Pentecostal Power

The Politics of Divine Healing Practices


  • Candy Gunther Brown Indiana University



divine healing practices, prayer, power, empowerment, politics, women, gender


This article interprets pentecostal divine healing practices as a strategy for mobilizing spiritual power, and as a complement to or replacement for political power. Although sometimes engaging in political activism to remedy the causes and symptoms of social and physical ills, pentecostals often privilege spiritual approaches to addressing ailments that are envisioned as ultimately spiritual in causation, and hence uniquely ameliorated by spiritual means. Divine healing practices—which invoke supernatural power to move the material world—sometimes function as an alternative to political, medical, or economic power. This is particularly the case for many two-thirds-world pentecostals who are relatively poor, uneducated, socially disenfranchised, and predominantly female. Pentecostalism has exhibited exponential growth because many people perceive pentecostal healing practices as embodying divine love and divine power. This article explains the appeal of pentecostalism to politically disempowered individuals and communities, and women in particular, considers both the empowering and oppressive potential of healing practices, and contemplates other possibilities if pentecostals do not offer spiritual avenues to empowerment.

Author Biography

Candy Gunther Brown, Indiana University

Candy Gunther Brown (PhD, Harvard University, 2000) is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. She is author of The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America (Oxford University Press, 2013), Testing Prayer: Science and Healing (Harvard University Press, 2012) and The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789–1880 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), and editor of Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing (Oxford University Press, 2011).


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How to Cite

Brown, C. (2014). Pentecostal Power: The Politics of Divine Healing Practices. PentecoStudies, 13(1), 35–57.