Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fourth Awakening

Although the notion of a Fourth Awakening is debated, there was such a phenomenon between 1960 and 1980, mostly in the United States, although later exported. Made up of primarily Protestant fervor, it took a personal approach to God and signaled weakening of traditional rites, traditions and denominations.

The process involved several elements. One was the weakening influence of mainline Protestant churches. These are, classically, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed and Methodist denominations, along with smaller or more loosely confederated congregations identifying as American Baptist, United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ.

Overall membership in Protestant denominations declined in their traditional regions—for example, from 63 percent of the U.S. population in 1970 to 48 percent in 2012. In 1910, 79 percent of Anglicans lived in the United Kingdom; by 2010, 59 percent were in Africa. Protestants made up about 2.5 percent, 2 percent and 0.5 percent of Latin Americans, Africans and Asians at the beginning of the 20th century and by the end were 17 percent, 27 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively.

Some of this had to do with secularism in the advanced economies in which Protestantism was born. Another factor was the shift to more conservative denominations (such as the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans), which grew rapidly in numbers. Baptists were by the 1980s the single largest Protestant U.S. denomination. These churches battled secularism on issues such as abortion, evolution and gay rights.

At the same time informal nondenominational movements were growing, particularly the Pentecostal-inspired Charismatic movement, which spilled over into Catholicism, and the Jesus movement.

The Charismatic movement (so called from the Greek word for gifts of grace) involved mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics who experienced supernatural phenomena similar to those in the Acts of the Apostles, including speaking in and interpreting tongues, sudden faith insight, gifts of healing, prophecy and discerning spirits. Charismatics drew on Pentecostalism, but distinctively their involvement with the movement began with a dramatic encounter with God called “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” sometimes including the laying on of hands on the new member.

The movement spilled over into Catholicism when two Duquesne University professors, Ralph Keifer and Patrick Bourgeois, attended a congress of the Cursillo movement—a group founded in Spain, based on a three-day lay leadership training weekend—in August 1966 and came across a book by an evangelical minister involved in the Charismatic movement and inner city gang ministry, The Cross and the Switchblade. The book stressed the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s charisms. In January 1967, they attended a prayer meeting where they received baptism in the Holy Spirit. Keifer sent news of the experience to friends at the University of Notre Dame, where a similar event later occurred, and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, as it came to be called, was launched. The hierarchy was initially cautious, but by 1975 Pope Paul VI recognized the movement.

A similarly informal, personal-conversion-based Evangelical Christian movement began in those years on the U.S. West Coast parallel with and linked to the hippie movement. Now an Eastern Orthodox priest, Duane Pederson, a former self-proclaimed “Jesus freak” and founding editor of the Hollywood Free Paper, an early alternative newspaper, is widely credited with coining the terms “Jesus people” and “Jesus movement.” Pederson explained that when a reporter asked him, as one of the movement’s leaders, about the phenomenon, he said, “We’re people who love Jesus.” The names took off.

The movement flourished among counterculture youth with long hair in the streets, in coffee houses and communes. It even developed its own music—the musical Godspell is an early mainstreamed example—that later gave rise to the Christian rock genre. It presented a countercultural path to heaven through conversion.

An offshoot of the Jesus Movement were the “Jews for Jesus,” a 1971 development led by Joe and Debbie Finkelstein, with Manny Brotman, that grew within Hebrew Christian Alliance—an outgrowth of the hugely controversial Protestant proselytism of Jews in 19th century Britain and early 20th century United States.

The new movement took the counterculture, drawing as its inspiration the prophecy in Ezekiel 37:8-14. The HCA in 1975 changed its name to Messianic Jewish Alliance and a new attitude that emphasized remaining Jewish faith in Yeshua and the establishment of Messianic synagogues—today there are about 150 in the United States and 100 in Israel—rather than churches.

Messianic Jews, estimated at about 500,000, are evangelical in theology and use both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The Israeli Supreme Court has disallowed them as Jews for the purposes of being admitted to Israel under the Law of Return and most Jewish bodies deem them Christian, rather than Jews, despite their assertion to being both.

Indeed, the Messianic Jews meshed well with both Charismatics (sometimes called “Charismaniacs”) and the Jesus People, who aimed to call their faith back to its New Testament origins, when most followers of Jesus were, indeed, Jewish. All three aspired to greater and more genuine commitment, rejection of materialism and compromise with the world and a believing community infused with the gifts of the Spirit.

Unlike Messianic Jews, the Charismatic and Jesus People movements waned in the 1980s as the counterculture collapsed and evangelicalism entered into an unholy alliance with the neoconservative political movement, which effectively exploited it for electoral gain.

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