Interview by Timothy Sato
The S Factor
Donald E. Miller is Firestone Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California and executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, which launched the Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Initiative in 2009. He is the author, co-author, or editor of nine books, including Finding Faith: The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation, with Richard Flory (2008); Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement, with Ted Yamamori (2007); Armenia: Portraits of Survival and Hope (2003); and Reinventing American Protestantism (1997).
In the November/December 2002 issue of Books & Culture, Timothy Sato interviewed Don Miller about his ongoing study of Global Pentecostalism. Much work has been done since then, and it seemed liked a good time to take up the conversation again. (For more information about the Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Initiative, visit usc.edu/pcri.)
How has your understanding of Pentecostalism changed over time as you have been engaged in research around the world?
At some point early on in the project, I felt that I made a turn in my own interpretation of what I was witnessing, from potentially writing a book that could have been debunking, maybe even cynical at points, to wanting to try to explain why Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religious movement in the world. That was based on what I felt were extremely authentic individuals that we were encountering—not just clergy, but hundreds of lay persons as well. And seeing how the lives of individuals were being transformed, not just religiously, but economically, physically. I think that one thing that continually impressed me was the vision of Pentecostals—and that they were often able to go against all odds to realize these visions. To see that this was not hype; these were people who were putting their own lives on the line, who were getting their hands dirty in the slums of Cairo or in the townships of South Africa.
At a purely personal, ...