Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Pentecostal Response to the Washington Post

Below is my personal response to the Washington Post regarding the now well-known cartoon disparaging people of Pentecostal faith.

The actual cartoon can be found at:

To whom it may concern:

I was personally and profoundly offended by the cartoon by Pat Oliphant that appeared in your publication on September 9, 2008. I was perplexed to discover that a supposedly reputable newspaper would publicly and openly mock and ridicule the biblical experience of speaking in tongues – an experience that I hold in reverence. I would expect this of Hollywood and the entertainment industry – but the Washington Post?

However, my personal feelings quickly gave way to bewilderment regarding a much larger issue. You see, I am not alone. How could the Washington Post deliberately attempt to deride such a large and diverse religious group of people who revere and/or encounter the biblical experience of speaking in tongues? One can only conclude that you are uninformed with respect to exactly how widespread and mainstream this belief is. Allow me to enlighten you.

Recent statistically valid and reliable research published by the Barna Group revealed that 36 percent of all American adults are Pentecostal and/or charismatic Christians. (This is not just a percentage of Christians or church-goers –this is all American adults.) The study specified that one of the criteria for being included in this category is the belief that “the charismatic gifts, such as tongues and healing, are still valid and active today”.

There are currently more Pentecostal and charismatic Christians in the United States than any other single religious designation.
  • 46% of all U.S. Protestants are Pentecostal or charismatic
  • 49% of all U.S. Evangelicals are Pentecostal or charismatic
  • 23% of all U.S. Protestant churches are Pentecostal or charismatic congregations
  • 40% of all U.S. non-denominational churches are Pentecostal or charismatic
  • 36% of all U.S. Catholics are charismatic in belief and practice
  • 65% of all predominately African-American congregations in the U.S. are Pentecostal
In total, there are over 80 million Pentecostal and charismatic Christian adults in the United States who consider speaking with tongues to be a sacred experience. Furthermore, Pentecostal beliefs and practices are growing rapidly in the United States and, even more dramatically, internationally.

Perhaps you thought Pentecostals are an isolated group of uneducated people who deserve to be humiliated. Perhaps you didn’t know exactly how mainstream the belief and practice of speaking with tongues is. Or, perhaps you just deliberately wanted to disparage and marginalize this group. In any case – whether ignorance or arrogance - your actions in publishing the Oliphant cartoon are reprehensible, indefensible, and completely unacceptable.

I join the chorus of many other voices who insist that the Washington Post publish a prominently displayed apology for its unabashed mocking of a religious belief cherished by numerous Pentecostal and charismatic Christians in the United States and around the world.


Kirk VanOoteghem
Ordained Minister and Executive Pastor

I encourage others to also respond to the Washington Post and voice your view on this matter. Here are some emails to which you can send:

CEO-CarolineLittle@wpni.com; executive.editor@washingtonpost.com; VP-Sales-Ads@wpni.com; VP-Classifieds-LocalProducts@wpni.com; ombudsman@washpost.com


David said...

Thank you for that incredibly astute and necessary response to Oliphant's comic and the editor of WP.

The fact that "Pentecostal", "Charismatic", and "evangelical" are such unrefined terms in religious studies today, and that they are often refused the opportunity to properly and appropriately label themselves only lends itself further to the misconstruction of these groups in the media.

At the same time, there is a historical pattern of people who are unfamiliar with and uneducated about Pentecostal practice choosing to make a mockery of it by pointing and laughing at the Pentecostal distinctive (i.e., Holy Spirit baptism). Pentecostals should expect that the supernatural aspects of the faith will arouse suspicion and hatred among avid liberal modernists. But in a society that is moving rapidly towards postmodernist objections to modernism, Pentecostalism may yet find a friend on the outside.

Tyler2000 said...

I think its funny because it shows how evident the distance between America and God is. If this person actually knew God, he would know not to do this. If the Washington Post knew God, they would not release this. If America knew God then this would not ever come up as a topic of humor. Spiritual Gifts are to be cherished and unless one looks into them and is thoroughly informed, please Hush!

Pastor R Kent Smith said...

Nice job Kaptin....

I did the same thing and posted it as well as the Post's responnses....