In a recent Esquire interview, actress, model, and international sex symbol Megan Fox discussed her own Pentecostal experiences and orientation. Her revelation was surprising and incongruous to many. In her words:
“I have seen magical, crazy things happen. I’ve seen people be healed. Even now, in the church I go to, during Praise and Worship I could feel that I was maybe getting ready to speak in tongues, and I’d have to shut it off because I don’t know what that church would do if I started screaming out in tongues in the back.
“It feels like a lot of energy coming through the top of your head — I’m going to sound like such a lunatic — and then your whole body is filled with this electric current.”
I won’t comment on what I think of Fox’s sense of Christianity except to say that the Scripture speaks of spiritual fruit in the lives of believers AND removing planks from our own eyes before judging others AND the fact that God’s ways are not our ways. There’s a mystery to things that I cannot fully understand, so I’m content to leave ultimate matters up to God.
What is interesting about Fox’s confession is that, quite honestly, she might actually check the box entitled “Pentecostal” on a faith survey. She, in others words, may very well be “on my team.” For Heaven’s sake, she’s even into that classic hobby of Pentecostals, end-times prophecy:
“I’ve read the Book of Revelation a million times,” Megan Fox says. “It does not make sense, obviously. It needs to be decoded. What is the dragon? What is the prostitute? What are these things? What is this imagery? What was John seeing? And I was just thinking, What is the Antichrist?“
Now, other than the obvious benefits for recruitment, what does this mean for Pentecostal self-identity?
I have to chuckle when I hear that someone like Megan Fox has had such experiences, or that singer and fellow sex symbol Katy Perry grew up in a Pentecostal minister’s home. I chuckle because despite how strange that seems (considering traditional Pentecostal ethics and Fox/Perry’s sexual provocations and ubiquity), it fits in a certain way.
Pentecostalism has always carried within it the seeds of a very un-Gnostic message: that the body is meant to be linked to the Spirit, and that our faith is experienced and lived out in very bodily ways. Tongues. Dancing. Shouting. Falling down under the power of God. A friend of mine in seminary once said that Pentecostals “twitch.” I don’t like the word, but it is true we are a very embodied faith…for better and for worse.
Despite Pentecostalism’s generally conservative moral and social stances, it has also had its share of scandals involving the complicated matters of the flesh. At the turn of the 20th century early founder Charles Parham was once accused of committing “unnatural offenses” (i.e. homosexual acts). Aimee Semple McPherson of Foursquare fame once disappeared for a season in the 1920s, claiming kidnapping but more likely running away for a lengthy tryst with her lover. And then, of course, can we forget the infamous Pentecostal sex scandals of the 1980s with Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker?
Understand me: I’m not trying to Elmer Gantrify my fellow coreligionists here or say that we are necessarily worse on this count than others (though this would be an interesting research project). Indeed, there are an overwhelming host of Pentecostal ministers and laypersons who are sexually faithful to their spouses and their chastity. I just think it is fascinating that Megan Fox, as a frequent object of popular sexual fascination, is also in some sense Pentecostal. It is a strange development, no doubt. But also one that fits a certain understanding of my own faith tradition. The body–our God created, though now fallen flesh–gives us trouble, but we Pentecostals refuse to give it up because it is a part of who we are. Though it can cause us trouble (see above) we believe that it is a part of how God made us, how God redeemed us, and how God continues to work through us. Such a flesh-spirit faith is an earthy and risky one, but it is richly biblical. It can and does often go “off the tracks” from time to time, but Pentecostals are not ones to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
If David, Samson, and Solomon are in some sense all heroes of the faith and the writer of Ecclesiastes a source of wisdom in Scripture…and if the history of my own movement involves such risky openness to the body, perhaps Megan Fox can be Pentecostal too.
In a time when global expressions of Christian faith are becoming increasingly Pentecostal, Fox’s life is testimony to the fact that the term may now very well “contain multitudes.”
What a world.