GODLY LOVE and the
Margaret M. Poloma
& John C. Green.
The authors provide a contemporary multidimensional description of the Assemblies of God by interpreting interview and survey data from 447 clergy and 1,827 congregants contextualized by historical narratives, website documents, Poloma’s 1989 research, and sociological theories.
They posit that organizational tension between charisma (primal spirituality) and social structure (pragmatic, organizational concerns) can catalyze revitalization; however, extant data are not quite sufficient to support the hypothesized dynamic. Data illustrate both a commitment to classic Pentecostal experiences (e.g., glossolalia, divine healing) as well as concerns for orthodoxy and structure.
Godly Love is offered as a theory to explain a dynamic interaction between believers and God, which yields love energy flowing outward in benevolent service. Attitudinal and benevolent activities data suggest the potential for Godly Love as a relational model of the Pentecostal experience.
The analyses and interpretations are heavily dependent upon self-reported attitudes and behaviors. Some survey scales are challenged by low scale reliability and limited construct validity. The lack of cohort-based longitudinal data in the context of the American host culture and other religious bodies may relegate trend analysis to speculation. Nevertheless, the authors successfully maintain a delicate balance between a plethora of statistics and readable narratives making the work a primary source for a wide audience of scholars interested in this century-old American Pentecostal journey.
When I think about Christian love, I think about forgiveness, but forgiveness is not a concept listed in the index. My colleagues and I explored the concept of forgiveness and reconciliation in a few publications, including a a research study (See references below.)
I was particularly interested in the Tables at the end of the book, which reveal information about beliefs and practices of clergy and congregants.
Some examples of pastors' Pentecostal practices from Table A.2, p. 208
Pastors: 16% reported speaking in tongues with interpretation at least weekly. And 82% pray in tongues at least weekly. The percentages were low for weekly or greater experiences of singing in the spirit (18%), Holy laughter (5%), and dancing in the Spirit (8%).
Examples of beliefs and values from Table A.5, p. 210.
Pastors' Beliefs- data for those who Agree and Strongly Agree
The devil actually exists 99%
Scriptures are literally accurate 98%
Christ is the only way to salvation 100%
Immanent rapture 99%
No dancing 76%
No gambling 99%
No movies 51%
Mittelstadt, M. & G. W. Sutton (eds.) (2010) Forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration: Multidisciplinary studies from a Pentecostal perspective. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications. ISBN: 9781608991945
Sutton, G. W. (2011). [Review of the book The Assemblies of God: Godly love and the revitalization of American Pentecostalism by M.M. Poloma & J.C. Green]. Religious Studies Review, 37, 185. Accepted 3 February 2011. Online link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ j.1748-0922.2011.01528_4.x/full Academia LinkResearch Gate Link
Sutton, G. W., Jordan, K., & Worthington, E.L., Jr. (2014). Spirituality, hope, compassion, and forgiveness: Contributions of Pentecostal spirituality to godly love. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 33, 212-226. Academia Link ResearchGate
Sutton, G. W. & Mittelstadt, M. W. (2012). Loving God and loving others: Learning about love from psychological science and Pentecostal perspectives. Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 31, 157-166. Academia Link Research Gate Link
A Related Book
Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Restoration: Multidisciplinary Studies from a Pentecostal Perspective
Published by Pickwick / WipfandStock FREE copies to Reviewers and Instructors