Monday, October 26, 2020by Reverend Dan on October 26, 2020
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.”
As you all know, I am as much a historian as I am a theologian. I recently came across an article from a 1972 edition of Liberty Magazine that combined my two areas of love. It was the story of someone I had never heard of, and the story fascinated me. To say this man was a “character” would be a vast understatement. For the next few days, I am going to share that story with you with the permission of Liberty Magazine. Hopefully, it will give us a fresh and humorous look at elections and give us a break from the deluge we are currently under regarding this year’s contests.
In every election from 1952 to 1968, though few Americans know it, a Pentecostal preacher ran for president of the United States. This clergyman, as Theocratic Party candidate for the nation’s highest office, promised to unite church and state, base the nation’s laws on the King James Bible, appoint leading churchmen to all Cabinet offices, and create two new Cabinet posts: secretary of righteousness and secretary of the Holy Bible. He never captured the White House, but he took his defeat with a smile. Why would he complain, when as self-proclaimed “King of the World” he outranked any mere president?
The man’s name was Homer A. Tomlinson, and his biography adds a surrealistic touch with a comic-opera flavor to the history of church-state relations in America.
In 1892 Homer’s father, Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson, started an independent church in Cherokee County, in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. He borrowed the name “Church of God” from the church of that name in Anderson, Indiana. The new sect, starting with a handful of members, proposed to unite all churches, work miracles as Jesus and the apostles had done, and do “even greater things.” They set out to speak with new tongues, heal the sick, cast out devils, take up serpents, and drink poison without being hurt by it.
A. J. Tomlinson’s early neighbors suffered from a lack of enthusiasm for the new religion. They called the innovator a fanatic and a zealot. They shot at him and his family, burned down his log-cabin church, and brought a series of lawsuits against him. Once they hauled him into court for allegedly “casting the devil out of a woman and throwing the devil over the fence into Mr. McFadden’s garden adjoining the tent grounds.” Local papers described the church services as “orgies.”
Still the sect grew, making its headquarters in Cleveland, Tennessee, where the irrepressible Tomlinson’s and their followers danced in the spirit, with shakings and tremblings.
If we may believe Homer’s autobiography, The Shout of a King, he was a phenomenon from birth. The day he was born, October 25, 1892, he says [that] Elwood Haynes drove his first gasoline-driven automobile out of the garage in Kokomo, Indiana. (Records indicate that Mr. Haynes first drive actually took place on July 4, 1894.) Tomlinson later saw prophetic meaning in this. Tomlinson also “just happened to be there” in the home of the Wright brothers, at Dayton, Ohio, when they invented the airplane. He assisted them, he says, in loading the equipment for their Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, experiments.
(to be continued . . .)
“Father, Thank you for stories of faith and history, and the people who make them. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”