One of the country's preeminent theologians offers a probing examination of the dynamics of religious fundamentalism. Cox (Religion/Harvard; Religion in the Secular City, 1984, etc), who shot to prominence in the 1960s by speaking of a coming ``postreligious'' age, now looks back at why the predictions he made then were inaccurate. Far from becoming an artifact, religion is reasserting itself in American public life and discourse. Much of this religious revival has centered on conservative Christianity (often termed ``fundamentalism'') in general and Pentecostalism in particular. Pentecostalism, an outgrowth of the holiness movement within Methodism, stresses the fruits of the Holy Spirit given to Jesus' disciples at Pentecost and related in the biblical book of Acts. It also looks forward to the imminent return of Christ to earth, ushering in the millennium. Cox contrasts the World Parliament of Religions, a universalist gathering of the faiths of the world in 1893, with a Pentecostal revival held in 1906 at an abandoned church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The first event was attended predominantly by upper-class whites, and it promised that humanity could build a heavenly kingdom on earth. The Los Angeles event, which raged for months, was attended largely by African American manual laborers. It promised that if people prayed hard enough and long enough God would send a new Pentecost upon them. From Azusa Street, the new movement spread rapidly. Today it is a vital force in American and world Christianity; one in four Christians is a Pentecostal. Recently, it has made inroads in largely Catholic Latin America and among white middle- and upper- middle-class Americans. It stresses speaking in tongues, dreams, visions, and faith healing. While Pentecostalism is often scoffed at by more mainline Christians, Cox treats it with utter seriousness. With debates about the ``religious right'' raging, this timely book sheds light on an important but often misunderstood religious movement.
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