Sunday, August 14, 2005

Runny Mascara

As part of my continuing program of studying the revivals of 20th Century, I am currently plowing through Vinson Synan's lengthy history textbook entitled "The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal". Synan does lay out much of the gory details that histories are supposed to provide — names, places, dates, and who did what, where and when. But unlike Epstein or Blumhofer, Synan does not go about trying to nail things onto a secularistic framework.

It's been enough to keep me fairly occupied, which is one reason why my blogging has slacked off. His book covers a vast amount of wide-reaching territory, and it has several contributors. I guess Synan was the presiding editor.

Even though it is jammed packed with the stuff of history (names, dates, etc.), if anything Synan's book is almost too abbreviated, and it easily could have been expanded into several volumes. It would be a very good introductory textbook. With extensive notes in the back, the book has 15 chapters. I've now reached chapter 13, written by David E. Harrel Jr., entitled "Healers and Televangelists After World War II". Unfortunately, nowadays this is what most people immediately think of if someone mentions the word "Pentecostal" — cheesy televangelists with puffy hairdoos, accompanied by lugubrious ladies with runny mascara, perpetually begging for money. In fact, it's just a small portion of the overall picture, although it's the tiny part that has grabbed all the attention.