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This article was originally published in Missionalia, the journal of the Southern African Missiological Society. If you would like to see some other articles from Missionalia, have a look at the list of Missionalia articles on the Web

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G. Francois Wessels1



This paper investigates the view that charismatic Christians are apathetic to social justice. It argues that the absence of charismatics from the public political arena is a result of their dualistic, apocalyptic and pessimistic worldview, but that this absence does not constitute total socio-political apathy. Charismatic worship has an egalitarian, democratising and empowering effect and therefore has socio-political consequences. Charismatic Christians cannot simply be described as 'other-worldly,' since 'this-worldly' issues are addressed, but not in the arena of public debate. It is done on the level of capacity building for individuals (often from lower socio-economic strata) and community building in the congregation, which has definite socio-political consequences. The argument is supported by empirical research among independent churches in Soweto in the apartheid era.


Young people come courting charismatics, because they like the scene. Western mainline ministers and music directors come cautiously, hoping to rejuvenate their worship services. Politicians, sensing a growing possible constituency, approach tentatively, dressed up for the occasion. Even political theologians may risk a dance – albeit at an arm's length.

The hesitancy of the latter is easily explained, if not always understood. Charismatic Christians are perceived to be either politically indifferent or conser vative (and therefore silent supporters of a given status quo). This is certainly the perception in South Africa.4 In South Africa, the member churches of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), a body which was very active in the struggle against apartheid and other forms of institutionalised racism, consisted (until recently) by and large of the so-called mainline (predominantly non-charismatic) churches. This perception is not without grounds, because charismatic churches have, generally speaking, in the recent past been absent from the public arena.

In the 1960s a dramatic shift took place in what was then known as the pente costal movement. Members of mainline congregations began to exercise the so- called charismatic gifts, which until then were confined to the pentecostal denomi nations. This "neo-pentecostal" development started in the USA, but soon spread to Europe and other countries, including South Africa. At the same time, the movement moved into the middle and upper classes. Three decades after this coming of age of the charismatic movement, while mainline churches watch the rapid growth of charismatic congregations with envy, liberal Protestant distrust of charismatic Christianity remains strong. One of the major reasons, if not only one, for this distrust is the perception that charismatic Christianity represents a com pletely "other-worldly" religion – a religion which is obsessed by its future desti nation, so heavenly minded that it is of no earthly use. Many take it for granted that Nathan Gerrard's description of Pentecostal Holiness churches in the USA apply to charismatics across the board: "...despite their strong feelings about the evils of the world, they are completely indifferent to the social gospel and take no interest in politics..." (Gerrard 1986:213).

This perception has not changed in the last two decades. In many countries

the charismatics have now become respectable, even if only because of their spectacular growth. Yet the suspicion remains: charismatic Christians are not faithful to this earth, at a time when life on earth – and the planet itself – is in danger. In his recently published The Spirit of Life, Jürgen Moltmann (1992:186) expresses appreciation for the renewal brought about by the charismatic move ment, but also voices his concern by asking some critical questions:

What about the neglect (among charismatics) of the charismata? Where are the charismata of the 'charismatics' in the everyday world, in the peace movement, in the movements for liberation, in the ecology movement? If charismata are not given to us so that we can flee from this world into a world of religious dreams, but if they are intended to witness to the liberating lordship of Christ in this world's conflicts, then the charismatic movement must not become a non-political religion, let alone a de-politicized one.

These words of Moltmann express the sentiments of many. What is the reason for the absence of charismatic Christians from the public domain? Why are charismatic Christians politically indifferent or conservative? Is it simply because they have succumbed completely to religious consumerism – using religion as a commodity to fulfil their private religious needs, while conducting the rest of their lives as they please, without thinking about the claims of the Christian message?

This is a concern shared by some charismatics themselves, as they critically take stock at the end of the century. In his Charismatics and the Next Millennium, Nigel Scotland (1995:264) expresses the hope that charismatics will overcome their lack of social activism. And Nigel Wright expresses the hope that the charismatic renewal will not simply be absorbed in an individualistic religion of the soul, but will also focus on the whole of God's creation:

In so far as charismatic renewal fails to gain this perspective it will prove to be a capitulation to our culture's desire to privatize religious experience and so domesticate it. This tendency is already clear in some parts of the world where charismatic experience and reactionary politics have become closely allied (Wright 1993:31).

In this paper I firstly suggest an explanation for the undeniable fact that charis matics are, by and large, absent from the public domain. Charismatic Christians do this, I suggest, not because they regard religion as a strictly private matter, but as a consequence of their worldview. However, I then go further and reopen the question of which we often take the answer for granted: Are charismatic Christians really politically as indifferent as we assume? Does the charismatic absence from the public domain constitute socio-political indifference? I answer this question by arguing that the lack of social activism in charismatic circles does not necessarily mean that charismatics are apolitical, in the sense that they have abandoned this physical world and its problems, thus fleeing into a world of "religious dreams" (Moltmann 1992:186).


First then, my explanation for the charismatic absence from the public square: it is a consequence of their worldview. I use the term worldview not simply for a system of cognitive beliefs, but as it is used in the sociology of knowledge. Sociologists argue that human beings and society stand in a dialectical relationship to one another. Society is a product of humankind, but human beings are likewise products of society. Peter Berger (1969:13) calls the processes by which human beings structure society externalisation and objectivation. The process by which human beings reappropriate the reality of society, changing the objective world into structures of the subjective consciousness, he calls internal isation. Knowledge is acquired through internalisation. People are not consciously aware of constructing a world. The world they take for granted as the real world is their constructed world. This is what I here refer to as worldview. Such a socially constructed world is objective (in the sense that it has a common, taken- for-granted facticity) as well as subjective, in the sense of a facticity imposing itself on individual consciousness (Berger 1969:26).

Not only do people acquire knowledge as conditioned by their worldview. They also pass that knowledge on to their children and others in their social environment through the language they use and the institutions they legitimise.

In charismatic congregations members share a specific worldview, which to a great extent shapes their attitude to and expectations of political activity. What are the most salient features of this worldview?

As we have seen, Gerrard (1975:213) described the charismatic worldview with the term "other-worldliness." In this paper I question that typology. I will argue, as West (1975:191) and more recently Anderson (1992:20-35,116-120) have demonstrated empirically, that charismatics are not simply other-worldly and pre-occupied with the life hereafter. Instead of "other-worldly," I suggest that the charismatic worldview is best described with the terms dualistic, apocalyptic and pessimistic.


I call the charismatic worldview dualistic because of its basic belief in a rather rigid dichotomy between the present reality in which we live and the spiritual reality. The most obvious reality is the one we perceive around us, but that is only the apparent reality, which is controlled by forces from an unseen, spiritual reality. In this constructed reality, the ultimate force for good is God and the ultimate evil force is called Satan. The charismatic worldview locates the causes of good and evil almost exclusively in the spiritual reality. God is the source of all psychological goodness – mediated through the forgiveness of sins and the removal of guilt – as well as physical goodness – mediated through the healing of physical dis abilities, which occupies an extraordinarily important place in charismatic under standing and practice. Satan is the source of all evil. The locus of the struggle against evil is not primarily the earth but the spiritual realm, where the demonic spiritual forces reside. Sickness, for example, originates in the forces of evil. Therefore, it should preferably be healed by God, as a response to the believer's prayer. Contemporary charismatics do not reject modern medicine, but they have a strong belief that the ultimate source of healing is God, and that his direct intervention is to be preferred to medical treatment. This is true, not only for marginal groups like the serpent-handling churches of Appalachia, USA, but also for respected charismatic churches like the Assemblies of God.

The belief that our physical world is ruled by forces of another, spiritual world is clearly illustrated by the charismatic notion and practice of spiritual warfare.5 This practice is based on the belief that Christian prayer does not only entail expressing adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication to God. It also means praying against the evil forces. Spirits are said to govern people, even believers. For example, someone in the congregation may show a "spirit of unforgiveness," or a "spirit of haughtiness," or a "Jezebel spirit." Charismatic prayer in such a situation requires not only praying for fellow congregants tempted in such a manner, but praying against the spirit or demon which is believed to have influenced a believer.

"Praying against" means rebuking an evil spirit in the name of Jesus. Phrases often used in these prayers are: "Spirit of (e.g. jealousy), ... I rebuke you in the name of Jesus! Leave our sister...now!" Or: "In the name of Jesus, I command you! Go back to the waterless places where you came from!" Among charis matics it is even believed that there are spirits who command authority over a particular geographical area. Some charismatic missionaries who work in predominantly non-Christian countries would first "pray against" such evil spirits before starting their work in a particular region. Spiritual warfare is the subject of the best-selling novel, This present darkness, written by Frank Peretti (1986). The book is about the bad things that start to happen to good Christian people in a small American town. The cause of all this misfortune turns out to be not coincidence, but evil spirits sent by Satan himself. To deal effectively with these spirits it is not enough to ask protection from God. Spiritual warfare has to be conducted against these powers. It involves two stages: first the culprit spirit should be identified (e.g. the "spirit of fear") and then secondly it should be eliminated by "praying against" such a spirit. It is against this background that the campaign against "occult" toys, initiated in charismatic circles, has its origin. The protagonists of this campaign believe that evil spirits sometimes reside in such toys. For Christians it is not sufficient not to know of the existence of these spirits. Such toys must be destroyed, so as to deprive the evil spirits of any possible lodging.

The crucial point I hope to make here is that words and phrases such as "spirit" and "spiritual warfare" are not simply metaphors. They are actually used to refer to evil spirits, under the command of Satan, and the Christian's prayer response against such spirits. Our daily life, its toils and strife, is therefore seen from the perspective of a dualistic worldview: the locus of our struggle against evil is not this earth, but an unseen spirit-world. And it is obvious that only Holy Spirit- filled Christians are adequately equipped for this battle between the forces of light and darkness.

The effect of such a dualistic worldview on socio-political action is obvious. The causes of socio-political inequalities tend to be located, not in history, but in a spiritual world. God is seen as the only lasting remedy for socio-political evils, and the way in which God is expected to heal these maladies is by direct intervention. The appropriate Christian conduct in order to engage God's co-op eration is "spiritual warfare," not political activism.

I will deal briefly with the other two characteristics of the charismatic world view, since they are corollaries of its dualistic nature.


The second characteristic of the charismatic worldview is its apocalyptic nature (Clark & Lederle 1989:91). Charismatic Christians hold different doctrines about the "end times," but they do share one fundamental conviction: the present world is bound for destruction and most agree that this will soon take place. The charismatic understanding of the last judgment includes the destruction of the physical world in which we now live. The world to come, inaugurated by the imminent second coming of Christ, will be qualitatively different from the world in which we now live.

The consequence of this for socio-political activism is clear. If you firmly believe that the world in which we now live is destined for imminent destruction, there is little chance that you will spend your time and energy in trying to save the planet earth from environmental deterioration. It is not that charismatics are against socio-political activity, but simply because for them there are more press ing matters on the agenda.


Thirdly, we may describe the charismatic worldview as pessimistic because it rejects the present world in favour of the world to come. The corollary of an apocalyptic worldview is that the present world is viewed negatively. The present time and culture, often referred to as "the world," are regarded as incurably contaminated by sin. Charismatics do not expect the world to become a better place. Where among mainline churches, as represented by the WCC and the SACC, there is a tendency to stress the political and social usefulness of the Christian faith and the relevance of the gospel for this world in which we live, charismatic Christianity emphasises the discontinuity between this world and the world to come. A negative view of this world as unredeemable, save for divine intervention, seems to leave little room for social and political action, except as rescue acts of compassion or as an instrument to support evangelism.

All this may seem obvious, even trite. However, the point which we should not miss is that if it is true that charismatic Christians do little in the public domain to bring about social justice, we ought to see that this is not because they are callous, self-centred religious consumers or indifferent to social injustice and human suffering, but because socio-political activism is not congruent within their worldview.

Our first question can therefore now be answered: If activism in the public square is taken as a criterion, charismatic Christians are socio-politically either indifferent or conservative, and they are of such persuasion as a consequence of their worldview.

However, the story does not end there. Two critical questions should be asked: 1) Should social justice only be defined in terms of activism in the public domain? 2) Is it sufficient to limit our investigation to the worldview of charismatic Christians? Let us answer the last question first. I suggest that the answer is no. Asking only worldview questions limits us to the realm of the cognitive. However influential these beliefs are (and they influential enough to keep charismatics away from the public square), there are other influences which we ought to investigate as well. The most important of these influences is what happens in a charismatic congregation itself. We should also ask: how do charismatic congre gations function? How do they regulate and organise the actions of their mem bers? Answers to these questions would, I suggest, reveal that within charismatic congregations there are egalitarian, empowering and democratising forces at work, which though not explicitly intended to bring about social justice in the public square, nevertheless may have the implicit effect that congregants, empowered for service in the congregation, will also function as agents for social change.


Consider for a moment the liturgy of a charismatic congregation, by which I mean not only the order of a worship service, but the sum total of interaction when a congregation worships. Many of the distinctive charismatic liturgical moments have an egalitarian, empowering and democratising effect on its participants. For example:

Praise and worship

When attending a charismatic worship service, one of the most difficult things to do is nothing – keeping your hands still when all around you are clapping or raising theirs, or standing rigidly erect while the rest of the congregation are swaying from side to side. This is not only difficult – it is actually embarrassing. By not moving with everyone else, you stick out like a sore thumb. Charismatic praise and worship forces each participant to become a part of the congregation. It is almost impossible to keep to oneself. Charismatic worship is far more suc cessful than a structured worship service – which often remains a predominanttly cerebral affair – in breaking down the psychological walls between people, thus preparing the way for forging solidarity among them.

Charismatic praise has an egalitarian effect, because it is a great equaliser. No matter how rich or poor, important or simple, all its participants are forcefully drawn into a holistic act of worship, not simply praising with their mouths, but with hands and feet, with body and soul. All this activity is of course no guarantee that social action will follow, but charismatic praise and worship forges a unity which is a crucial condition for any sustained action by a whole congregation. No-one who has witnessed protest marchers in South Africa toy-toying instead of march ing will have any doubts about the powerful role of collective singing and dancing in motivating people for social action. Similarly, charismatic praise and worship empowers its participants because it reinforces the unity of believers for unified action.

Much more than structured worship, charismatic worship has the potential to inculcate a democratic culture. The most distinctive characteristic of a charismatic service is its lack of "role-stability" (Gerrard 1986:210) found in mainline churches, where certain roles (preaching, leading the liturgy) are played exclusively by certain people. In a charismatic congregation members have much more freedom to participate and even direct the worship service.6

Speaking in Tongues

We need not engage in the debate whether speaking in tongues (glossolalia) represents "an altered mental state" (Goodman 1972), is uttered in some form of ecstatic trance, or whether it is simply "learned behavior" (Samarin 1973). Both sides claim convincing evidence for their cases and both are right. To my mind there is no doubt that during the initial experience the speaker has little, if any, control over the utterances made. Many experiences to confirm this have been put on record. However, I am equally convinced that during most of the subse quent experiences of glossolalia the utterances are not uncontrolled or involun tary, but deliberate acts of the speaker. Glossolalists readily admit this and explain that a subsequent, deliberate act of speaking in tongues is nothing else but exercising in faith a gift once received in ecstasy.

As I said, the psychological explanation of the nature of glossolalia is not important for this discussion. What is important is how glossolalia functions in a charismatic congregation. To be more precise: what are the effects of glossolalia on those who practice it?

There are at least two effects that are relevant for our discussion, both being functions of the initial experience of glossolalia: it serves as an act of commitment and as an instrument of empowerment.

An act of commitment

Virginia Hine (1965:59) distinguishes between two components in acts of commit ment to religious movements: 1) "an experience through which an individual's image of himself is altered" and 2) "the performance of an objectively observable act ... a 'bridge-burning' act which sets the individual apart from the larger society." A person who has spoken in tongues has clearly experienced both components. The latter is especially true for the initial act of glossolalia. In Hine's words, "the abandonment of one's self to a joyous flow of unintelligible vocal isations and possibly some non-consciously controlled physical behavior is con sidered indecent if not insane" (Hine 1986: 59). Such an experience sets the indi vidual apart from the rest of society. It serves as a "bridge-burning" act. After that there is no turning back. It is also a rite of passage, introducing the person to a new existence, and assuring her that she has indeed been initiated into the new state of existence and empowered to act accordingly (see also Mills 1986:429, Spilka 1985:76).

The experience of glossolalia has a strong egalitarian effect. Whoever experi ences ecstatic glossolalia goes through a ritual of initiation where all neophytes are equal, whatever their social status may be.6

An instrument of empowerment

There is consensus among leaders of all denominations that the lay members from charismatic churches are, generally speaking, much more confident in speaking about their religious beliefs than members from mainline churches. From my own experience I know this is true, not only for speaking about their faith, but also for ministering to others, at least in what we call areas of "private" religion. Coming from a mainline background, it never fails to amaze me to see a person who has been a charismatic Christian for only a few months and who, as far as a cognitive understanding of the Christian faith is concerned, must be considered an immature Christian, confidently volunteers to lay hands upon and pray for someone who is ill – something which many elders in traditional churches would hesitate to do.

I am convinced that one of the main reasons for this is that most mainline churches lack a liturgy which empowers lay members for service. In charismatic congregations the initial experience of glossolalia serves to do just that. It is not the only but certainly the most dramatic instrument of empowerment in charis matic liturgy. No-one who has gone through the bridge-burning, often embar rassing, exhilarating initial experience of glossolalia ever doubts that she has been called, sanctioned and empowered to speak to outsiders about her faith and to minister to whoever is in need. It is no coincidence that some charismatics equate the initial experience of glossolalia as "the baptism with the Holy Spirit." For many it is the ultimate act of commitment as well as empowerment. Once you have been "baptised with God's Holy Spirit," there can be no turning back, and there can be no doubt that you, as a lay member, have just as much divine power available for ministry as any ordained church leader.

Granted, this activity does not strike one immediately as socio-political. However, we should keep in mind what Lincoln & Matiya (1990:1990) write about the African American church in the USA: "Politics in black churches involves more than the exercise of power on behalf of a constituency; it also includes the com munity building and empowering activities in which many black churches, clergy, and lay members participate in daily." Through their liturgy, charismatic congrega tions are constantly affirming members, re-affirming their commitment and build ing community. The end result is the intensive empowerment of lay members without which any socio-political action is bound to fail.

We are now in a position to answer our first question: Should social justice only be defined in terms of activism in the public domain? The answer is no. The locus of the charismatic activity is, generally speaking, the so-called private sphere. However, this does not make the charismatic religion "other-worldly," as Gerrard (1975:213) alleges, nor does it, as Moltmann (1992:186) accuses, constitute a flight into "a world of religious dreams."7 By providing its members with strategies to structure and order their world in the face of social lawlessness and lack of vision and direction (what sociologists call anomie), charismatic congregations are indeed dealing with this world in which we all live.


I conclude by confirming my argument above with a reference to an empirical study by Martin West (1975) on some African Independent Churches in Soweto, at the time when apartheid was still alive and well. More recent research by Allan Anderson (1992:20) also supports my argument, but I use West as an illustration because of the categories of identity, sociability and fraternity which his studies demonstrated.

Two of the three churches which West studied were from "Zionist-type" churches. These churches, in places as far apart as Cape Town, Zimbabwe and Kwazulu-Natal (Daneel 1971:285f; Oosthuizen 1969:72) refer to themselves as "churches of the Spirit." Historically and phenomenologically speaking, they be long to the charismatic tradition (Sundkler 1961:242).8

A profile of the members of the churches West studied shows that they are mostly middle-aged, first-generation city-dwellers, poor and unskilled, from a rural origin with little formal education (West 1975:78). A majority were functionally illiterate. As newcomers to the big city, their lives were – even more than at their rural homes – regulated by apartheid's pass and influx control laws, which made the basic security of residence doubtful for most (West 1975:197). Members of these charismatic congregations were living deeply insecure lives. It would be no exaggeration to say that their lives were on the brink of disintegration. In fact, the lives of many of their secular peers were disintegrating around them.

What did these charismatic Christians do in a such a situation of anomie? Did they flee into a "world of religious dreams?" Well, they had their dreams, but they were certainly not fleeing from the challenges of their everyday lives. West, a social anthropologist, answers the question about the "other-worldliness" of their religion: "... the orientation (of their religion) was 'this-worldly,' in that they were not primarily concerned with an after-life, but with space-time events, and with their explanation, prediction, and control" (West 1975:191). In the chaotic world in which they lived, West describes how the charismatic religion of these Chris tians gave structure and order to their own worlds. To mention but a few examples:

Their congregations provided them with identity (West 1975:197). In these small gatherings, people who in the outside world were humble unskilled workers, acquired meaningful roles. Elaborate hierarchies of leadership were developed – bishop, president, moderator, deacon, arch-deacon, prophet, superintendent – to accommodate as many aspiring leaders as possible (West 1975:68).

Their congregations provided "fraternity, where individuals within the volun tary association are encouraged to regard one another in some senses as siblings. This can be seen very clearly in the independent churches where the terms 'brother' and 'sister' are regularly and widely used between members who are in no way related" (West 1975:197 – italics added). Another good example of this is the emphasis on visiting the sick and assisting any members who may be in need.

Their congregations also provided sociability – a network of friends (no, brothers and sisters) who provided moral support, information about possible jobs in a situation of unemployment, instruction on how to find pathways through the maze of apartheid laws. West (1975:197) writes: "In the impersonal, sprawling townships of Soweto, independent church congregations are small groups of friends – important as reference and supportive groups in the wider society."

This is of course true, not only of charismatic churches in black townships, but of many township churches. However, this does not refute my argument, which is that charismatic indigenous churches are not following a completely "other-worldly" religion. The fact that in this matter they were not different from mainline (often visibly politically active) black churches, supports the argument that they did not become havens of other-worldliness.

It is interesting to consider for a moment two important matters in which they do differ from mainline churches, however: their emphasis on divine healing and the Holy Spirit. Neither of these characteristics is an avenue of escapism; both are mechanisms with which believers are helped to face the realities of this often hostile world: "The message of deliverance from sickness and from the oppres sion of evil spirits, and especially the message of receiving the Holy Spirit that gives a person power to cope in what is often perceived as a hostile spirit world, was welcome indeed. Pentecostalism, particularly as it was expounded by African leaders, came to be seen as a religion that offered solution to ALL of life's problems, and not just the 'spiritual' ones" (Anderson 1992:20; cf. Anderson 1991:8-73).

A fourth observation of West should be noted. These congregations served (unintentionally) as a bulwark against tribalism. People coming to Soweto came from many different ethnic groups. The interesting fact is that in Soweto, these independent churches did not become typical "immigrant" churches, comprising primarily people from the old country and providing a place where one's home language was spoken and understood. In West's survey (1975:78), no church claimed to have members who came from only one language group. What is more, only 10% claimed to have unilingual worship services (West 1975:3).9

I regard this last point, to which West does not pay much attention, as the most significant of them all, given the context of these independent charismatic congregations in the South Africa of the 1960s and 1970s, the heydays of apartheid. It was a time when the white government was doing everything in its power to enforce ethnic identity and difference, thus creating a situation of anomie, rootlessness and deprivation, where the call to ethnic loyalty, and its reciprocal protection, tempted the black rural newcomer to Soweto to heed the call of tribalism. In that situation, small and independent charismatic congre gations provided a family in Christ, where there was "no Greek or Jew, circum cised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all" (Colossians 3:11).10 That to me, apart from being an appropriate Christian response, was also, although unintentionally, a profound socio-political act.


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WATT, P. 1992. From Africa's soil. The story of the Assemblies of God in Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Christian Books.

WEST, M. 1975. Bishops and prophets in a black city. African independent churches in Soweto. Cape Town: David Philip.

WRIGHT, N. 1993. A pilgrimage in renewal, in SMAIL, WALKER & WRIGHT 1993: 22-32.

1 Dr G. Francois Wessels teaches in the Faculty of Religion and Theology, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7535.

2 An earlier draft of this paper was delivered at the annual meeting of the Religious Research Association of the USA in Albuquerque, November 1995.

3 I use the term "charismatic" as a generic term, to include the traditional pentecostal churches as well as the "neo-pentecostalists" in mainline churches. Although there are important differences between classical pentecostalists, neo-pentecostalists and the so-called "third wave" charismatics, these movements are, for the purposes of our discussion, grouped together. For a typology of the different "waves" in the movement, see H.I. Lederle (1990).

4 See, e.g. the criticism of charismatic churches by Morran and Schlemmer (1984) and the criticism of the IFCC by Concerned Evangelicals (1987). Peter Gifford (1988:106) identifies the "religious right" with the "pentecostal-fundamentalist" churches. From the Reformed tradition, P. Snyman (1986:124) accuses the charismatics of neglecting the social responsibility of the church. By their own admission, pentecostals have traditionally steered away from social activism. John Bond, General Chairman of the Assemblies of God in South Africa for more than two decades, wrote: "The classical pentecostal stance is one of withdrawal from the world ethically, religiously and politically. Involvement in social programmes and political reform is generally shunned" (Bond 1989). It is true that charismatic churches often contribute large amounts of money towards relief work (like Rhema Bible Church's air- lift of food and medical supplies to Rwandan refugees in 1994), but social involvement normally does not go further than relief work. Especially before 1990 Rhema showed "a strong tendency towards the political right" (Horn 1989:76). Political indifference has not only been observed in predominantly white charismatic churches. According to Hayes (1989:81), the Iviyo lofokazi bakuKristu, a black Anglican charismatic movement in KwaZulu-Natal also tended to be apolitical.

5 Spiritual warfare is not found in all charismatic churches. Many charismatics are critical of "the literature, tape ministries and theology, that some ... promote under the broad rubric of `spiritual warfare'" (Walker 1993:87). See the warning by Smail (1993:111) against a charismatic theologia gloriae.

6 In other words, I argue that the initial experience of ecstatic glossolalia functions as a rite of passage which levels the status of those who experience it. In this respect, ecstatic glossolalia resembles other ecstatic rites of passage. Victor Turner describes the effect of such a rite among the Ndembu people in Zambia on its participants: "It is as though they are being reduced or ground down to a uniform condition to be fashioned anew and endowed with additional powers to enable them to cope with their new station in life. Among themselves, neophytes tend to develop an intense com radeship and egalitarianism. Secular distinctions of rank and status disappear or are homogenized" (Turner 1974:81).

7 The history of the Assemblies of God in Southern Africa is a good example of the inadequacy of social activism as sole criterion for social concern. Watt (1992) concedes the strong historical pietistic roots among the Assemblies, and its consequent silence on socio-political matters. However, his study also shows how the practice of whites and blacks having to work together in a multi-racial national leadership (where blacks were in a strong position because of their greater numbers and dynamic black leaders like Nicholas Bhengu) had the effect of countering racism among whites. Bhengu, a widely respected black church leader, held some conservative political ideas but was certainly not a pietist. His emphasis on economic self-reliance and self-respect "was motivated by his understanding of Black Consciousness" (Watt 1992:179). Hollenweger (1988:134) noted that where black members of the traditional churches were mostly 'school people,' and members of the independent African churches mostly 'red people:' 'In Bhengu's church both classes live together.' The point I wish to make is that the struggle for social justice should not only be measured by the number of public statements on political affairs a church may issue, but also by what happens within a church – which values are inculcated, what behaviour is approved etc. My argument is not that the pentecostal Assemblies of God were very active in the fight for social justice, but that simply that, compared to most other evangelical, non-charismatic churches, the Assemblies were more rather than less aware of the dangers of racism. The same can be said of the pentecostal Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM), the third largest church in the white among when the two biggest churches in the white Afrikaner community when compared, to the Dutch Reformed Church (Horn 1992:160f). In his article Beyond the apartheid myth: Charismatic Christianity and the future of Afrikaner religion Hexham (1992) found that Afrikaners in "new charismatic churches" were in 1987 more positive towards a non-racial society than members of traditional churches. The very least which we can conclude from the case studies of the Assemblies and the AFM is that the crude distinction between the approaches of traditional and pentecostal churches made by writers like P. Gifford (1988:106) must be rejected. It is noteworthy to remember that the Assemblies of God did issue a statement in 1989 asking for 'Biblical justice,' whic according to them could best be achieved by a system of one person, one vote (Watt 1992:183).

8 In his standard work, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger (1988:150) is emphatic: "The historical dependence of the Zionist churches upon … the early Pentecostal movement can no longer be disputed." Daneel (1971:285) agrees, and therefore refers to these churches as "Spirit-type churches." Anderson (1992:11) makes a strong argument for the historical and theological link between Zionist and Pentecostal churches. He prefers to call them "Pentecostal-type churches." Also in agreement with this classification is dr. Danie van Zyl, tutor of the Sokhanya Bible School for leaders of independent churches in the Cape Peninsula (personal interview). See also Oosthuizen (1969:72).

9 In this matter they were not different from other main-line black churches. This supports my argument that these churches did not become havens of other-worldliness.

10 The social location of such small independent charismatic churches should be kept in mind. Their members often found themselves blocked from places of cultural, economic and political power. That is one reason why the sphere in which many charismatic churches world-wide exercised social justice was within their own small community, as Robeck (1992:98) explains.

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