Who was Aimee McPherson?

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Aimee Semple McPherson was a famous Pentecostal evangelist who achieved something approaching celebrity status in 1920s America. She was on the front line of the war between modernism and religious fundamentalism that raged during this transitional decade. McPherson was unequivocally on the side of fundamentalism, passionately believing that faith should influence every single aspect of people's lives.

By the time she constructed her own Pentecostal church in Los Angeles, the Angelus Temple, McPherson had already earned a reputation as a tireless evangelist, preaching to massive congregations across the length and breadth of the United States.

Rival evangelists criticized her for her lavish sermons, which they thought turned the word of God into vulgar entertainment. In that sense, McPherson was one of the forerunners of televangelism. Like the televangelists of the modern era, she also claimed to be able to perform acts of faith healing, though as with all such claims, none were ever scientifically verified.

From the 1920s onward, McPherson became a recognizable public figure. She had her own radio show, which she used to broadcast her opinions on a wide variety of topics. McPherson was particularly involved in humanitarian work, tirelessly organizing the provision of food and clothing to unemployed Americans during the Great Depression.

Despite Pentecostalism's long-standing association with pacifism, McPherson became an enthusiastic supporter of the American war effort in World War II. To ever-growing audiences, she preached the message that the war was a battle between the Bible and Mein Kampf, the notorious book written by Hitler.

In later years, McPherson's church ran into serious financial difficulties. During this difficult period, McPherson openly fell out with a number of people in her organization, including her own daughter. However, a new administrator was brought in who got the church out of debt and settled the growing number of lawsuits against McPherson. This allowed McPherson to concentrate on what she knew best: preaching and evangelizing. And she would continue to do this right up until her untimely death in 1944.

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