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Religion: A Religious Party

4 minute read

Among the numerous followers of Rev. Major J. (“Father”) Divine who have never laid eyes on the man they think is God, is a sizable group in California. These Divinites claim to number 100,000, one-quarter of them white. In Los Angeles last week, G-men were delving into affairs of the local “kingdom.” In his Harlem and Kingston, N. Y. headquarters small, brown Father Divine, despite his claim that he is not responsible for his out-of-town followers, was plainly worried — all because able Reporter Johnston Davis (“Jack”) Kerkhoff of the New York Journal had dug up a lurid story about the brown “God’s” chief West Coast “angel,” broken it to the G-men and was playing it for all it was worth in his Hearstpaper. The U. S. Attorney in Los Angeles last week issued a warrant for the arrest of John Wuest Hunt, 33, charging him with violating the Mann Act with a Denver 17-year-old named Delight Jewett. Hunt, a fat, thrice-married young man with plenty of money, became a Divinite in Manhattan two years ago, was last year put under observation in Bellevue Hospital because he sent Postmaster General Farley certain obscene confessions as to the good Father Divine had done him. According to Miss Jewett, a schoolgirlish young lady whose story the Journal frontpaged daily last week, Hunt—”St. John the Revelator” in Divinese—converted her to belief in the Harlem godhead, presently seduced her.

Driven by his chauffeur, accompanied at times by two other women and a 70-year-old named “Smitty” who called himself “St. John the Baptist,” they toured around in a big automobile. Hotels accepted them as “St. John the Baptist & party of five,” one room clerk noting on his register “a religious party on tour.” “St. John the Revelator” introduced Miss Jewett to such Divine beliefs as that the Father could send a “vibration” from Harlem to Denver. Wrote she last week: “I felt a sudden chill. Everyone was pleased. They told me, ‘that is Father Divine sending his love.'” Then Hunt decided he was no longer St. John but “Jesus the Christ,” with Miss Jewett as a “Virgin Mary” who should give birth to a “new redeemer.” Rapidly “Jesus the Christ’s” views became so unorthodox, from a Divine point of view, that the Father felt obliged to write a sharp letter—addressed to Virgin Mary at a Palm Springs hotel and marked “No such” by a puzzled postman—reminding them that “To live an Evangelical Life, those in the likeness of females will not even so much as ride in an automobile correspondingly together, as couples. They will not walk correspondingly together nor have any personal, special communication, for such is in violation to My Spiritual Rule and Regulation.” (Father Divine is against sexual intercourse.) Last week Delight Jewett was cured of her addiction to Divinism and Hunt, who she said had “petrified” and “hypnotized” her. (Likewise her father said he had intended to kill Hunt, instead shook his hand, feeling “the tremendous power of this man and Father Divine.”) But at week’s end no G-man throughout the U. S. had yet found Fat John Wuest Hunt to arrest him.

In his Kingston “Promised Land,” Father Divine disavowed the man who had lived in his Harlem heaven and whose confessions of sexual misdeeds had proudly been spread in the official Divine Spoken Word. Meanwhile, in Pasadena, G-men found odd evidence linking Hunt and Divine and indicating Hunt’s status in the cult. This was a partly-completed “throne car,” being built by a coach works. It was to cost from $25,000 to $40,000 and specifications called for a 265-m.p. Duesenberg motor on a 178-inch wheelbase, the tonneau to contain a raised throne surrounded by seats for eight people, with star-shaped windows on each side and a crescent one in the rear (see cut, p. 59). The top was designed, at the touch of a button, to swing back and down revealing the throne-sitter—presumably Father Divine. The interior was to be lined with leather, the ceiling, of white plush with gold stars. On the radiator would be Father Divine’s symbol, a dove. Aware that Hunt designed the throne car and probably planned to pay for it. G-men stood guard over it last week on the chance that he might show up.

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