If outsiders knew nothing else about early pentacostals, they knew that saints ought to live their days and especially their nights in a heavenly city glittering with the signs and wonder of the New Testament church. In that holy space the timeless truths and universal values of Scripture would reign uncontested. And to a remarkable extent they succeeded too. When believers entered the realm of daily affairs, they considered themselves aliens at best, pilgrims passing through foreign territory. G.K. Chesterton once said that Christians could be defined as persons who felt "homesick at home." Whether he spoke for the mass of modern Christians may be debated, but clearly he spoke for pentacostals.
Examples of this relentless heaven-mindedness surfaced everywhere. One Chicago partisan put it as plainly as the English language permitted: "Those who speak in tongues seem to live in another world." Living in another world took many forms. For some, it engendered something like a sixth sense, a fundamentally new way of seeing even the natural landscape around them. "It seemed as if human joys vanished," one Florida advocate wrote. "It seemed as if the whole world and the people looked a different color." A Wesleyan Methodist pastor in Toronto spoke of a surge of feelings she had never known, describing it as "overwhelming power," "absence of fleshly effort," a sensation of walking "softly with God." Some devotees entered a sacred zone where time itself seemed calibrated by diving rather than human standards.
If the other world of timeless truths and universal values served as an all-consuming center of concern, it is hardly surprising that Pentecostals betrayed little interest in earthly affairs such as presidential elections or local political controversies. Their response to the world war raging in Europe was instructive. Though I later probe this question more deeply, suffice if to say that most professed no opinion at all until the iron hand of the Selective Service finally left them no choice.
Even then many tried not to think about it at all. In the midst of the conflict one prominent editor promised that his periodical would never "take part in the heated discussions about the war." Others made plain that non-Christian soldiers risked more than physical danger. "War is a feeder of hell," stormed the Church of God Evangel. "This last awful struggle has been the cause of millions of mother[s'] boys dropping into the region of the damned where they are entering their eternal tortures." The current world war mainly reminded evangelist Aimee McPherson that biblical prophesies about the "Signs of the Times" were coming true with "astounding exactness."
Holy Spirit-filled believers not only lost interest in politics but also proved oblivious to many of the day-to-day recreations that most people considered simple and legitimate pleasures of life. I am not speaking here of a pipe by the fireplace on a winter's night or a frosty beer on a summer afternoon. Enjoyments of that sort, which all radical evangelicals shunned, remained inconceivable. The point rather is that even commonly sanctioned satisfactions such as dropping a fishing line or watching a parade faded in the glow of the heavenly light.
Consider, for example, the diary of Pentacostal Holiness Church leader George Floyd Taylor. Besides a daily weather report, the document speaks almost entirely of sermons preached, Bible passages pondered, church classes taught, and prayer meetings attended. The entry for August 27 1908, taken virtually at random, proclaims, My soul is a sea of glass . Glory! Glory! . My soul secretly cries out of God to hide me away in His presence." One would never suspect that this husband and father of four--a man perennially troubled by a serious physical handicap--had ever paused to appreciate the world pulsating around him. And then there was Walter Higgins, who received a directive from the Lord to launch a revival in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. "We were out of groceries in the house and I hated to leave my wife alone in that condition," the young evangelist lamented. Nonetheless, he went.