Biography of Famous Preacher Father Divine Part 1
About the famous American preacher and religious character Father Divine, biography and history of the church evangelical.
FATHER DIVINE (c. 1864-1965)
His followers often chanted "He is God, he is God, he is God, God, God!" The women among them wore sweaters with a "V" for "virgin," and, slightly modified, a popular tune of the period serenaded him with the words "I can't give you anything but love, Father. . . ." The bald, paunchy little man--he was 5'2"--wore $500 silk suits, was chauffered about in a Duesenberg, or flew with his army of secretaries in a private plane. The "Heavens" established by his disciples (some 20 million of them, he claimed) made him rich, but he owned next to nothing in his own name. He didn't even have a bank account. He fed, clothed and housed the poor of all races at his missions, helped Fiorello La Guardia and Franklin Roosevelt get elected by lending his support, and consoled thousands searching for some faith to hold onto during the Great Depression. Yet husbands sued him, claiming that their wives frolicked in his heavenly boudoir, "The Sun Dial," and one domestic-relations judge denounced him from the bench as a methodical home-wrecker. To some, Father Divine was a saint or folk hero, to others a black Elmer Gantry or P. T. Barnum. Whichever the case, he was a genuine American phenomenon.
Father Divine claimed that he'd arrived on earth intact in a puff of smoke at "about the time of Abraham" to spread a creed of peace, communal living, celibacy, honesty, and racial equality. More likely he was born on Hutchinson's Island, Ga., anywhere from 1864 to 1877, his real name probably being George Baker. As the son of a Georgia sharecropper and former slave, there were few opportunities open to him, and from childhood on he worked at odd jobs, even preaching in Sunday schools, until he became a disciple of Sam Morris, a Negro who promoted the idea that he was "Father Jehovah." He then joined a group called "Live Ever, Die Never." These cults formed the basis for his own movement and he was soon promoting himself along similar lines, much to the annoyance of Georgia officials. He was tried as a public nuisance, booked as "John Doe, alias God," and given the choice of confinement in a mental institution or leaving the State.
With a few adherents, Father Divine opted for the 2nd alternative and headed north, where he settled in Harlem in 1915 and began persuading thousands of followers that he was God. His logic and language often were not of this world. "God is not only personified and materialized," he once said. "He is repersonified and rematerialized. He rematerialized and He rematerializes. He rematerialates and He is rematerializatable. He repersonificates and He repersonificatizes." Such indescribable tortuosities, and others such as "repersonifiably metaphysicalizationally" were probably uttered both to impress and confuse his followers and thus convince them of his divine origins. Though not so intended, they can be viewed as the ultimate satire on the semantics of the hucksterism that has pervaded American life before and after him.
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