Tuesday, 1 March 2016

THE HOLY JUMPERS.

America's New Acrobatic Sect.

Conditions in America (writes a contributor to the London "Daily Chronicle") seem particularly favorable to the propagation of freak religions. It is safe to say that not a week passes without someone, in some corner of the Republic, feeling called upon to prophesy. Most of these suffer the usual fate of prophets, and live and die without honor in either their own or any other country. Now and then a man of unusual force of character, or of unusual skill in the arts of the demagogue, succeeds in attracting a large and enthusiastic following, and a new religion, or, at least, a new sect, is born. The latest of these religions of the freak order to attempt the large task of remodelling society is the Pentecostal Union, the members of which are known as "the Holy Jumpers." Born in the slums of the city of Denver, cradled in gaol, and nourished on the scorn and contempt of the people, the Holy Jumpers are becoming numerous enough to be dangerous. Their proselytising campaign, by the personal appeal of missionaries, extends throughout the union. By means of their newspaper, known as the "Rocky Mountain Pillar of Fire," it has been carried into Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, and wherever the English language is read and spoken.

"The Holy Dance."
 The distinguishing feature of the new religion, that has earned for its devotees the name by which they are usually known, is the "Holy Dance." Without this, they assure a lost and sinful world, there can be no salvation. As Scriptural warrant for this form of terpsichorean Christianity, they cite the dance of Miriam, the sister of Aaron, after the triumphant passage of the Red Sea; of Jephtha's daughter at Mizpeh: and of David before the ark of the Lord. The Holy Dance of the Jumpers is not like anything else that is in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. In fact, it has not yet crystallised into conventional form. Some of the Jumpers simply jump. Some bounce up and down like rubber balls, and some hop aimlessly from one foot to the other. Some execute a halting two-step movement, some "chassez down the hall in true Sir Roger de Coverley fashion; and some essay the Mexican fandango, or a waltz, or a schottische, that was never learned in the fold of the sanctified. When they get excited, they fall into a "jig" or "breakdown" that would bring down the house if successfully imitated on the Vaudeville stage; and when their religious frenzy reaches an acute state, they turn somersaults and hand-springs, roll on the floor, or try to stand on their heads,
The "Holy Dance," therefore is about the wildest caper that was ever cut. But the dance isn't all. It is accompanied by a chorus of yells, hoots, shrieks, cat-calls, Scriptural exhortations, and ejaculations, quotations from hymns and psalms, and incoherent prayers.

Founder of the Sect.

Adding to the din is a piano, a big bass drum, two or three snare drums, and a pair of cymbals. On the centre of the platform stands Kent White, founder of the new sect, and its high priest and master of ceremonies. He rarely jumps, but sees to it that his flock relax not the vigor of their exertions. He reminds one irresistibly of the ring master of a circus. Kent White's chief assistant and coadjutor is his wife, Mrs. Alma White. She is fully twice the size of her husband. As an organiser she is truly Napoleonic.
The Jumpers are a fungus outgrowth from the sturdy tree of Methodism. For seven years White was a minister in the orthodox fold of Methodism. According to his own story he was a firebrand at the annual conferences, and when he turned his back upon the regular church organisation every minister within the pale of orthodoxy, drew a long breath of relief. Kent repaired to Denver and began a series of meetings on Larimer-street, in the city slums. He attracted a following almost from the start; and one night a tipsy listener became so delighted with the street preacher's "message" that he executed a few ragtime steps on the pavement.
The performance made an immediate hit which is not unnatural when we remember the surroundings; and with a flash of inspiration, White collared the first real "Jumper." Thus was born the "Holy Dance. After that it was performed nightly on streets and sidewalks and on vacant lots, attracting multitudes of curious and jeering spectators, and calling forth columns of sarcastic comment in the Denver newspapers. It was a truly magnificent advertising coup. Then the police interfered, treated the Jumpers as they had been accustomed to treat the drunks—gathered them all up and put them in goal. This drastic treatment only made matters worse. As soon as White and his followers got out of gaol they went at it again, and again they were arrested. This was kept up until the city fathers were in despair. At last the police threw up their hands and made a treaty of peace. Since then the Holy Jumpers have been "regulated." They still hold outdoor meetings, parade the streets, and do a certain amount of open air jumping; but they must avoid the obstruction of traffic and the collection of excessive crowds.

"Pentecostal Union,"

The Holy Jumpers were incorporated under the laws of Colorado in 1901, under the name of the Pentecostal Union. They had no money, but they had faith; and faith is the one thing needful. The building was finished two years ago, at a cost of 50,000 dollars, every cent of which is paid. They own a 5,000 dollar rest cottage on the out-skirts of Denver, to which the workers may retire occasionally for recuperation. Near Bound Brook, New Jersey, they own an 80 acre farm, on which they have built "Zarephath"—a home for children. The farm and buildings are valued at 30,000 dollars and here they plan to build still more extensively. In the Denver establishment are 200 persons training for missionary endeavor. At Bound Brook there are about 150, most of whom are children and care-takers. Scattered here and there throughout the union are more than 109 field missionaries, pushing the Jumper propaganda in the various fields to which they have been sent. All these activities cost money. Yet no Jumper is permitted to work for wages or to earn money in any way from "ungodly men or corporations." They make no investments for gain. They engage in no mercantile, mining, manufacturing, agricultural, or other money-making enterprises. They are forbidden to soil their holy hands by toil for filthy lucre. The natural query is—Where does all the money come from?
They answer in one word—Prayer. They say if they want anything from a 50000 dollar building to a paper of pins they ask God for it. Converts to the new faith must give up, not merely their worldly goods but those nearest and dearest to them. Father, mother, brothers, sisters, and little ones must be separated and kept apart for "the glory of God," and visits "back home" are forbidden. The children are sent to "Zarephath," in New Jersey, there to be trained in the Jumper faith and gymnastics.
The Express and Telegraph 23 Nov 1907

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