Sister Aimee Strikes Again

Teaching Sister Aimee,” by Art Remillard

Aimee Semple McPherson was the subject of this past week’s NPR program, “Speaking of Faith.” [Editor's Note: The host of the show, Krista Tippett, keeps an online journal about the shows, well worth reading]. Along with original audio and film archives from the revivalist, the program highlights interviews with Anthea Butler (University of Rochester) and Arlene Sanchez Walsh (Azusa Pacific University). For a fifty minute program, this is an excellent introduction to Sister Aimee, a charismatic, charming, and controversial figure in American religious history. As such, I will probably assign it the next time I teach Religion in the U.S. I have used “Speaking of Faith” shows in other classes, such as World Religions and Bioethics. Most programs come with full transcripts, from which I pilfer provocative statements, and include them in a discussion guide along with some open ended questions. While I generally like the programs, student reactions have been mixed. Some find the content compelling. Others appreciate not having to read. And there are those who find the shows downright boring. Ah the imperfect science of teaching! In spite of the protestations, I will continue using the programs. Overall, I have found them a welcome addition to my teaching arsenal.


Phil said…
I agree that Speaking of Faith has good material. The recent show on "Living Vodou" had an audio essay of a ceremony that is just stunning, and certainly useful for class.

I'm quite surprised that SOF didn't engage Matthew Avery Sutton's new book on McPherson more, since he links her to right wing politics (though Arlene alludes to it).
Anonymous said…
Any idea why Krista Tippet would have thought two women with, so far as I can tell, no publications on Aimee Semple McPherson were more qualified for this show than Edith Blumhofer, Daniel Mark Epstein, Matthew Avery Sutton, Tona J. Hangen, or Stephen Pullum, or one of the several scholars with works in progress on McPherson?
Anonymous said…
To Anonymous:
I think that wasn't what Kritsa Tipped was getting at for the program. Although neither Arlene or I write specifically about Aimee, I was (and Arlene is) a member of the Denomination that Aimee founded, Foursquare international. I was a consultant for the PBS show on Aimee and instrumental in bringing it to the screen, as well as brining Matthew Sutton book into the show (we had been corresponding for a very long time on email during his dissertation) and his book was the major foundation for the show's script.
This brings up another issue, (and Paul who knows me will probably be astounded that I am posting but hey, its past noon in Barcelona Spain where I currently am lol) One of the reasons why Aimee got a renewed push came from the fact that although one may do research about a figure, it takes "something more" to bring them to the public view. In Aimee's case, many of us (Matthew, myself, Arlene) were able to get this to a broader media audience because of our connections with the denomination that opened the door to those who have wanted to bring her story to radio and TV but until "intermediaries" who were respected and trusted by both parties intervened, it wasn't going to happen. So before you blast the choices, one must remember,e specially in matters of religion, often these shows about controversial figures don't come about unless there are people like myself, who find a historical figure of a personal interest (and I write on Pentecostalism.. did you look me up lol) who can be at the right place at the right time to make things happen!
Anthea Butler
University of Rochester
Anonymous said…
I'm just happy whenever any religious figure gets publicity - good, bad, whatever; anything that can take our minds off the war. And I thought everyone did a great job.

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