God's Peculiar People: Women's Voice and Folk Tradition in a Pentecostal Church

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University Press of Kentucky, Jan 1, 2005 - Religion - 180 pages
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"Holy Rollers" -- with this epithet most people dismiss members of the Pentecostal sect as wild religious fanatics. In this new study, folklorist Elaine Lawless draws on fieldwork among Pentecostal congregations in the limestone region of southern Indiana to offer a sympathetic view of the Pentecostals as a special group distinguished by their own folk traditions and religious expression.

From her findings she describes the members' codes of dress and behavior, their attitudes toward themselves and others, their special use of words, and their distinctive religious practices. Focusing on the activity of a particular church, she then analyzes the structure of the service and shows how its elements -- singing, praying, testifying, preaching, and speaking in tongues -- exhibit, not a formless display of fervor, but rather an ordered and traditional sequence that creates a unique religious expression.

Important to the study is the attention given the role of women. Although the Pentecostal interpretation of Biblical teachings accords men dominance, women occasionally preach in the church and during the testifying part of the service they are often able to exercise control and religious authority. Many of the women have relatives in the dangerous work of the limestone quarries, and for these women the personal experience and close relationship fostered by the Pentecostal church, Lawless finds, offers welcome emotional support.

This readable study affords a new understanding of one Pentecostal sect and an appreciation of the role of women in fundamentalist religious practices.


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God's peculiar people: women's voices & folk tradition in a Pentecostal church

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The analytic voice of the folklorist may seem an incongruous one for exploring the religious fervor of Pentecostalism. Yet Lawless's personal responses do come through as she presents an implicit ... Read full review


The Field Situation
Maintaining Boundaries
Discourse Rules
Power of the Word

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Page viii - The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world ; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

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About the author (2005)

Elaine J. Lawless is assistant professor of English and folklore at the University of Missouri.

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