May 31, 2012

The strangeness of Charles Fox Parham

Buried in the footnotes of an excellent biography of one of the founders of American Pentecostalism, there's this detail, which surpasses most everything in early Pentecostal weirdness:
"An example of questionable behavior was his practice of asking all females in the audience to cross and then uncross their legs. Following the exercise ... by exclaiming to the women, 'Now you've just opened the gates of hell.'"
Whether or not that's relevant to anything is really an open question. While that's being questioned, though, the above should maybe best be supplemented with this Kansas City journalist's description of Parham, circa 1901, the year Pentecostalism was first formulated:
"Parham ... has a fierce reddish-faddish beard, a voice like a pirate and a manner as brusque as a janitor in a flat."
Now read the first quote again, but this time in a "voice like a pirate."

So weird.