Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture

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Overview

In this lively history of the rise of pentecostalism in the United States, Grant Wacker gives an in-depth account of the religious practices of pentecostal churches as well as an engaging picture of the way these beliefs played out in daily life.
The core tenets of pentecostal belief—personal salvation, Holy Ghost baptism, divine healing, and anticipation of the Lord’s imminent return—took root in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Wacker examines the various aspects of pentecostal culture, including rituals, speaking in tongues, the authority of the Bible, the central role of Jesus in everyday life, the gifts of prophecy and healing, ideas about personal appearance, women’s roles, race relations, attitudes toward politics and the government. Tracking the daily lives of pentecostals, and paying close attention to the voices of individual men and women, Wacker is able to identify the reason for the movement’s spectacular success: a demonstrated ability to balance idealistic and pragmatic impulses, to adapt distinct religious convictions in order to meet the expectations of modern life.
More than twenty million American adults today consider themselves pentecostal. Given the movement’s major place in American religious life, the history of its early years—so artfully told here—is of central importance.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times

Even serious, sympathetic studies reinforced the popular impression that Pentecostalism was the expression of poorly educated and socially marginal people, outcasts who grasped an exuberant faith as an escape from their miseries or found in it the meaning and discipline to make that escape effective. Challenging this premise is one of the remarkable accomplishments of Grant Wacker...His meticulous review of the data leads to a different, and in some sense surprising, conclusion: "Contrary to stereotype, the typical convert paralleled the demographic and biographical profile of the typical American"...Heaven Below is a historical ethnography, examining topics like authority, rhetoric, worship and prohibitions, and attitudes towards finances, education, women and race.
— Peter Steinfels

Washington Post Book World

In Heaven Below, Grant Wacker offers a comprehensive, fact-laden and readable account of the birth of Pentecostalism in the early 20th century. Believers embraced the "four-fold" gospel of personal salvation, Holy Ghost baptism, divine healing and the imminent return of Jesus. Wacker has strayed a bit from the faith of his parents and grandparents, with ties not to the United Methodist Church. But it's not a total backslide: "I guess the most honest way to explain my relation to the Pentecostal tradition is to say that I am a pilgrim with one leg still stuck in the tent."
— Colman McCarthy

Los Angeles Times

Wacker brings a matter-of-fact honesty to his account of the early years of American Pentecostalism, which covers roughly 1900 to 1925. While the book is exhaustively researched, Wacker's writing does not suffer from academic turgidity. At the same time, while he is sympathetic to the hopes and dreams of his subjects, he maintains a scholarly distance.
— Zachary Karabell

Christian Science Monitor

Unlike other histories of Pentecostalism, Wacker uses the letters, journal entries, newspaper articles, and other writings of the believers themselves as he examines the rise and development of the movement. With a blend of thorough scholarship, lively detail, and elegantly crafted prose, Wacker provides us with an enlightening glimpse into the history of Pentecostalism in this first-rate history of American religion.
— Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

Books & Culture

Both Wacker's approach and his thesis break new ground. The approach values the ordinary as much as the privileged, and the thesis explains how people sustained by otherworldly immediacy succeeded so remarkably in the here-and-now...Wacker's careful work in primary sources is both welcome and needed. His extensive documentation is not just the mark of a competent historian; it is also the power of his book. In the sources Wacker overhears many "yes...buts," and he keeps listening when other scholars have tended to stop. Sometimes he finds speakers manifesting endearing traits; sometimes he is repulsed. His sympathy—or at least his ability to empathize—is apparent, but so it his careful sensitivity to the nuancing that keeps sympathy from dulling critical scholarship...[Wacker] reveals the world of early Pentecostalism from within, in all its aspects, and allows readers to draw their own conclusions. One can't ask anything more of a historian.
— Edith Blumhofer

Choice

Despite copious adherents and a growth curve that defies trends in most masculine groups, Pentecostals remain largely misunderstood by both the general public and their fellow Christians. Wacker endeavors to develop an understanding of this movement in this study of its early history...Scholars will find Wacker's research thorough, yet his writing is accessible to a popular audience...Highly recommended.
— R. Watts

Arizona Daily Star
A rich account of the inner lives of ordinary men and women who felt themselves filled with the power of the Holy Ghost. A comprehensive ethnography of the first generation of Pentecostals, their faith, their social attitudes and their politics, which illuminates the origins of this influential current in American culture.
New York Times - Peter Steinfels
Even serious, sympathetic studies reinforced the popular impression that Pentecostalism was the expression of poorly educated and socially marginal people, outcasts who grasped an exuberant faith as an escape from their miseries or found in it the meaning and discipline to make that escape effective. Challenging this premise is one of the remarkable accomplishments of Grant Wacker...His meticulous review of the data leads to a different, and in some sense surprising, conclusion: "Contrary to stereotype, the typical convert paralleled the demographic and biographical profile of the typical American"...Heaven Below is a historical ethnography, examining topics like authority, rhetoric, worship and prohibitions, and attitudes towards finances, education, women and race.
Washington Post Book World - Colman McCarthy
In Heaven Below, Grant Wacker offers a comprehensive, fact-laden and readable account of the birth of Pentecostalism in the early 20th century. Believers embraced the "four-fold" gospel of personal salvation, Holy Ghost baptism, divine healing and the imminent return of Jesus. Wacker has strayed a bit from the faith of his parents and grandparents, with ties not to the United Methodist Church. But it's not a total backslide: "I guess the most honest way to explain my relation to the Pentecostal tradition is to say that I am a pilgrim with one leg still stuck in the tent."
Los Angeles Times - Zachary Karabell
Wacker brings a matter-of-fact honesty to his account of the early years of American Pentecostalism, which covers roughly 1900 to 1925. While the book is exhaustively researched, Wacker's writing does not suffer from academic turgidity. At the same time, while he is sympathetic to the hopes and dreams of his subjects, he maintains a scholarly distance.
Christian Science Monitor - Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
Unlike other histories of Pentecostalism, Wacker uses the letters, journal entries, newspaper articles, and other writings of the believers themselves as he examines the rise and development of the movement. With a blend of thorough scholarship, lively detail, and elegantly crafted prose, Wacker provides us with an enlightening glimpse into the history of Pentecostalism in this first-rate history of American religion.
Books & Culture - Edith Blumhofer
Both Wacker's approach and his thesis break new ground. The approach values the ordinary as much as the privileged, and the thesis explains how people sustained by otherworldly immediacy succeeded so remarkably in the here-and-now...Wacker's careful work in primary sources is both welcome and needed. His extensive documentation is not just the mark of a competent historian; it is also the power of his book. In the sources Wacker overhears many "yes...buts," and he keeps listening when other scholars have tended to stop. Sometimes he finds speakers manifesting endearing traits; sometimes he is repulsed. His sympathy--or at least his ability to empathize--is apparent, but so it his careful sensitivity to the nuancing that keeps sympathy from dulling critical scholarship...[Wacker] reveals the world of early Pentecostalism from within, in all its aspects, and allows readers to draw their own conclusions. One can't ask anything more of a historian.
Choice - R. Watts
Despite copious adherents and a growth curve that defies trends in most masculine groups, Pentecostals remain largely misunderstood by both the general public and their fellow Christians. Wacker endeavors to develop an understanding of this movement in this study of its early history...Scholars will find Wacker's research thorough, yet his writing is accessible to a popular audience...Highly recommended.
New York Times
Even serious, sympathetic studies reinforced the popular impression that Pentecostalism was the expression of poorly educated and socially marginal people, outcasts who grasped an exuberant faith as an escape from their miseries or found in it the meaning and discipline to make that escape effective. Challenging this premise is one of the remarkable accomplishments of Grant Wacker...His meticulous review of the data leads to a different, and in some sense surprising, conclusion: "Contrary to stereotype, the typical convert paralleled the demographic and biographical profile of the typical American"...Heaven Below is a historical ethnography, examining topics like authority, rhetoric, worship and prohibitions, and attitudes towards finances, education, women and race.
— Peter Steinfels
Los Angeles Times
Wacker brings a matter-of-fact honesty to his account of the early years of American Pentecostalism, which covers roughly 1900 to 1925. While the book is exhaustively researched, Wacker's writing does not suffer from academic turgidity. At the same time, while he is sympathetic to the hopes and dreams of his subjects, he maintains a scholarly distance.
— Zachary Karabell
Choice
Despite copious adherents and a growth curve that defies trends in most masculine groups, Pentecostals remain largely misunderstood by both the general public and their fellow Christians. Wacker endeavors to develop an understanding of this movement in this study of its early history...Scholars will find Wacker's research thorough, yet his writing is accessible to a popular audience...Highly recommended.
— R. Watts
Washington Post Book World
In Heaven Below, Grant Wacker offers a comprehensive, fact-laden and readable account of the birth of Pentecostalism in the early 20th century. Believers embraced the "four-fold" gospel of personal salvation, Holy Ghost baptism, divine healing and the imminent return of Jesus. Wacker has strayed a bit from the faith of his parents and grandparents, with ties not to the United Methodist Church. But it's not a total backslide: "I guess the most honest way to explain my relation to the Pentecostal tradition is to say that I am a pilgrim with one leg still stuck in the tent."
— Colman McCarthy
Christian Science Monitor
Unlike other histories of Pentecostalism, Wacker uses the letters, journal entries, newspaper articles, and other writings of the believers themselves as he examines the rise and development of the movement. With a blend of thorough scholarship, lively detail, and elegantly crafted prose, Wacker provides us with an enlightening glimpse into the history of Pentecostalism in this first-rate history of American religion.
— Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
Books & Culture
Both Wacker's approach and his thesis break new ground. The approach values the ordinary as much as the privileged, and the thesis explains how people sustained by otherworldly immediacy succeeded so remarkably in the here-and-now...Wacker's careful work in primary sources is both welcome and needed. His extensive documentation is not just the mark of a competent historian; it is also the power of his book. In the sources Wacker overhears many "yes...buts," and he keeps listening when other scholars have tended to stop. Sometimes he finds speakers manifesting endearing traits; sometimes he is repulsed. His sympathy--or at least his ability to empathize--is apparent, but so it his careful sensitivity to the nuancing that keeps sympathy from dulling critical scholarship...[Wacker] reveals the world of early Pentecostalism from within, in all its aspects, and allows readers to draw their own conclusions. One can't ask anything more of a historian.
— Edith Blumhofer
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674011281
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2003
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 951,344
  • Product dimensions: 0.79 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Grant Wacker is Professor of Christian History, Duke University Divinity School.
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Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Temperament
  • 2. Tongues
  • 3. Testimony
  • 4. Authority
  • 5. Cosmos
  • 6. Worship
  • 7. Rhetoric
  • 8. Customs
  • 9. Leaders
  • 10. Women
  • 11. Boundaries
  • 12. Society
  • 13. Nation
  • 14. War
  • 15. Destiny
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix: U.S. Pentecostal Statistics
  • Notes
  • Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2003

    A Remarkable History!

    Prof. Grant Wacker has written a definitive account of early Pentecostalism. He not only brings his own personal knowledge (he was raised Pentecostal) but has done exhaustive research which includes original source material from the early Pentecostals of the time period. I dare say that there appears to be literally 'no stone left unturned' in his collection of information, and his works cited is so extensive it is almost overwhelming. Fair and objective, Wacker presents all the facts, all the nuances, all the facets, all the twists and turns of the amazing movement. It is a great blessing that someone has taken such time and effort to go through this vast body of material written by the early Pentecostals (or about them) and presented it so concisely in one book. Anyone interested in the subject will find a wealth of information in these pages. Wacker has done for the Pentecostal movement what Roland Bainton did for Church history in general and taken what could be a dull subject and made it interesting as well as highly informative.

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