Divine

Divine

[dih-vahyn]
Divine, Father, c.1882-1965, African-American religious leader, founder of the Peace Mission movement, b. probably near Savannah, Ga. and named George Baker. After preaching in the South, he moved to Harlem (1915) in New York City, became one of the neighborhood's biggest landlords, acquired wealth through other businesses, including restaurants and grocery stores, and began styling himself Major M. J. Divine, later Father Divine. Although once dismissed as a cult leader, he built the largest religious movement in northern ghettos during the Great Depression. His role as an early civil-rights activist—he led antilynching campaigns, instituted economic cooperatives, and organized political action against racial discrimination—has come to be more appreciated. The movement spread beyond New York City to other places in the United States and abroad, sometimes after the group sent whites to purchase property in segregated areas. During the 1940s, his health and influence declined, but his movement symbolized the progressive spirit in the black church and helped define the church's active role in the civil-rights movement.

See S. Harris, Father Divine (rev. ed. 1971); K. E. Burnham, God Comes to America (1979); R. Weisbrot, Father Divine (1984); J. Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A. (1992).

Religio-political concept that views a ruler as an incarnation, manifestation, mediator, or agent of the sacred. In some nonliterate societies, members view their rulers or chiefs as inheritors of the community's own magical power. The ruler may exercise this power either malevolently or benevolently, but he is usually responsible for influencing the weather and the land's fertility to ensure the harvest necessary for survival. In other societies, particularly those of ancient China, the Middle East, and South America, the ruler was identified with a particular god or as a god himself; in Japan, Peru (among the Inca), Mesopotamia, and the Greco-Roman world, the ruler was regarded as the son of a god. In either case—whether the ruler embodies his own magical power or that of the community—the ruler protects the community from enemies and generally feeds and cares for his people. A third form of divine kingship, one practiced in Europe, is that of the ruler as mediator or executive agent of a god. In this form it is the institution of kingship, more than an individual ruler, that bears the mark of the sacred.

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Numerical proportion considered to be an aesthetic ideal in classical design. It refers to the ratio of the base to the height of a rectangle or to the division of a line segment into two in such a way that the ratio of the shorter part to the longer is equal to that of the longer to the whole. It works out to about 1.61803:1. A rectangle constructed from golden sections (segments in this ratio) is called a golden rectangle.

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orig. George Baker

(born 1880?, Georgia?, U.S.—died Sept. 10, 1965, Philadelphia, Pa.) U.S. religious leader. Reportedly born on a plantation, he began preaching in 1899 in the South and later in Baltimore, Md., as “The Messenger.” He settled in New York City in 1915 and adopted the name Major J. Devine (later altered to Father Divine). In 1919 he established his first communal settlement in Sayville on Long Island, and he founded the Peace Mission movement. His predominantly black following expanded rapidly in the 1930s and '40s, and his settlements, called “heavens,” eventually numbered about 170. He taught his followers to renounce personal property, and the strict moral code he preached included celibacy and a ban on alcohol and tobacco. Many of his followers, called “angels,” believed him to be God.

Learn more about Divine, Father with a free trial on Britannica.com.

orig. George Baker

(born 1880?, Georgia?, U.S.—died Sept. 10, 1965, Philadelphia, Pa.) U.S. religious leader. Reportedly born on a plantation, he began preaching in 1899 in the South and later in Baltimore, Md., as “The Messenger.” He settled in New York City in 1915 and adopted the name Major J. Devine (later altered to Father Divine). In 1919 he established his first communal settlement in Sayville on Long Island, and he founded the Peace Mission movement. His predominantly black following expanded rapidly in the 1930s and '40s, and his settlements, called “heavens,” eventually numbered about 170. He taught his followers to renounce personal property, and the strict moral code he preached included celibacy and a ban on alcohol and tobacco. Many of his followers, called “angels,” believed him to be God.

Learn more about Divine, Father with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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