Jesus Loves You Where You Are: Three Generations of Pentecostal Women
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(Jun 18, 2009)
Religious fundamentalism has played an important role in defining Appalachia as a unique subculture. In particular, the Baptist and Holiness/Pentecostal churches reinforced the traditionalism, localism, and individualism of the Appalachian people. In addition, the fundamentalist churches had a great impact on the social life of the region
Interestingly, religion continued to have a significant influence on many of the Appalachian people who migrated to Northern cities during the first half of the twentieth century. Driven to industrialized cities by poverty and shrinking employment opportunities in their native mountain regions, Appalachian migrants settled in a number of communities in the Midwest. Relatively poor, and speaking a noticeably different dialect, many Appalachian migrants felt isolated in their new surroundings. Migrant women, in particular, were vulnerable to feelings of alienation. These women were separated from their close kinship network, and most did not have the social opportunities provided for men by their work environment. Thus, for Appalachian migrant women, the church became an important substitute for the extended family ties severed by migration.
The original film documentary, Jesus Loves You Where You Are: 3 Generations of Pentecostal Women, illustrates the important role that the Pentecostal church has played in an Appalachian migrant community and family, and in particular the women in that community and family. This film addresses the marked differences in religious rituals for the men vs. women of the Pentecostal church, with particular emphasis on appearance-related rituals. The 3 generations of women portrayed in this film are relatives of 2 of the presenters (Patricia Smith Jones and Lisa Varner). The oldest woman portrayed in the film ("Goldie") migrated with her husband from eastern Kentucky to the Dayton, Ohio area in the 1930s and has remained there to this day. Of special interest in this film is the discussion of the Pentecostal religious ritual of women never or rarely cutting their hair (i.e., "their crowning glory," as the long hair is called by some members of the denomination). For the oldest women portrayed in this film ("Goldie"), this ritual was intrinsically based and filled with religious meaning. For Goldie's daughter ("Hazel") and granddaughter ("Katana"), however, this ritual was extrinsically motivated and was considered an unpleasant obligation. The film highlights the conflict faced by the two younger women in finally deciding to cut their hair, and the resulting impact of their decision on their religious beliefs and their family and church relationships.
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