Book Notice: Peace to War
I love people and movements who break stereotypes. The stereotype that people have about Pentecostals (and Charismatics) is that they are always ignorant fundamentalists, racist, sexist, heterosexist, and extremely militaristic. Well, it’s a rare Pentacostal who is pro-GLBT (those I’ve know about have had to leave for other Christian communities) , but that could be said about MANY Christian denominations or faith traditions. But the other stereotypes, while having some basis on the current U.S. scene, are absolutely false about early Pentecostal history. During the early days of the movement, Pentecostals were strong for racial justice and reconciliation (even though this was at the height of Jim Crow segregation). They also had many women ministers during a period when few mainline denominations did (although they still preached male “headship” in the home). And most early Pentecostals were PACIFISTS.
That heritage has been buried, its true, but younger Pentecostals are trying to recover it. So, even though I am not a Pentecostal (I might be considered a semi-charismatic Baptist!), I cheer such efforts. Friday, my copy of Peace to War: Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God arrived. This book by my friend, Paul Alexander (co-founder of the Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship), is a revision and popularization of his Ph.D. dissertation (at, of all places, Baylor University!). My mentor, Glen H. Stassen, wrote the forward. I cannot wait to finally read this important work.
It builds on the earlier book by Jay Beaman, Pentecostal Pacifism: The Origin, Development, and Rejection of Pacific Belief Among the Pentecostals. The forward to that work is by the late Mennonite John Howard Yoder, another of my mentors.
I also recommend, Proclaim Peace: Christian Pacifism from Unexpected Quarters, ed. Theron Schlabach and Richard Hughes, which includes 3 chapters on Pentecostal pacifism, chapters on the Churches of Christ (one section of the Stone-Campbell movement), the Church of God, Adventism, Mormonism, Liberal Christian pacifism between the World Wars, Methodist COs during Vietnam, Catholic pacifism and the seduction of Reformed Just War theorists into blind Christian nationalists.
All of this reinforces my claim that Christian pacifism is not, per se, a theologically liberal position. Sure, many Christian pacifists have been theological liberals or political liberals. But many more have been theologically conservative and either politically conservative or apolitical. Christian pacifism (or, as I prefer to say, Gospel Nonviolence) is simply biblically faithful and while not every theology will support it (some definitely will NOT), several different theological approaches do yield strong pacifists.
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