Thursday, October 10, 2013

In-house narratives

Throughout the portion of his book where he documents alleged testimony of modern-day miracles, Keener seems to be comfortable confirming miracles happening among groups I would consider not only heretical, but also cultic. For instance, he reports miracles happening among Catholics like Father Ralph DiOrio, the classic television style Pentecostal evangelists like Amiee Simple McPherson and Oral “900 foot tall Jesus” Roberts, and the real crazy charismatics like John Wimber and the Bethel Church in Redding which is a shaman healing lodge, rather than a Christian church.
Let's take Aimee Semple McPherson. I don't have an informed opinion about her one way or the other. She was born in the 19C, and died almost 70 years ago. I haven't read any critical biographies about her. I don't know if there are any critical biographies. By "critical," I mean biographies written by church historians or academic scholars that reflect intensive original research.
Consider what's involved in researching someone's life. If you were writing a biography, what kind of research should you conduct. What are the primary sources? Off the top of my head, these sources come to mind. 
i) Interviews the individual gave
ii) Interviewing acquaintances of the individual. Family, friends, associates, critics 
iii) Reading diaries and private correspondence
iv) Combing through archived newspaper articles 
v) Consulting police reports and court documents 
Have MacArthurites who cite McPherson as a charlatan conducted any independent research? What secondary literature have they read (much less primary sources)? Or is their information based Googling her name? Skimming a Wikipedia article? 
As far as I'm concerned, McPherson could well be a con artist. But I often wonder if MacArthurville hasn't created an unquestioned, in-house narrative of Pentecostal history. I don't take their givens as a given. How much of this is based on hard evidence (e.g. careful documentation)? How much is recycled urban legends? 

1 comment:

  1. Having gone to LIFE Pacific College which was founded by McPherson, I can't say one way or another that research on her life would have brought up legitimate accounts of miracles, though at school we were told that there were cases of ambulances being brought to church with sick people and those people getting healed. There is proof however of her charitable work with the poor during the Great Depression.