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Traditionally, the birthplace of the twentieth-century Pentecostal movement is considered to be either the 1906 Azusa Revival or the 1901 Topeka Revival in the United States. Hence, many Pentecostals try to trace their lineage to these two revivals in order to appreciate and emphasize their roots. In other words, the perceived origin of Pentecostalism is America, and most American Pentecostals have imported this brand of Pentecostalism into overseas countries. Recently, however, some Pentecostal scholars have begun to challenge this assertion by maintaining that there is a multicultural component to the beginnings of Pentecostalism in the twentieth century. They for the most part tend to focus on black slave or African folk roots. However, one also needs to add Asian origins in view of global Pentecostalism. Homegrown Asian Pentecostal movements, though still somewhat assisted by Western missionaries, were already blossoming before the arrival of American classical Pentecostal missionaries connected with Azusa Revival. Of course, Pentecostalism in Asia and Pentecostalism in North America share many common features; at the same, many differences exist between the two. For example, the early Pentecostal movements in India and Korea did not underscore the importance of speaking in tongues and the doctrine of the initial physical evidence as it was pushed by classical Pentecostals in the United States. Another difference is that classical Pentecostals carried a “separatist” proclivity, whereas early Pyongyang Pentecostals in 1907 exemplified an “ecumenical” or “unity” movement insofar as it united a variety of Christians from different denominations by the power of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, whereas most early classical Pentecostals in the United States chose to depart from mainline denominations, the first Korean Pentecostals of 1907 stayed within the mainstream denominations such as Presbyterian and Methodist. It is about time that Asian Pentecostals begin to explore “Pentecostalism from below.” Instead of looking at it with the dominant Western colonizers’ eyes, one needs to reinterpret it with a more native, non-Western, Postcolonial viewpoint.
Pentecostalism is not exclusively owned by Americans and other Westerners. The historiography of the Pentecostal movement must be redirected and rewritten by native subjects, not exclusively by “Colonizers,” in order to bring forth more accurate and holistic pictures.
2 Asian Pentecostal Theology. Minjung as the subjects of the Pentecostalism.
In chapter 5, “One God, One Spirit, Two Memories,” Paulson Pulikottil avers that Indian native “Pentecostalism” had been there long before the arrival of American Pentecostalism. To this, I want to add that Korean “Pentecostal” Christianity was already established prior to the arrival of classical Pentecostal missionaries influenced and disposed by the Azusa or Topeka revivals. “Pentecostalism” is broader and much more diverse and global even at its roots; however, many Western scholars have inculcated the notion that America is the only birthplace of the twentieth-century Pentecostal and charismatic movements. I want to refute this kind of narrow, colonial, egotistical, Western definition of Pentecostalism and try to reinterpret Pentecostalism from an Asian minjung perspective.
This paper argues for three related theses: First, Asian Pentecostalism in its origins exemplifies more or less a minjung movement of the colonized, oppressed, and poor. Second, from the very beginning, modern (or twentieth-century) Pentecostalism has been multicultural and global, so it is imperative to add Asian origins in exploring the Pentecostal movements. Third, Asian Pentecostal theology in general typifies a holistic, “living” spirituality. Some people presume that minjung is Korean word and only applicable to the particular Korean Christians who experienced political oppression in the 1970s. In this article, however, I argue that minjung in a broad sense existed long before the emergence of the minjung theology of the 1970s. Theologically, minjung means oppressed, alienated, exploited, and despised “people of God” Thus, any group of people, even non-Koreans, can become a minjung vis-à-vis unjust and contemptuous treatment. At the beginning of the twentieth century, most Asian countries remained colonies of Western countries. From a Korean minjung viewpoint, most people of Asia during this time represented “minjung” who suffered from the political oppression, Social alienation, and economic exploitation of the Western and other imperialistic nations. For example, India was colonized by Britain, and Korea was colonized by Japan. In the face of this colonization, at least two kinds of minjung arose: 1) social-political and 2) Pentecostal. The social-political minjung has worked on social and political justice, whereas the Pentecostal minjung primarily has worked on spiritual, physical, and affective healing. One can easily classify Pentecostalism as a “minjung” movement. In the United States, the Azusa Street revival exemplifies a minjung movement of the black people who have been racially discriminated against and economically exploited. In Korean Pentecostalism, it was the 1907 Pyong-yang minjung, who had lost their national sovereignty to Japan and were alienated by many Japanese people. Indians at the beginning of the twentieth century also underwent political oppression and mistreatment by the imperialists of the British Empire. At its roots, the twentieth-century Pentecostal movement was not primarily a white middle-class movement in which the participants were looking for exotic, supernatural, supervenient feelings, like an emotional high from a rock concert. At the center lay desperate and dejected people (minjung) who tried to survive each day. In other words, “subjects” and “biographies” of the primordial Pentecostals had to do with the “minjung” who had been alienated by the dominant class. By and large, the early Pentecostals in America and Asia could not afford to go to hospitals, so they went to local churches and prayed for their healing. They also possessed anger toward colonizers and oppressors, but they were not allowed to express these negative emotions. Hence, they went to their churches and vented their frustration. Jesus Christ was there to listen to the testimonies and heartaches of these minjung! Pentecostalism at the outset was a religious movement of neither the bourgeoisie nor aristocrats, although some of the major Pentecostal denominations in the United States such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) today have become more and more predominantly white middle-class denominations.