Religion

Pentecostalism in the Black Community

Who was influenced by Pentecostals and established a Peace Mission?

It was about 1914 that M. J. “Father” Divine (some sources indicate his real name was George Baker; 1879–1965) first proclaimed himself God as he established his movement, Father Divine’s “Kingdom” and Peace Mission. His initials stood for Major Jealous, which was taken from Exodus 34:14, “for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous god.” His followers also believed that he was God. He was tried on a charge of insanity in a Valdosta, Georgia, court on February 27, 1914, on the grounds that his claim to be God was clearly aberrant. He was convicted but not incarcerated. Born in Rockville, Maryland, into a poor family, Baker learned the skills of a gardener and yard worker. He moved to Baltimore in 1899 and became interested in the storefront churches that were popular at that time. He became a preacher who developed his own ideas about religion, drawing on Methodist, Catholic, and popular black traditions; he was also influenced by the New Thought movement that preceded the Christian Science and modern New Age movements. Baker went South in 1902, where he sought to save souls. Then he moved to the West Coast, where William J. Seymour and his Azusa Street revival meetings and the traditions of the Pentecostal movements influenced him. As he heard blacks and white “speak in tongues” and did so himself, he began to reshape his religious thoughts.



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