Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pentecost and me

When I was thirteen my family took a road trip to visit some friends in western Idaho. As a kid I loved road trips. My dad would wake at 3am and load the van. My room was directly across from the door that opened to the carport. Half-awake, I would lie in bed and listen to my dad coming in and out of the open front door, the sound of the van quietly idling. My brother and I, in pajamas, would crawl into the warm cocoon of the van and fall back asleep as my talked quietly over the sound of the heater. By 7 or 8 in the morning we would be halfway to wherever we were headed and we would wake up and put on our real clothes, eat some donuts, and start complaining about how much longer we had until we got to our final destination.

One this particular trip, the destination was in the mountains outside of Moscow, Idaho. I loved visiting my parents’ friends, Ron and Barb. They lived so far back in the woods that during the winter it was a twenty-minute snowmobile ride from the main road to their cabin. The little cabin was nestled into the side of a big rocky hill; it had tin roof that would roar when it rained. At night you might hear owls, coyotes or a mountain lion scream. That summer they had a fair amount of bear meat stored up in the freezer; a neighbor had shot the bear raiding his beehives and the beast had crawled up on their front porch to die on a sunny spring afternoon.

This is taking a long time, but what I’m getting at is this: I was raised in a very conservative church. The type of place that believed that any musical instrument was the work of the devil, that women should never speak, lead, or pray in front of the congregation, and that women who wore pants were most likely lesbians. I was thirteen when I visited my first Pentecostal church service. We attended the Sunday service with our parent’s friends and I have to tell you, I think the outright rowdiness of the service, the noise, the dancing, the shouting, and the blazing-hot rock band offended our middleclass faith. People danced up and down the aisles to rock-n-roll versions of classic hymns, prayed on their knees, spoke in tongues, rolled around on the floor. My family quietly exited the church and stood out in the grassy parking lot among the pick-ups and muscle cars waiting for the end of the service.

When my wife and I lived in Portland we attended a church with a middle-school drill team for Jesus and the people behind us in the pews spoke in tongues in low murmurs and we bolted from that church as quick as we could. But in an orderly, casual fashion – my wife got to leave first, then 3 minutes later, my brother followed, I was supposed to wait 3 or 4 minutes, but some shouting in tongues send me for the door in hot pursuit of my brother.

My experiences in those Pentecostal churches have always led me to wonder about the Holy Spirit. But the book I started reading this week has got me wondering in a major way. I’m reading Dennis Covington’s Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia. Review to come.

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