In 1906, an African-American Holiness revival preacher, brought news to Los Angeles, that in Kansas and Texas, there was evidence of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in modern day signs and wonders and prophesies of a dawning of a new age. The days of the apostles were here again. Jesus was coming soon. The Apostolic Faith, as it was called, became a sensation and then a part of the broader culture of urbanizing America, and as such became a part of the culture that Americans exported around the world in foreign missions. In terms of sect production, this movement created a multitude of splinter groups all competing for the hearts and minds of Americans, and again, much of what we think of today as evangelical is really Pentecostal religion gone mainstream.
Peace Train is a Holy Roller
The Pentecostal movement centered on experiences of the powerful spirit of God in prophesies, healings, and general improvement of church and life. Most unusual of these widespread experiences, was perhaps, speaking in tongues unknown to the speaker under the influence God’s spirit. Initially, speaking in tongues, or “tongues” as the phenomenon came to be called in shorthand, was assumed to be the precise miracle found in the new testament book of Acts at the birth of the church. In short time, however it was re-imagined as an unknown language, given to the speaker to signify the power of prophecy and signs. In fact, the movement was to have a prophetic character in social transformations such as interracial worship, women in leadership, democratic worship forms, pacifism to warfare. Because their worship innovations and social transformations were considered so unusual, and because they attributed these to the Holy Spirit, they were like radical holiness advocates, called in derision, Holy Rollers. As I said about the earlier Holiness Movement, in the words of Cat Stevens, “Peace Train is a Holy Roller.”
Little did I know, as a young Pentecostal growing up when that song was made popular, and becoming myself a christian pacifist to war, the religion of my youth had not only been a Holy Roller, but had much earlier ridden the peace train.
In the Pentecostal Pacifist Group pages here, I will give many examples of what early Pentecostals believers said about peace and war, and their advocacy of pacifism and conscientious objection to war. I will also display a number of examples of evidence that there was widespread adoption of pacifist practices in resisting what early Pentecostals referred to as the “war spirit” or what they considered in their apocalyptic language, the spirit of antichrist.