JAY BEAMAN AND BRIAN K. PIPKIN, eds. Pentecostal and Holiness Statements on War and Peace. Pentecostals, Peacemaking, and Social Justice Series. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2013. Pp. 291. $34.00 (USD)
In light of Jay Beaman’s and Brian K. Pipkin’s extensive research, scholars will have to rethink their assessment of Pentecostalism and its traditional affiliation with right wing politics, especially in its support of war and the use of force for the spread of democracy in the world. Pentecostal groups and, to a degree, Holiness churches will also need to reconsider their traditional positions on these topics in light of the historic witness emanating from Beaman and Pipkin’s collection. It is the rectification of this “loss of memory” that is the explicit purpose of this collection of peace statements assembled in their volume, Pentecostal and Holiness Statements on War and Peace (5).
Reading the often strong and unambiguous statements collected in this book, I find ironic the hawkish leanings of most of these denominations today. In his introduction, Beaman recalls visiting the archives of a small Pentecostal denomination. Though he was graciously received, he was assured that their denomination had never articulated any kind of peace statement. He was even more emphatically assured that no one in the denomination had ever registered as a conscientious objector to war. His host was shocked when Beaman produced evidence of both after only a little digging (3).
This is but one example of a “forgotten legacy” of pacifism that runs through nearly every Holiness and Pentecostal denomination today. It is for this reason, above all, that this collection has been produced.
In his introduction, Beaman notes that a part of recollection is the re-collection of what has been lost. The book, then, is structured in two primary collections of statements: Holiness statements and Pentecostal statements, each listed alphabetically.
The authors do well to admit that such organization is problematic. As such scholars as Donald Dayton have established, the line between Holiness and Pentecostal movements is sometimes blurry. More than a few Holiness leaders have become Pentecostals and some have even established Pentecostal movements of their own.
This observation also highlights the fact that the Holiness movement pre-dates that of the Pentecostal by some time. Consequently, Beaman and Pipkin further divide their collection of Holiness peace statements into Antebellum and later Holiness groups. Such division allows for a clearer picture of these statements as they interact with and respond to major events and social shifts in American society over time.
However, the volume is not merely interested in nostalgia. A second purpose for this collection is the encouragement of contemporary pacifists. Beaman states, “sometimes when our contemporaries cannot or will not encourage us, our religious forebears can” (23). By publishing this collection of early Holiness and Pentecostal peace statements, the editors of this work are calling forward a significant tradition of peace witness from the not-so-distant past. Modern day women and men who are wrestling with the moral and ethical difficulties of war will find ready and abundant aid from the statements represented in this book.
Another strength of this volume lies in its resourcefulness for the advancement of scholarship in the arena of religion and society. If nothing more, these statements provide clear snapshots of major shifts in American religious sentiments spanning a period of over 150 years. Significant transitions may be observed as the nation shifts from social optimism to pessimism in the years following the Civil War. Such transitions are reflected in the concurrent shift from post- to pre-millennialism in the eschatological outlooks of the represented denominations. The mass bureaucratization and organization of American society during World War I is reflected in the clearer and more systematic articulation of statements in this period. Other shifts include the mainstream acceptance of Holiness and Pentecostals by the American middle class and the upward social mobility of the members of these denominations. All of these trends result in a slow shift from robust pacifism to social accommodation and, in some cases, the abandonment of pacifism altogether.
Of particular interest to many readers will be the inclusion of statements from historic peace churches. These include statements from Mennonites, Quakers, and the Brethren in Christ (though the Brethren in Christ are categorized under “Radical Holiness Statements”). These statements serve two purposes within the collection. First, they provide a baseline of pacifist statements from movements that pre-date both Pentecostalism and the Holiness Movement. It is noteworthy that some of these groups (like the Brethren in Christ) joined the Holiness movement. Their involvement had to have an impact on other Holiness churches. But they demonstrate another important point. Even those churches that possess a long and notable peace position are subject to change and accommodation over time. The inclusion of their statements provides a comparison case for the Holiness churches and Pentecostals over the same period of time.
Taken together, Beaman and Pipkin have preserved a substantial body of statements, covering an impressive period of time, that bear witness to a considerable commitment to peace and nonconformity within the Holiness and Pentecostal traditions. Beaman’s own introduction offers a worthy defense and rationale for this project and is made all the more germane by his candid and, at times, personal reflection. It is an excellent resource for church historians as well as current and aspiring pacifists today.