God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story Hardcover – 1 Jul 1992
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"A meticulously researched portrait of an influential African American."--"Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Inside Flap
"Unearthing rare, scarce, and previously unknown original sources, Watts spells out a comprehensive, even definitive account of Father's controversial life and charismatic ministry. In addition to the fascinating biography, this is solid social and intellectual history as well."American Academy of Religion" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unfortunately, the book relies almost entirely on anecdote. Want to know what some former follower said about "Mother Divine" in 1937? It's probably here. Want to know how many followers he had, or how much money, or where the money came from? No such luck. Divine said the money was handed to him directly by God, and that's enough for Watts. This is essentially a narrative, not a work of analysis.
The writing is irregular as well. One sentence refers to "black" followers and "white" followers, and the next to "blacks" and "EurAmericans." Watts editorializes oddly at times. Every decision that worked out well for the Peace Mission is characterized as coming from Divine's deep insight into human nature and careful planning. Every setback is credited to scheming by those who opposed him, especially William Randolph Hearst. It's not believable.
Though the reader is left with a decent understanding of why the movement has largely faded (hard to continue to maintain that you're God once you've died, plus the sex scandals, financial scandals, and the declining importance of Divine's apparent material wealth after the end of the Great Depression), there is not nearly so good a discussion of why it grew so large (or, for that matter, how large it grew, see above).
Finally, there is not a sufficiently clear demarcation in the text between the things we know are true and those that Watts merely supposes, especially in the scantily documented early years of Divine's life.
Father Divine finally takes his rightful place along with others of his era, Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Sunday and Charles & Myrtle Filmore. The elements incorporated into Father Divine's mission are varied besides New Thought, Unity, Christian Science, there are also elements of the Society of Friends as well as Shaker spirituality. This book was a constant surprise and delight. Father Divine comes across as fully human with a nobility of spirit that persevered through several decades of rampant racism. Highly recommended.
For anyone interested in the history of the Azusa Street Revival, and the development of the Pentecostal Movement, this is an essential book to add to your collection. Father Divine was only one of countless individuals who later became prominent in religious circles in the decades after attending the life-altering religious experience of the Azusa Street Revival.
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