Amiee Semple McPherson

doing series of posts from the past while I was still at AGTS.  This is a post from Friday, Dec 30, 2005:

This is a bit long, but I think you’ll find it interesting…

Okay, so I am doing some reading over the break to get ahead because I have a lot of reading to do next semester (don’t worry, I’ve been enjoying my break and getting rest as well).

I have been reading on the life and ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson, who achieved “cultural phenomenon” status in just a few years time.  I mean, she is a part of North American history (she was Canadian by birth and American by marriage) in the early part of the 1900’s.  “Cultural Phenomenon” might be an understatement.  Literally thousands upon thousands of people flocked to her meetings.  She had an outdoor healing serivce in Denver in 1921 that had a minimum of 30,000 in attendance, I mean it is just mind-boggling really.  Much of it had to do with her being a woman and breaking social boundaries, so people came to see her and in the process got either saved or baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Interestingly, Debbie’s grandfather gave is life to Christ at one of her crusades and later became a missionary in Alaska.

An interesting issue being discussed in the book is the idea of how a religious subculture provided support and vindication (particularly in religious language) for the choices Amiee made in her life and ministry, particularly Pentecostalism and the Salvation Army.  She may have been a cultural pehnomenon but her personal life was problematic.  Her first husband, Robert Semple, died while they were in China, and her two other marriages ended in divorces.  When social conventions hemmed in, Amiee opted out, but the religious subculture she was a part of vindicated this.  So, when her marriage to Harold McPherson was falling apart, instead of leaving the ministry, she left the marriage.  In the Salvation Army, ministry (participation in “the war”) took precedence over family and personal choices.   Pentecostalism in the early days valued defying social conventions – being misunderstood, despised by the world – commending someone like Amiee, a single mother, a divorced woman, and an evangelist.  Maybe it was regrettable Amiee had to leave Harold but given the ominous fact that she was accountable to God for “souls” and this was vindicated by the huge numbers of people she attracted, she had “no choice” and leaving her marriage seemed justified.

I can’t help but wonder if, today, a hundred years later, we haven’t changed much?  Does our relgious subculture of evangelicalism or charismainia provide the religious language and support we need to make various choices in life?  Doesn’t the call of God take priority over obedience to parents or even honoring them, or leaving the kids with grandma and grandpa so the couple can tour Europe “preaching the gospel”?  Oh, that’s right, taking off on some outrageously expensive philandering jaunt around the world to “preach the gospel” or “to reach the nations” justifies leaving one’s family in disarray?  “God’s will” takes precedence right?

Just a few thoughts. What do you think about this?  Have you ever used religous language to justify personal choices in life?  I have, it resulted in my attending a YWAM DTS.  Looking back, I know the Lord lead me there, but I think how I went about it could have been handled differently.

Shalom,

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