This Week in AG History -- Jan. 27, 1934
"Fake news" isn't new. In the 1930s, editors of the Pentecostal Evangel sought to set the record straight concerning falsehoods targeting Jewish people.The year was 1934, and a rising tide of anti-Semitism seemed to be sweeping the Western world. Adolf Hitler had recently ascended to power in Germany and strident voices in America were blaming Jews for the Great Depression.
Responding to this anti-Semitism, Pentecostal Evangel Associate Editor Charles E. Robinson wrote an article “as a solemn warning to all Christians” to avoid playing any role in the persecution of the Jews. In his article, “A Lawyer Examines Evidence,” Robinson invoked his professional training to demonstrate that a widely disseminated book purporting to be a secret Jewish manual for world domination was, in fact, a hoax.
The book in question, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, was an early 20th-century example of what might be called “fake news” today. Written to inflame public opinion against Jews, millions of people — including Christians — fell for its false claims that a Jewish conspiracy was responsible for global economic and political turmoil.
Many people began targeting Jewish people for persecution, making them the scapegoats for social unrest. “The Jews are in for a bad time,” Robinson predicted. “That they will suffer every unspeakable villainy that godless men can devise is no doubt true.”
Charles E. Robinson (1867-1954) had stature in Christian and professional circles. He began preaching in the Methodist church at age 17, graduated from law school, and practiced law with his father in Kansas City before entering the full-time ministry. He was ordained by the Assemblies of God in 1922 and quickly rose to prominence as a district leader in Arkansas. From 1925 until 1947 he served as an associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel. He authored approximately 20 books, which were published by Gospel Publishing House, Zondervan, and various British publishers, among others.
Robinson was not alone in his sensitivity to the plight of persecuted Jews. Another associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel, Myer Pearlman, was a British-born Jew who had accepted Christ and who became a prominent Assemblies of God theologian. Stanley Frodsham, the editor, was also from Britain and regularly alerted readers to the difficulties faced by Jews across Europe.
What can we learn from the response of Assemblies of God leaders who spoke out against populist anger directed toward Jews in the 1930s? They warned readers to carefully judge stories that seemed designed to vilify others. In this case, people who disliked Jews conspired to fabricate a story that was historically unfounded. “Fake news” stories about conspiracies may, ironically, be a conspiracy to engender hostility against alleged conspirators.
Sadly, Robinson’s prediction that the Jews would “suffer every unspeakable villainy that godless men can devise” came true with the Holocaust (1939-1945). However, future calamities might be avoided if more people were to follow Robinson’s admonition and carefully examine the evidence before accepting supposed news as truth.
Read the entire article by Charles E. Robinson, “A Lawyer Examines Evidence,” on page 3 of the Jan. 27, 1934, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Way of an Eagle,” by Tinnie Wheeler
• “Preach Faith,” by E. S. Williams
And many more!
Click here to read this issue now.
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions are provided courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.