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Religion and Society in America. Week 9 – Lecture 1 Conflict in Interwar America (continued); Fundamentalism & Modernists. Conflict in Interwar America; Fundamentalism & Modernists. Voices of Conflict (continued) Yellow Peril Fundamentalists & Modernists Protestants – A House Divided

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Religion and Society in America

Week 9 – Lecture 1

Conflict in Interwar America (continued); Fundamentalism & Modernists


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Conflict in Interwar America; Fundamentalism & Modernists

  • Voices of Conflict (continued)

    • Yellow Peril

  • Fundamentalists & Modernists

    • Protestants – A House Divided

    • Four View circa 1910

    • Example Billy Sunday

  • The Character of Fundamentalism


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Changing immigration policy of the U.S. is but one reflection of America’s new weariness of immigrants in the 20th century

  • 1921 & 1924 – legislation is passed effectively shutting down legal immigration to the United States (3% and 2% ratios)

  • First victims of the nation’s new restrictionist policies were the Chinese and Japanese in 1902


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Immigration Act of 1917 demanded literacy of all newcomers

  • 1923 – Calvin Coolidge asserts in his annual message to Congress on December 6th, that “America must be kept American” adding, “those who do not want to be partakers of the American spirit ought not to settle in America.”

  • What is the American spirit and how is it defined religiously speaking?


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • America’s Protestant denominations were mixed in sentiment concerning immigration restrictions

  • 1925 Northern Baptist Convention passed a resolution against the Congressional act of the previous year, stating, “Neither the ‘Nordic’ nor any other groups has the ear of the Almighty to the exclusion or injury of any other race…”


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • “…The question of race relationship must be honestly faced.” the Baptists asserted

  • Northern Baptists’ based conviction on idea of race, no specific mention of questions related to religious toleration

  • Nevertheless, voicing such an opinion largely stood out from the political and social sentiment of the day


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • While on the east coast, restrictionists kept a watchful eye on the population of Catholics and Jews, out west the concern was Chinese and Japanese

  • Much of the fear and hatred expressed toward of immigrants from the east was couched in the language of race

  • Following World War I, the former editor of the Sacramento Bee began to refer to Japan as “the Germany of Asia”


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Representative MacLafferty of California stated in a speech in 1924 and published in the Congressional Record: “Every Japanese believes that he is a child of the sun goddess, that the world belongs to Japan, and that Japan can possess any part of the world rightly by any means she may see fit to take. That is their belief.”


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • What was Japanese immigration so disconcerting to many 20th-century Americans?

  • Shinto (the way of Kami)

  • The Kojiki and Nihon Shoki are accounts of the creation. They begin with Chinese expression of the Yin and Yang, then record the role of the gods (Kami) in creating Japanese islands and imperial line

  • “Foreign” cosmology


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Sun Goddess is divine antecedent of emperor

  • Accounts tell of kami as dwelling in heaven and inhabiting the earth as sacred forces of nature

  • Ritual prayers (norito) akin to incantations, especially the (harai) which is the rite of exorcism and purification

  • “Foreign” to the reasonable religion most Protestants were attempting to maintain


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Meiji Restoration (1868 – 1911) – period in Japan in which “state Shinto” was declared “nonreligious” in an attempt to maintain the country's religious freedoms; however, the teachings of Shinto were required in public schools

  • Protestant America suspicious of such seemingly surreptitious activity


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Discussion of Japanese Shintoism or Buddhism was usually secondary to issues of race and economics

  • Most Americans simply dismissed these religious expressions as idolatry or paganism

  • Fear led them to ignore the fact that many Japanese, once in America, converted to Christianity


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Example: 1936 – Seattle Washington

  • Estimated 6,000 Japanese immigrants

  • 1,200 Christians

  • 960 Buddhists or adherents of other Eastern religions

  • Adaptive quality: “Buddha loves me, this I know”


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Harry Emerson Fosdick – prominent preacher, author, and national figure in New York City

  • Response to immigration question and legislative moves by Congress typified the ambivalence many open-minded Protestants held at the time


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Voices of Conflict – Yellow Peril

  • Prior to Congressional act of 1924, Fosdick maintained – “I am a restrictionist in immigration because I am not a sentimentalist.”

  • Following the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, Fosdick apologized over the radio to immigrants of Japanese ancestry, “The Exclusion Act stands as one of the most senseless, needless, intolerable pieces of racial prejudice ever perpetrated by a great nation.”


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Fundamentalists & Modernists

Photograph of the World’s Columbian Exhibition 1893, taking place in Chicago, Illinois


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Fundamentalists & Modernists

On “Chicago Day” (October 9, 1893) at the Exposition, 716,881 people were in attendance


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Fundamentalists & Modernists

  • “Fundamentalism in America, a complex emergence which also inevitably eludes precise definition, was at base a reactionary movement against Protestant liberalism and the Modernist party. As such it appeared as a revanchist force, after the challenges of modernity had become corrosive, abrasive, and threatening in the eyes of millions of believers. The pioneers of this movement first began gathering at major Bible conferences already before the turn of the century.” (Martin Marty)


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Fundamentalists & Modernists

  • 1920 – Curtis Lee Laws, editor of the Baptist Watchman-Examiner decided the term “conservative” was too pejorative a label and chose the name “Fundamentalist” to describe this loosely formed constituency

  • Laws maintained: “Fundamentalism, then, is a protest against the rationalistic interpretation of Christianity, which seeks to discredit supernaturalism.”


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Fundamentalists & Modernists

  • Baptist fundamentalist and militant Minneapolis cleric, William B. Ripley, “A fundamentalist is a person who unreservedly believes in the fundamental doctrines of supernatural, evangelical Christianity. A modernist is a person who reject any or all of these doctrines.”


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Protestants – A House Divided

  • 1926: 232,000 Churches in America vs. 256,000 Schools

  • 21,000,000 Sunday-school pupils vs. 24,700,000 public school students

  • 55% of the nation’s adult population were on the membership rolls of churches and synagogues

  • 44% of nation’s youth were on Sunday-school roosters


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Protestants – A House Divided

  • 1910s - Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians who had split over the American Civil War (North/South) had not reconciled

  • Protestants painfully aware of what divisiveness over theological could bring

  • Protestant camps (conservative, liberals and those in between) willing to overlook differences in order to reform society


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Protestants – A House Divided

  • The decade prior to America’s entry into World War I marked the end of an era of American evangelical establishment

  • Vision of establishing a “Christian America” in 19th century was becoming more and more of an illusion for many

  • Question facing conservatives: Should the movement attempt to reshape the culture and its churches from within or condemn them and separate from them?


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Protestants – A House Divided

  • By the turn of the century, interdenominational agencies supported both liberals and conservatives

  • Protestants had learned to live with differences and work cooperatively toward common reform agenda

  • Emerging conservative coalition within Protestantism


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Protestants – A House Divided

  • On this question, there was no consensus among conservatives but these tensions were temporarily obscured or overlooked by the anti-modernist agitation of the 1920s



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Fundamentalists & Modernists

  • The Fundamentals, a twelve volume paperback testimony by conservative evangelical Protestants was conceived and funded by a Southern Californian oil millionaire, Lyman Stewart

  • Published between 1910 – 1915, it was intended as a “Testimony to the Truth” describing contributing authors as “the best and most loyal Bible teachers in the world”


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Fundamentalists & Modernists

  • A. C. Dixon, a well-known evangelists and minister of the Moody Church in Chicago was hired as the editor of the text

  • The Fundamentals was freely distributed to every pastor, missionary, theological professor, theology student, YMCA and YWCA secretary, college professor, and Sunday school superintendent in the nation.

  • Some 3 million individuals were published in all


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Fundamentalists & Modernists

  • While the origins of what religious historians call “the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy” were socially diffuse, these forces dramatically collided in 1925 at the trial of John Scopes in Dayton, Tennessee.

  • During the late-1920s and 1930s there are divisions among fundamentalists and conservatives


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Fundamentalists & Modernists

  • Central to the debate was biblical hermeneutics

  • The “inerrancy of scripture” is a position formalized among Fundamentalists during the 1940s. In 1949, the Evangelical Theological Society, a gathering of leading evangelical scholars, established the doctrinal basis for inerrancy. Inerrancy meant that when “correctly interpreted,” the Bible is “truthful” regardless of the topic it broaches and does not contain material errors.


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Four Views circa 1910

  • premillennial extremism – small group of dispensationalists spokesmen who pushed the culturalpessimism of premillennialism to its logical extreme

  • The predicted “end of the age” and its telltale signs were readily available to fundamentalist interpretation


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Prophecies concerning “heaping treasure together” seemed to be evident in the new wealth of America’s entrepreneurial and capitalist classes (Carnegies, Vanderbilts, etc.)

  • Commercial ties to Europe with their shipping and railroad ties to the Middle East were interpreted as a literal revival of Babylon


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Four Views circa 1910

  • “Grasping after more, never content, and determined to rule, their wealth is a minister to corruption, an inspiration to official dishonesty, and a menace to the peace and comfort of society” wrote Isaac M. Haldeman

  • Democracy and socialism faired little better


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Socialism was seen as “lawless”

  • Fundamentalists argued Jesus rebuked Judas for his suggestion of giving to the poor arguing, Judas was “the only Socialist among professed Christians of whom the New Testament gives us record.”

  • Democracy was interpreted in light of prophetic dreams (Nebuchadnezzar) and understood as weak and ungodly


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Science and technology were viewed as the “increase of knowledge, the running to and fro” in the last days of judgment

  • Science, fundamentalists argued, was “impotent” in answering the “great riddles [of life] which laugh in the face of the most accomplished science.”


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Examples: Isaac M. Haldeman, pastor of First Baptist Church of New York City in 1910 wrote comprehensive dispensationalist volume entitled The Sign of the Times

  • Argued the Devil would led the 20th Century “into a drunken orgy of sin and shame and out breaking vice” similar to the French Revolution. This growing debauchery would ultimately result in religious revival


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Haldeman did not go as far as he might in working out this radical anti-worldly position, remaining in the Northern Baptist Convention


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Example: Arno C. Gaebelein was the editor and a regular contributor to the conservative publication Our Hope

  • Gaebelein ran a regular feature entitled “Current Events and Signs of the Times—in the Light of the Word of God”

  • Gaebelein separated himself the “apostate” Methodists in 1899


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Addressing the Prophetic Bible Conference of 1914, Gaebelein demanded his audience to follow in his footsteps: “How dare you support men and institutions who deny your Lord? How dare you keep fellowship with the enemies of the cross of Christ? Oh, listen to his call! Who is on the Lord’s side? If He tarry a little while longer you will find that you must either follow this solemn call of God or go along with the apostasy.”



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Four Views circa 1910

  • Revivalistic character – evangelistic commitment among those who would become viewed as fundamentalists ran high

  • Evangelicalism ran counter to the premillennial dispensationalism of fundamentalists

  • Men like Dwight L. Moody and Billy Sunday employed increasingly diverse revivalistic techniques and strategies to convert America to Christianity


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Moody Bible Institutes focused the attention of its students on the study of the bible, missions, and practical work

  • Two traditions, despite apparent contradictions, were fused together among fundamentalists


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Christian Civilization – commitment among evangelicals and conservatives to preserve traditional Christianity (broadly interpreted)

  • Emphasis on the practical and social

  • Initially fundamentalists were willing, to some extent, to work with persons holding various views in order to forward their efforts toward a “Christian Civilization”

  • Pragmatic defense of “old time religion” (William Jennings Bryan)


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Transforming Culture by the Word – involved three characterizations or assumptions about American culture

    • Pessimistic assessment of cultural achievements

    • Strict separation of church and state

    • Christianity fostered “right belief” among a nation


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Four Views circa 1910

  • Benjamin B. Warfield(1851 – 1921)was perhaps the chief articulator of this idea

  • Warfield expected Christianity “to reason its way to its dominion”

  • Reasonable faith, he was convinced, shall triumph

  • Revelation 19 – “the sword of victory proceeds out of the mouth of the Conqueror” he concluded was modern-day Christianity’s task


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Example: Billy Sunday

  • Sunday was flamboyant in his presentation

  • His “simple talk” appealed to the masses who were increasingly weary of the times and the Federal Government’s growth and intrusion into their lives


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Example: Billy Sunday

  • Sunday’s ordination examine before the Presbyterian church evoked several “standard” answers to theological questions including:

    • “That’s too deep for me”

    • “I’ll have to pass that up”

    • “I don’t know any more about theology than a jack-rabbit know about ping-pong, but I’m on my way to glory.”


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Example: Billy Sunday

  • Somewhat ironically, Sunday was one of the most advanced and gifted preachers to utilize new technologies (radio) to reach the masses

  • Sunday on prohibition


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Fundamentalism & Modernists

  • New York Evening Post (1924) – with “the Fundamentalists and modernists explaining things to each other, it is getting to be more interesting to go to church than to stay at home and read the newspapers.”


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The Character of Fundamentalism

  • Defining Fundamentalism:

  • Fundamentalism is “the militant exposure of all non-Biblical affirmations and attitudes.” (George Dollar)

  • A fundamentalist is “an evangelical who is angryabout something.” (George Marsden)

  • “A more or less organized coalition of militants” which first developed in the North. (George Marsden)


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The Character of Fundamentalism

  • Fundamentalists areoppositional to the cultural forces of modernism. (Ernest Sandeen)

  • Fundamentalists are cultural “outsiders” who hold a “minority self-image” and demand obligatory adherence among all Christians to their religious positions. (R. Laurence Moore)

  • “Fundamentalism was born in an era of anxiety over gender roles.” (Margaret L. Bendroth).


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