Specifically, as James writes, "pentecostal spirituality is marked by a deep sense of the Spirit's imminence" where "creation is 'charged' with the Spirit's presence."
Again, this description fits the charismatic spirituality I've experienced at Freedom Fellowship. The Spirit is alive and active, regularly encountered in everyday life. When good things happen, when prayers are answered, this is taken to be a sign of the Spirit's providential care.
And beyond the activity of the Spirit there is the experience of malevolent forces in the world. References to Satan and demons are common. Prayers are spoken asking for spiritual and angelic protection from these forces.
Once during a worship service at Freedom a women began howling and screaming and writhing, ostensibly in the grip of an evil spirit. Hands were laid upon her and prayers worded asking for deliverance. Eventually the woman stopped howling. She calmed. Praise was offered as the demon had been cast out.
I was driving some friends home afterwards. Talking about the shrieking lady Henry remarked, "I was freaked out. I got away from her. I didn't want that spirit coming out of her and getting into me. I don't like messing around with that stuff." Everyone in the car murmured their agreement. Lord Jesus, Sweet Jesus, protect us.
As Smith writes,
[T]here is a flip side of the Spirit's enchantment of creation: pentecostal spirituality is also deeply attentive to what we might describe as the mis-enchantment of the world by others spirits...There is a deep sense that multiple modes of oppression--from illness to poverty--are in some way the work of forces that are not just "natural."Because of my life at Freedom I've come to talk a lot more about "the demonic" or about "Satan." Long time readers have likely noticed this shift. My interests in Christus Victor theology and frequent writing about "the principalities and powers." My attempt to articulate a progressive vision of "spiritual warfare." All these things flow out of my life with Freedom, me, a skeptical social scientist and progressive Christian trying to make contact with the enchanted world of my charismatic brothers and sisters.
In Chapter 4 of Thinking in Tongues James Smith spends a whole chapter discussing how to make sense of the "enchanted" worldview of pentecostalism in light of modern science. His proposal is interesting. Specifically, he makes a contrast between what he calls a non-interventionist/enchanted supernaturalism vs. an interventionist supernaturalism. According to James, a part of the trouble with "miracles," from a variety of perspectives, scientific and theological, is that they are often described as the actions of God "breaking into" or "interrupting" the natural world. In this view God is outside and separate from the system. This view, interventionist supernaturalism, James rejects as God is not outside or separate from the natural order. God is, rather, immanently present in all things. God is already on the inside. There should be no distinction between natural and supernatural. Thus, what might be called "a miracle" isn't God interrupting or disrupting the flow of events than a process of what James describes as intensification, God being more or less present at any given time or place.
I definitely like the idea that God is more intensely present in some places rather than in others. More intensely present in some events, experiences, times and people rather than in others. What I'm not sure about his how God's intense presence in any given location affects physical laws. I don't know how intensification relates to causality. That's an open question for me.
So how do I understand enchantment?
I understand enchantment in a way that borrows from James' description of what we described in the last post as a radical openness to God doing something different or new in the world, a radical openness to surprise. As I see it, James's description of being radically open to God's activity in the world is very similar to the experience of enchantment, the Spirit's activity in the world.
Given this similarity, what is interesting to me is how James describes a radical openness to God as a hermeneutical activity.
Specifically, James describes the events in Acts 2, the primordial account of the pentecostal experience. At the heart of Acts 2, James notes, is a hermeneutical act: Peter's re-description, re-narration and re-interpretation of the events talking place. James writes,
I take the central point of the narrative of Acts 2 to be Peter's courage and willingness to recognize in these strange phenomena the operation of the Spirit and declare it to be a work of God. To declare "this is that" (Acts 2:16) was to be open to God working in unexpected ways. In other words, the crux of the Pentecost story is not the spectacular events of Acts 2:1-4, but rather later, in 2:16, where Peter, with characteristic hermeneutical boldness, asserts: "This is from God!"I believe this also applies to the experience of enchantment. The issue in enchantment--that God is intensely present--is less about "the spectacular event" (the "miracle") than the "hermeneutical boldness" (the re-interpretation of experience) in declaring that "This is from God!"
This parallels many of the musings I've shared on this blog, all driven by my experiences with Freedom.
In modernity we experience a "flatness" in life. Lacking depth or height life is just one damn thing after another. Under the naturalizing eye of modern science no atom is any more sacred than any other atom. They are all the same, interchangeable.
Enchantment, as I've often described it here, is the process of experiencing existential texture, depth and elevation. Enchantment is the experience of the holy, sacred, and divine.
The world is enchanted through rituals of hallowing. When we hallow we declare events, experiences, places, things and people to be holy and sacred, set apart and elevated from the regular flat flow of events where it's just one damn thing after another. Rituals of hallowing sacralize life in the hermeneutical act of boldness to declare "This is holy ground!" or "This is the gateway of heaven!" or "Surely God is in this place!"
Enchantment, then, is a hermeneutical activity, a way of re-reading, re-interpreting, re-describing and re-narrating our lives. Enchantment takes something "ordinary" and reads it as "extraordinary." Enchantment takes something "common" and reads it as "sacred." More from James Smith:
[In Acts 2] Peter stood up and boldly proclaimed: "This is God! This is what the prophets spoke about! This is what we've been waiting for! This is the Spirit!" Such a claim required a unique hermeneutic able to nimbly respond to the advent of surprise, as well as a kind of hermeneutical courage to make such a claim.This is how I understand enchantment in my life at Freedom. Enchantment is the courage to read the world in a certain way. Enchantment, from Pentecost on, is hermeneutical boldness responding to the advent of surprise. Enchantment is the courage to read the divine in mundane happenings. Enchantment is the courage to read resurrection in the midst of death.
Enchantment is the courage to declare that this--this moment, this face, this life, this pain, this sorrow, this joy, this place, this time, this people, this tear, this touch--that this is holy and sacred and divine.
Enchantment is the hallowing of life, your life and mine, re-reading, re-describing, re-interpreting and re-narrating the world through prayer and the laying on of hands and the preaching of the Word. Hallowing through the water and the ashes and the bread and the wine and the oil and the incense. Hallowing through the song and the dance and the raised hand and the bended knee and the silence and the fasting and the washing of feet. Hallowing through the church as she is gathered as she is blessed as she is consecrated as she is commissioned and as she is sent.