As our American friends are in the midst of their 2016 presidential election, politicians are on the campaign trail explaining the reason to be voted as a president. The country is divided in many ways where activists ranging from race, to gender, to class and to religion are all crying out to be heard. When it comes to race, the division is much more sharp and piercing. Both Democratic and Republic politicians are professing to be the glue to unify their nation and mend the divide between Black, White, and Brown people.
Canadians may laugh at the made-for-t.v., political circus and comic show down South. Yet there are challenges of division with racism as deals with Afro-Canadians/Caribbean and First Nations and its offshoot religious racism with Muslims/Syrians/Middle East migrants and residents. It seems that both nations are having a difficult time closing the divide and opening our hearts. Americans are more blatant in their vitriol whereas Canadians are subtler. Either way – both are dehumanizing! I believe the Pentecostal Church could provide a road map for unity and reconciliation where both countries could learn from.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic Church is the fastest growing church in the world and approaching the size of the Roman Catholic Church as the largest Church family. The phenomenal growth and size is not by fluke. It is intentionally based on an open door and outreach position for diverse cultures and nations to embrace the message of Gospel love. Where did this attitude of passion fiery love come from for Pentecostals/Charismatics to reach out to Russians, Brazilians, Filipinos, Nigerians, Chinese etc.?
On April 1906, in a rundown church in Los Angeles, a passionate Black preacher William Seymour with a loyal group of Black Christians who prayed for racial unity and Christian unity. What made this prayer and fervor unique was in the midst of Jim Crow laws that these brave Christians were extending themselves to hug racist White Christians. God rewarded their desires by a phenomenal event where those Black Christians miraculously spoke in a different language never taught to them. This documented event echoed biblical times just after Jesus’ death and resurrection where the Early Church spoke miraculously through God’s Spirit in a different language to share the good news of Jesus to a diverse yet divided crowd in Jerusalem. What happened in Los Angeles 1900 years later known as the Azusa Street Revival had the similar effective power where it drew different races. Many of them experienced this miracle of speaking in a different language (called tongues speaking) and other miracles like healing. But the biggest miracle was the beginning to heal the divide of racism (and sexism) between people and their segregated churches. The reason being the experience was bigger than any race or culture (or gender). This Déjà vu moment was God pouring his love on all people, which humanized and humbled racist and sexist people to see each other with dignity and equality.
Although the Pentecostal Church is a human organization, not perfect and still struggles with racism and sexism like other organizations, but they have learned principles and practices to overcome the sin by God’s love. And the people are their fruit. This compassionate experience plus a compelling story is what our respective countries need to hear – especially our politicians. And quite possibly, they can feel the fire of unity that these men and women felt at Azusa Street. We can only pray in tongues for that miracle to happen.
~ Denley W. McIntosh