In truth, I cannot answer the question of whether Pentecostalism is genuinely “better.” It’s better in some ways; worse in others. There is always the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. It has some good qualities, but falls short in a lot of areas.
When I think about why I remain a Pentecostal, the analogy that comes to mind is marriage. There are a lot of forms of the Christian faith that I love. I admire the beauty, the liturgy, the deep theological streams, and many other aspects of various Christian traditions.
This is my way of saying that I have deep, abiding friendships of mutual respect and love.
But I am still in love with Pentecostalism. She is my lover and, as far as I can tell, always will be. She took me in and nourished me in the faith and I am prepared to go the distance with this lover despite the fact that she can be abusive, callous, and even cruel at times. I have been stung by her words and witnessed the way she has wounded her children.
I’ve also seen how wonderfully surprising she can be–like Hobbits whose courage pops up in the oddest of places. I’ve been told that the Pentecostalism I know does not exist except in my own mind, but I’ve seen her.
I have witnessed her in the small prayer meetings where groans and cries are uttered through the night for God to intervene into the midst of life’s tragedies. I glimpsed her beauty in the deep embraces around an altar by persons who, according to social mores, should not even associate with one another let alone hug, kiss, and weep together.
I caught her hue in the harmonies of Appalachia and the deep sighs of the Delta. I beheld the beauty of her many shades–from the soft whites to the deep chocolates and all the marvelous browns and yellows and mahoganies in between.
No, for these reasons and many others, I remain committed. There are many others out there who are married to different parts of Christian tradition and I would not attempt to sever them from their lover. But God has called me to her.
My commitment, however, means a refusal to allow her to wallow in nakedness and shame when she sins before God. If I am called to this lover, then I am called to awaken all of her potential as best as I can. I am called to help her find her true self once again–an identity that I don’t yet clearly see myself “BUT GOD.”
This is no starry-eyed naiveté. Not only have I’ve lived with her long enough to see the dark side, as a historian I know her secrets and what she’d like to keep hidden from others. No, this is more akin to a vow to be with her.
And so I stay with this lover whose faltering steps and youthful determination still attract me.
I will name her sins.
I will see her through trials and temptations.
I will walk with her through meandering theologies and even “biblical” absurdities because, at the end of the day, I am in love with her.