Pentecostalism's nonviolent roots

March 27, 2009

There is a wonderful post at the Sojourners blog about the nonviolent roots of Pentecostalism. This is one of the things I’ve tried to consistently write about, and it is one of the things that consistently runs through my mind.

I imagine that most of my Pentecostal/charismatic friends would be shocked to discover that the vast majority of Christians that experienced the revival at Azusa street (the revival that birthed Pentecostalism world-wide) also believed that the proper Christian response to war is conscientious objection. Most of the historic Pentecostal denominations that exist today started out as officially pacifist. As a matter of fact, the Assemblies of God didn't officially change its position until 1967. Perhaps even more shocking is that some of the Pentecostal pioneers were imprisoned and -- yes, it can happen in America -- tortured for their refusal to participate in World War I.

It is a fascinating and depressing change that the Pentecostal and charismatic movements have undergone in the last half century. While it happened much faster this time (50 or so years, for the most part) than it did for the early church that eventually baptized the Roman Empire (150 years or so), it has much in common with that transition.

I have to again state that this transition in the early church nearly coincided with the transition away from belief in miracles, charismatic experiences as a whole (from praying/speaking in tongues, to prophecy, to the continued existence of apostles), and of course the idea that the church shouldn’t endorse the State.

The transition has begun. I’m wondering where it will go in the next hundred years or so? Will another movement (Emergent? A broader movement toward Anabaptism? Something else?) reclaim this combination, as current trends would seem to indicate?