13 June 2011

Great "Jumpers" in Church History

OK--the title of this post may draw a bit of interest.  The article to which it refers did not originally draw my interest, but I definitely found the article interesting upon reading it.  Last week, I finally got a chance to read the March 2011 edition of Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture.  This particular journal includes articles on a very wide number of topics regarding groups that are very orthodox, as well as those who are not very orthodox.  This particular issue had articles on Japanese Jesuits, the gendering of Puritanism, the 1860s Dakota War in Minnesota, and finally, an article written by J. Eugene Clay of Arizona State University titled "The Woman Clothed in the Sun: Pacifism and Apocalyptic Discourse among Russian Spiritual Christian Molokan-Jumpers" (76-108).

Before reading this article on the Jumpers, I had no idea that this group existed, nor, obviously, did I have a clue as to what they were about.  I know that this blog is about American church history, and some readers may be wondering what Russian "jumpers" has to do with American church history.  Surprisingly to me, the group actually had quite a bit to do with the topic American church history.

The jumpers originated in 19th-century Russia as a dissenting group against the official established Russian Orthodox Church.  They obtained their name "Molokans" from their refusal to observe fasts, during which they drank milk (the title Molokan comes from the Russian word for milk).  These Molokans were quite a charismatic group and experienced such things as speaking in tongues and dancing (hence the name jumper or leaper).  As dedicated pacifists, these jumpers fell afoul of the authorities in Russia, who required compulsory military service.  They interpreted the woman clothed in the sun as themselves and then decided to migrate as part of the imagery in Revelation. 

As a result of their pacifism and resulting persecution, the Molokans emigrated to Canada and the United States.  One especially large community grew up in Arizona.  All seemed to be going well for the jumpers until World War I broke out.  Refusal to register for the Selective Service led to the imprisonment of a group of jumpers.  The irony in this whole story is the fact that a group who came to America for religious freedom from military service wound up being imprisoned for what they attempted to avoid.  This was definitely an extremely interesting study that I found very intriguing. 

No comments:

Post a Comment