Why Kathryn Kuhlman Still Matters
The book doesn’t break any new ground in terms of the Kuhlman legend, but focuses on her impact on the charismatic and Pentecostal movement today,some forty years after her death.
She was, like Sister Aimee before her, a pioneer in so many of the things we take for granted today.
“Kuhlman’s rise to national—and international—prominence started almost by accident when she began to gain a reputation as a healer. In 1947, many attending her services claimed to be not only saved spiritually but also delivered from physical distress. This soon became the focus of her ministry, one she pursued with considerable energy and success. Three times a week for a decade she drew crowds of two thousand to fill Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Hall. In her twenty years of preaching in Los Angeles, she packed the Shrine Auditorium. She was mobbed in Akron, lionized in London, and greeted by a parade and the mayor himself in Las Vegas. When she went on the air—at first on radio where her shows always began with “Hello! And have you been waiting for me?” and then on her television programs Your Faith and Mine and I Believe In Miracles—her fame grew by leaps and bounds. A single, divorced woman with no children who claimed not to be a preacher or a healer, this improbable aspirant to the pulpit grew to become a cultural icon. Artman is careful to show that Kuhlman was not just a celebrity but an important motivating force in changes to American religion in the twentieth century. When the young Kathryn was beginning her career, Pentecostalism was known as the religion from the wrong side of the tracks, derided as the faith of “holy rollers,” rustic rubes who were preyed upon by a legion of sleazy hucksters. “Faith healer,” a label that Kuhlman always shunned, was a term of contempt. It was Kuhlman’s cleverly crafted persona and appealing middle-class respectability that helped to turn low-life “Pentecostalism” into “charismatic Christianity,” a spiritual approach that transcended denominational borders. She eschewed the over-the-top emotionalism and manipulative performances that had characterized earlier healing services and took no credit for any miracles that might ensue. She claimed never to have healed anyone, saying that was the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and her broadcasts were notable for the absence of lengthy appeals for donations. Thanks in great measure to Kuhlman, healing ministries could move out from the canvas and sawdust circuit to become, if not mainstream, at least a publicly acceptable manifestation of American faith.”
If you’ve read here for very long you know how much I despise those who claim to be faith healers today.
My loathing for those like Todd Bentley has no bounds.
Why then, would I spend a few of my meager supply of sheckels on a book about Kathryn Kuhlman of all people?
I want to believe.
In the face of all the evidence to the contrary, I want to believe that God still intervenes in the lives of people, especially those who are sick or in great need.
I want to believe that when I anoint someone with oil or when someone anoints me, that something real and verifiable can really happen.
I want to believe it so much that I have every book ever written about Kuhlman and Aimee McPherson.
This book, (like all the best books about Kuhlman), is clear that no such proof was ever forthcoming.
I still want to believe…Lord, help my unbelief…