Aimee Semple McPherson is one of the most controversial figures in the history of the United States, especially at the beginning of the twentieth century. This woman has been regarded as a saint or sinner by a great number of people who lived during that time. It is important to determine why people used this conflicting rhetoric while speaking about Aimee McPherson.
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One can argue that these conflicting viewpoints can be mostly explained by the incredible charisma of this person and her ability to influence the audience. In some cases, this influence could be perceived as manipulation. Nevertheless, such words as saint or sinner do not accurately describe the personality of this woman who had various interests, goals, and values. This is one of the main arguments that can be put forward.
First, it should be noted Aimee McPherson was born to a very religious family. In particular, one should pay attention to her mother who was an active supporter of the Salvation Army (Cauchi unpaged). This upbringing strongly influenced her later life, especially her values, beliefs, and attitudes.
One should bear in mind that at the beginning of her career she was engaged in the so-called faith healing (Cauchi unpaged). Certainly, it is difficult to prove that she did cure people who asked her for assistance. In some cases, the positive effects can be explained to self-deception, rather than any significant change. This is some of the main points that should be taken into consideration.
However, her faith-healing campaign did earn her reputation of a saint who could almost perform miracles, even though she had some failures. Nevertheless, many people were skeptical of her healing abilities, and they viewed her only as a swindler who gave only false hopes to people suffering from various diseases. This is one of the reasons why she was often perceived as a saint and a sinner at the same time. So, from the very beginning people looked at her from different perspectives.
Additionally, one should focus on Aimee McPherson’s preaching and her ability to appeal to large audiences which was almost unprecedented at that time. It should be noted that she founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Los Angeles. The performances of Aimee McPherson could be visited by more than five thousand people at the same time. This popularity was not matched by any other minister.
There were several things that greatly distinguished her among other missionaries. In particular, she was able to combine preaching with theatrical performance. She often relied on the assistance of decorators, artists, carpenters who helped her to produce a long-lasting effect on the audience.
Her sermons with the audience were often accompanied by music. It is often said that her sermons could be seen as a form of entertainment (Sutton 29). So, some of her critics said she was only striving for fame, and her behavior was perceived as vanity (Sutton 29). This is why her sermons could elicit different responses. Nevertheless, she was able to evoke religious feeling in many people who valued her sermons. This is why Aimee McPherson had a reputation of a saint and a sinner at the same time.
One should also take into account that Aimee McPherson could be dressed as a firefighter, police officer, or even a princess. This behavior utterly astonished a great number of people (Sutton 29). Again, one can say that she was able to transform a sermon into a theatrical performance, and this goal could not be easily achieved. This approach helped her to engage the audience, but at the same time, her behavior was criticized by other preachers who could not accept this show as a form of religious sermon (Cauchi unpaged).
To a great extent, she became to be viewed as a sinner by people who held more conservative views about the behavior of religious people, especially ministers. The dispute between the supporters and opponents of Aimee McPherson continues even nowadays. This debate is particularly relevant to people who represent the Foursquare Church.
Additionally, Aimee McPherson was one of the first preachers who began to use radio in order to deliver her sermons to the general public. This reliance on technology was not typical of ministers at the beginning of the twentieth century. This is one of the reasons why she became so famous, and her name became familiar to many people living in the United States. This strategy enabled her to address many listeners. In this way, she gained the status of celebrity.
Therefore, one can say that Aimee McPherson could be viewed as a very popular person. This status distinguished Aimee McPherson from other ministers in the United States. Mass media helped her to achieve many of her goals as a preacher. She was one of the few people who could appeal to mass audiences.
Apart from that, Aimee McPherson was a subject of some media scandals that polarized the opinions of people about her. For example, one can mention her alleged kidnapping and escape (The Kidnapping of Aimee Semple McPherson unpaged). This issue was widely discussed by many journalist of that time.
McPherson alleged that she was abducted by some unknown criminals. Moreover, she even claimed to be tortured by her kidnappers. Nevertheless, police officers did not find evidence that could prove her claim (The Kidnapping of Aimee Semple McPherson, unpaged). Her supporters believed this kidnapping had been taken place. In contrast, other people believed that McPherson had just tried to attract attention to herself.
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Overall, this incident became a subject of many newspaper articles. To some degree, this article reinforced the conflicting opinions about this person, especially if one is speaking about her sanctity. Similarly, mass media closely examined her possible life, especially possible love affairs. This publicity prompted many people to believe that McPherson was a sinner. So, the life of Aimee McPherson attracted the attention of her contemporaries.
Overall, such notions as saint or sinner are not quite applicable to Aimee McPherson because they do not reflect the complexity of her personality. She was indeed a very gifted individual who could skillfully interact with the audience. Nevertheless, this ability does not turn her into a saint.
Similarly, one can argue that she strived for glory and recognition. Some people can regard this behavior as a form of vanity, but this vanity is typical of many individuals who are not usually called sinners. This is one of the main points that one can make. Nevertheless, McPherson could indeed exercise a strong influence on many people. To some degree, her opinions, values, and attitudes shaped their behavior.
Cauchi, Tony, 2002. Aimee Semple McPherson 1890-1944. Web.
The Kidnapping of Aimee Semple McPherson 2002. Web. Feb. 2012. <https://www.usc.edu/>
Sutton, Matthew. Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America. Boston: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.