Sojourners Magazine: March 2014
FOR THE FIRST few centuries after Jesus, the early church took seriously his teachings on peacemaking and enemy love. Many converts refused to serve in the Roman army or left it when they converted; some were martyred for those actions. That conviction diminished over the centuries as just war teaching dominated, and it was only kept alive in small sections of the church.
Paul Alexander, now co-president of Evangelicals for Social Action following founder Ron Sider’s retirement, was raised in the conservative Assemblies of God tradition. Like many, he grew up with a deep loyalty to the U.S. and admiration for military service. At a recent meeting of the Sojourners board, he shared the story of his journey to peacemaking. In this issue, Alexander tells that story.
His “road to Damascus” experience came when he discovered that early Pentecostalism in the U.S., including the AG, had been committed to nonviolence. While researching his doctoral dissertation on the subject, he found a rich history of church statements and teachings on the topic that had mostly been forgotten. And he learned that his grandfather had been a conscientious objector who worked in Civilian Public Service during World War II.
In 2002, during the buildup toward the war in Iraq, Alexander co-founded Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice. The group’s first activity was an open letter to President George W. Bush opposing an invasion. The organization now exists in countries around the world.
Pentecostals, writes Alexander, “tend to believe in Spirit empowerment and healing, so it makes sense for them to live as if the Spirit can empower them to love everybody (even enemies).” May we all be so moved.