article

The Pentecostal Faith

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Butler: In 1907 [McPherson] saw worship that she'd never seen before. She saw [Pentecostals] speaking in these strange gurgly tones that she wouldn't have understood. She saw people jumping up and looking as though they had a little bit of a nervous tic, or a dance. And this was very different from the Salvation Army services... when she began to hear the speaking in tongues and other things, she began to feel a draw. Something different was happening here.

Sutton: Aimee's on her way home from school one afternoon... it's at that moment that the heavens open, that she recognizes that God is there, that God has been calling to her her whole life. And so she dedicates her life to God and has this born again experience.... She decides she wants the Pentecostal experience, she wants the full blessing, she wants everything Robert Semple's promised, she wants what she sees with these other Pentecostal worshipers.

So she begins to do what she calls "tarrying", to pray, and pray, and pray, and to beg God, "Please give me this experience. Please let me speak in tongues. Please fill me with the Holy Ghost." And finally, after weeks of pleading, it happens. She feels her body slowly fall to the floor, and then she says she's praying. She's saying, "Praise God, praise God," louder and faster, and louder and faster, and then all of a sudden, words she doesn't know start coming out of her mouth. She began speaking in tongues... this is the language of the Holy Spirit... she's had the Pentecostal experience...

Butler: Aimee went because she thought she could get a laugh, like most people who went to early Pentecostal services. It was entertainment. They didn't have television. And what if you had people down the street who seemed to be barking like dogs and rolling around on the floor? Who wouldn't go? And it's free.

Well, she went there to get a laugh... But something else happened... She was mesmerized.

Sutton: Pentecostals had faith. And when I say faith, that's to the exclusion of preparation, planning, and finances. If you were going to be a Pentecostal missionary, you just went. God calls and you go, you don't hesitate. You don't need a missionary board, you don't need church backing, you don't need to learn the language. God's going to provide for you.

Aimee's favorite Bible verse, the thing that really defined her life, came out of the New Testament book of Hebrews. It said, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever..." She believed that Jesus worked today the same way he had worked in the first century. Jesus did miracles in the first century, so Jesus does miracles today. Jesus healed the sick, Jesus looked after the poor, so Jesus heals the sick and looks after the poor in the 20th century... She saw Christ as imminent. Christ was among the people.

As Aimee's popularity spreads, as more and more people are coming to her meetings, she realizes she needs to rethink what she's doing... She wants to move Pentecostalism out of the margins and into the mainstream of American society. The way to do that is to separate it from its earlier reputation as a bunch of crazy "holy rollers" speaking in tongues, rolling down the aisles, swinging off the chandeliers... She never wants to quench the spirit, she doesn't want to discourage people from seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but she wants it under control.

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