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The House of the Lord Church where Black Political Power was born and nurtured Part One Hundred Twenty-Two

My Beloved Community Chapter Four; Part IV: JESUS, THE SURPRISING CONTEMPORARY(A) - Redeeming in Action

Now, the Pentecostal movement really got going in America around 1906, through the efforts of a black, one-eyed preacher named Charles Seymour. The place was an old Methodist Church, long since closed, in the city of Los Angeles, California. God demonstrated His presence miraculously, in healings of all kinds and in radically changed lives. But perhaps the greatest miracle was that color and class lines were broken down. Everybody was the same. There was a democratization of the gifts. People came from all over the world, and they carried the message back with them. Significantly, the Charismatic Movement that has since swept the world began in such humble surroundings.

Now, if this could have continued, if men and women would have permitted God to continue His work through them, we might have seen a change in American society. But in a few years, the Pentecostal Movement followed the racial and color patterns of the larger society. White men formed denominations and fellowships and groups with other white men and enjoyed the benefits of a racist institution. Instead of challenging, they conformed, and so the Spirit of Jesus was captured by culture.

Now, what is interesting, particularly for black Pentecostals and Evangelicals, is that they too, in another kind of way, became supporters of the status quo. They saw their roles as preaching against sin, and they defined sin in terms of short dresses, lipstick, movie shows, smoking, drinking, and pornography. Moreover, living holy came to mean not only refraining from the above, but also withdrawing from all protest and programs designed to confront the unjust institutions of America and waiting for Jesus to return from

"up there" in heaven.

Instead of following Christ into new and perhaps radical expressions, our Pentecostal brothers turned away from it all, got holy, and frowned on others who were trying to change social conditions. Their worship became a kind of escapism. You went to church not to be informed, educated, enlightened, or challenged; you went there to have a "good time" ("in the Lord," of course); to "get high on God," as one preacher put it.

The only difference between white Pentecostalism and black Pentecostalism was color. Both were conservative; both supported the system either consciously (as was the case with most whites), or silently (as was the case with most blacks), for being silent in the face of injustice is to help sustain that injustice. As a result, many turned away from Jesus. But it wasn't really Jesus that they were rejecting. They were rejecting a white Jesus who was woven into an American racist, exploitative system, not the Jesus of Scripture —

the surprising contemporary.

Jesus is relevant. He is here. He is real. We must seek Him as He is, and let Him express Himself, not according to our cultural patterns, but in whatever way He desires. It is then that we discover that He is in truth a startling contemporary. He meets us at the crossroads. He meets us in the marketplace, in the political arena, in the school room, in the barber shop, butcher shop, beauty shop. He meets us in the hospitals and in the institutions. He is the startling contemporary. He is inescapable. And when we meet Him, we will not be the same ever again.

When we seriously study the life of Jesus, as we shall have occasion to do in the weeks ahead, we shall be driven to the conclusion that Jesus was not a cheerful conformer to the systems of men, as his followers— through their own fears, ignorance, and self-interest—have often made Him out to be.

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