Loading in 2 Seconds...
Loading in 2 Seconds...
A Review of American History to Understand America’s Current Cultural Status and The Implications for Evangelization (Part 1). Original Edition Prepared For: NAMB’s 2006 Leadership Summit Current Revision Prepared For: SBC State Convention Directors of Mission
Original Edition Prepared For:
NAMB’s 2006 Leadership Summit
Current Revision Prepared For:
SBC State Convention Directors of Mission
& Missouri, Oklahoma & South Carolina Staff Meetings in 2007
Prepared by: Dr. James B. Slack, Missiologist of IMB, SBC
This PowerPoint presentation is supported by at least two other Word source documents. The major one of the two is Frontiers of Lostness in the US.
The aim of this presentation is to explore and present a history of immigration into the USA from 1775 to the present with a view to exposing major implications concerning church planting then and now.
All that is presented in this biblical background section goes at least back to Abraham when God moved to make Abraham the father of ethnic peoples, ethnic evangelization and ethnic blessings that extended even to the families (phulagi in Greek).
Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, Go out from your country and from your family and from your father's house, into the land to which I will be your guide: 2 And I will make of you a great nation [ethnos—an ethnic people group), blessing you and making your name great; and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families (tribes, clans, peoples) of the earth shall be blessed."
To bring Himself as Saviour into this world in an incarnate state, God chose Abraham as the basis for developing a distinct ethnic people group—Israel (the people of God). Israel would be the channel through which the lineage and heritage of Jesus would flow and come into this world in the flesh.
God promised Abraham and us through Abraham that He would make of Abraham a great “nation” (ethnic people group) through whom (Israel-the people of God) He would engage and blessn not only every ethnic group but also every tribe (phulagi—translated as tribe and family that follows within the lineage of a clan, a tribe, an ethnic group).
Throughout God’s developing of His ethnic people group Israel, God continually pleaded that Israel put Him first, clean up their life--personal and national-- and ultimately take His hope of salvation to the “panta ta ethne” (each and every ethnic group). All of this history from Abraham in Genesis is summarized in Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19 & 20).
For Israel from its beginning in Abraham unto spiritual Israel now (each Christian and each Church), the “panta ta ethne” was and is the focus of “making disciples.” The “panta ta ethne” obligation can be seen in the Old Testament in the “stranger in thy home,” the “stranger (ethnic) in thy midst.”
On occasion in the O.T., as with Jonah, God called individual witnesses to take His message to other ethnic groups. In Jonah’s eyes, Nineveh was a major enemy of Israel, deserving to be damned forever. In God’s eyes the people of Nineveh were a “lost” ethne to be “evangelized.” And, God worked to make him go.
The story of Jonah is one of a number of stories as to how God reminded Israel that their mission in life was to be the channel of the Messiah to lost ethnes. Israel was to be the messenger to the lost (enemy or not) concerning God’s promise of salvation.
In this case, with significant coaxing, Jonah came through, Nineveh was delivered, and Israel continued in its move toward its destiny. Even then, Jonah’s ethnocentricity would not allow him to enjoy the conversion of an entire city. All Christians face this same issue of the ethnic people groups, friends or foes among us, who need to be evangelized.
However, in multiple other situations like the one Jonah faced, Israel did not respond to God’s coaxing to clean up their lives and be His messenger to the “panta ta ethne.” As a result, God punished Israel by allowing Israel’s enemies to occupy Israel, the Holy Land, allowed them to take His people into captivity. Only by means of a remnant that God saved and brought out of those in captivity did Israel survive. Throughout the Testament history it continued to be difficult for Israel to remember and respond to God’s mission to the “panta ta ethne” through them—His chosen people.
In the last two years, Acts 1:8 has been a major theme of the SBC and the focus of many SBC events. Southern Baptists could have no more biblical nor historically appropriate theme at this time in its history.
However, many fail to interpret Acts 1:8 in the context of the “panta ta ethne” in Matthew 28:19 & 20 which is telling the new Christian believers that they are to be conscious of, identify, engage and evangelize every ethnic group (panta ta ethne) in one’s Jerusalem; every ethnic group in one’s Judea; every ethnic group in one’s Samaria; and every ethnic group in one’s uttermost. This connection is much easier to grasp when one reads Matthew 28:19 & 20 followed immediately by Acts 1 and the illustration of the “panta ta ethne” in their Jerusalem in Acts 2.
My thanks goes out to my fellow presenters during this NAMB leaders summit for parts of their presentations that have laid the foundation for this topic. (Remember or notice that the first edition of this presentation was first developed and presented during a leadership summit of NAMB when multiple presenters preceded this presentation.)
I am grateful that Dr. Towns of Liberty University reviewed the foundation of “ta ethne” as God’s mandate from Christ and the Scripture for all believers of all times.
From the time of God’s call and promise to Abraham and beyond to Jesus’ giving His Great Commission’s “ta ethne” focus, an ethnolinguistic people group focus has existed for all believers. Acts 1:8 and all of Acts 1 & 2 underlines the Great Commission’s ethnic mandate.
I am grateful to Dr. Roy Fish for talking about historic awakening type growth in the 1950s and about the importance of Worldview awareness in ministering to any ethnic of any time.
I am also grateful to Dr. Lawless for talking about “Exegeting the City” and giving attention to the variety of ethnic, Great Commission, people groups during his Acts 1:8 presentations.
I am also committed to Dr. Fish’s worldview emphasis because dealing with “worldview” is one of basic reasons for a biblical “ta ethne” focus and mandate.
Acts 1:8 has less to do with the actual or symbolic geographical implications related to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost” than to it’s link with the Great Commission’s “panta ta ethne” focus. Thus, a “panta ta ethne” focus starts in Jerusalem and remains a priority in each of those geographic settings. Luke 24, Matthew 28 and Acts 2 present Jesus as placing the “seeing” and “engaging” of the “panta ta ethne” (ethnic engagement) in one’s heart language foremost in the life of every believer.
At the same time, a people group focus does not rule out engaging society according to other groupings such as students, the classes, etc., as long as the primary commitment is that of engaging every ethnic group in one’s midst.
Even though other groupings of people are allowed, if a “panta ta ethne” priority has not been given by Christ’s followers to the various ethnics in any given geographic setting—one’s “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria or uttermost”—then the Christians in those geographic settings should set about to aggressively identify the ethnics who live there. They should establish a priority evangelism focus among each ethnic group to be true to Christ’s Great Commission.
The issue of worldview rests upon the following:
Are we sleeping like Israel slept in times when God asked Israel to move beyond an almost single focus on “their own kind” of God-chosen people, in order to engage and evangelize the “ta ethne” among them? Or, are we taking note of every ethnic group who moves among us, and are we taking steps to evangelize them?
Israel in her life as a chosen people from the time of Israel’s entry into “the Promised Land” to the coming of Christ was often warned by prophets sent by God concerning their mission on earth as a people. Time and time again the prophets warned Israel that if she did not repent and come back from her backslidden life, then He would judge them by sending them into captivity. Most often they did not repent, and time and time again God sent them into physical and national captivity. He could do the same to people and nations today if they ignore the “ta ethne”.
A Version Designed for the NAMB Leadership Summit and Significantly Updated for SBC State ConventionStaffs & for Directors of Mission & Others
The first of the three periods occurred between 1775 and 1924. We will extend the 1924 immigration date to the 1940s in order to present a combined secular and religious picture of that formative period.
The second period of change occurred between 1945 and 1965 which can be called the “Golden Age of Christianity in the USA.”
The third period of change occurred between 1965 and 2006 A.D. This section summarizes trends observed to give evidence of drastic changes and deviations from the past. Many Christians are unaware of the changes and the implications of all the changes since 1965.
Every concept and all the data included is well documented. Almost every entry is backed by more than one source. Will Herberg, a major historian of immigration prior to and during the 1950s & 1960s is a major source. Herberg worked through and cited over 339 major sources in his classic work. This author has followed up on every one of those sources.
Oscar Handlin was quoted often by Herberg. Handlin also was a major, Pulitzer Prize winning, researcher of immigration and the formation of the United States of America. Handlin cited hundreds of other social, religious and statistical researchers of his era. This author, like Handlin did with Herberg’s writing, followed up on most of Handlin’s sources. Both author’s works are seen as classics and are highly quoted and respected even today. Handlin’s Pulitzer Price was for his The Uprooted. Multiple other religious sources beyond these two authors were consulted in developing the religious comments and interpretations in this presentation.
The compiler of this document on immigration to the USA searched current sources for any who disputed Herberg’s and Handlin’s findings. Herberg and Handlin published in the 1950s & 1960s.
That body of research when joined with research from the mid-1960s and after provides great clarity and vital understanding of our religious & social situation today.
Those responsible for engaging and evangelizing the lost in this generation should pay attention to the lessons from the past.
An old proverb says: “those who do not consider and pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it.”
Again, a look at Israel in the Old Testament era tells us that when Israel ignored God and God’s work in history, God instigated their downfall. (See Ezekiel 1-4)
Oscar Handlin said in the 1950s: “Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history”The Uprooted, The Epic Story of the Great Migrations that Made the American People. (p. 3. Little Brown, 1957) (Handlin’s Pulitzer Prize work.)
This is the most significant and critical reality for America and American Christians to understand, then and now. We will explore the “then” first, followed by a look at the “now” in parts 2 and 3 of this document.
America is a nation of immigrants.
America was founded, grew and flourished in terms of immigrant ethnic peoples, immigrant religious adherents and the churches they planted in the emerging nation. We will explore those categories.
Herberg described America following 1607 saying: “The colonists who came to these shores from the time of the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to the outbreak of the Revolution were mostly of English and Scottish stock, augmented by a considerable number of settlers of Dutch, Swedish, German, and Irish origin.” Handlin and Herberg said often: Almost all came from Christian background roots.
In the early 1960s Herberg, Handlin and Hansen said separately in their publications: “In three huge waves, stretching over something more than a hundred years, over 35,000,000 men and women left Europe to come to continental United States.” This 35 million extended the 3 million base of 1775.
In 2003, a book about the new Americans said: “At the time colonial America declared its independence from British rule in 1776:
“Over the next 200 years, more than 70 million people from around the world would immigrate to the United States.” (The Newest Americans, p. 8)
In this introduction, it should be clear that as American history passed, immigration continued to be the most defining trait of the United States.
That lured them to America and its vast Frontier that caused them to assimilate and meld to a degree.
“From 1830 to 1930, Irish, Bohemians, Slovaks, Hungarians, and many other peoples followed each other in the service of the pick and shovel, each earlier group, displaced by newcomers, moving upward in the occupational and social scale…if successive waves of immigration served as the ‘push’ in this pattern of occupational advancement, education and acculturation to American ways provided the immigrants with the opportunity of making the most of it,…” (Herberg)
It is very important to notice in this history that:
Thus, the Americanization process did produce in the somewhat melded population a fairly common English language among the ethnics.
In order to “move up the ladder” socially and economically, each wave of immigrant ethnics had to push their ethnic language into the home and family, while publically adopting English as the language of the workplace and society. Many ethnic languages did persist in the family for 100 years. Traces of them exist today. For instance, it was the late 1970s before Swedish Baptists in the US renamed themselves Baptist General Conference.
Americanization of the various European ethnics:
Most of the regional dialectical and worldview differences in the US can be traced to ethnic heritages that persisted. Consider the Cajuns in Louisiana. Also, consider the German dairy communities that existed throughout the nation. For other examples see the DVD package entitled The Appalachians(A PBS video), and the Gente de Razon, a San Antonio, Texas Catholic Missions video on the five missions. This second video was produced by the US Parks and Historical Society.
American frontier history shaped and “melded” only to a degree the European “ta ethne” peoples. Irish Catholics and other ethnic groups persist to this day. Enclaves of them exist in many urban settings.
American Indians, or more appropriately called Native Americans, who were the only Americans in the 1500s and 1600s, and who existed in many ethnic groupings, are said by various historians to have suffered the most between 1775 and 1924 as the European ethnics came and settled the American frontier from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Included in this would be the Spanish migrations into Latin America which migrated into the Southwest and Western parts of America.
1620-1700 = 20,500
1701-1760 = 188,600 (18,000 to French La.)
1761-1800 = 212,361 (None of these to La.)
1800-1870 = 175,290 (10,200 of these to La.)
(p. 20, Table 1 of A Nation of Peoples compiled from Philip D. Curtin’s The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census, Madison Univ. 1969)
Just prior to the Civil War, “out of the 8 million whites in the fifteen slave states, only 385,000 owned slaves.” (p. 24, Ibid.)
During this period, a majority were evangelized.
“The period from 1910 to 1920 is known as the Great Migration in African American history. The era marked the beginning of the black urban ghetto, but it was not until 1940 that more than 50 percent of blacks lived in places of more than 2,500 people.” (p. 30, Ibid)
“In 1910 there were 10 million blacks, with 90 percent living in the South and 80 percent living in rural areas. Between 1917 and 1920, an estimated 700,000 to 1 million blacks left the South, followed by another 800,000 to 1 million during the 1920s. In addition there was also the immigrations of blacks from the West Indies—most of whom settled in New York or Florida.” (p. 30, Ibid)
“There were an estimated 25 million Afro-Americans in the U.S. in the mid-1970s, a figure making them not only the largest ethnic group in America, but second only to Afro-Brazilians in the Western Hemisphere.” (p. 5 of Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Stephen Thernstrom, Editor)
Voluntary migration has brought a good many others since the 1800s. (p. 5, Ibid)
“Not since 1880 have Afro-Americans comprised more than 12 percent of the nation…” (Ibid)
“The ‘epic story of the great migrations that made the American people” came to an end substantially with World War I and with the restrictive legislation of the 1920s.”
(This was America.” Much of Will Herberg’s data came from Handlin’s study cited earlier. See Herberg, p. 8.)
Note: Roman Catholic numbers and percentages came in the later years.
This section looks at the status of Christianity in 1775 and the charted changes within the population in light of what happened within Christianity until 1950.
Congregational (745 churches)
Anglican/Episcopal (405 churches)
Presbyterian (490 churches)
Lutheran (235 churches)
Methodist (Less than 200 churches)
Baptist (About 200 churches)
Note: Catholics are not included in this comparison for they were a minority until the 1900s.
(See Neil Braun’s Laity Mobilized Master’s Thesis for more discussion of this dynamic within US history.)
Baptist was first
Congregational was last
(See Jim Slack’s and Jim Maroney’s IMB study and book of the principles and practices of church planting for documentation sources.)
In fact, the order of the six leading denominations in 1775 were exactly reversed by 1950.
By 1850 Methodists were the largest Protestant denomination in the USA and Baptists were second.
By 1950 Baptists were the largest of the original groups and Methodists were second. A count of Southern Baptists alone in 1950 would have shown them close to being largest Protestant denomination.
It is very informative from a historic evangelization and missiological perspective to follow and compare the growth dynamics among the 6 largest Protestant denominations in 1775 with the 6 largest Protestant denominations in 1950.
Baptists in 1775, who had not yet divided into two major Baptist groups (Northern and Southern), were the smallest of all seven Protestant denominations. Methodists were next to last.
What happened that caused this reversal?
Congregationalists whose congregational polity was thought to be best fitted for the frontier went though an “Old Lights” and “New Lights” theological controversy followed by a geographic comity agreement with Presbyterians concerning frontier locations. Most of the time of both was consumed by the controversy and neither of them recovered from those choices.
Yet, it had been the Congregationalists, named so in the USA, who brought the initial and major political and religious group to the New Land with a clearly stated religious manifesto. And, even as late as 1900, Congregationalists had 1,000 missionaries on foreign fields, only to see them dwindle during the 1900s to a very few.
Anglican churches were identified with the English colonizers and with the causes of the Revolution. Anglicans never overcame that war and colonial image. So, over time, their name changed to The Episcopal Church to attempt to shed that “war” image.
Also, few realize that many of the Puritans and those today known as Low Church Anglicans had gone with Wesley, forming the foundations of the Methodist church in both England and in the Colonies/USA. That departure actually took some of the most conservative and evangelistic Anglicans into Methodism in the USA. This hurt the Anglicans.
Presbyterians suffered from the comity agreement between themselves and the Congregationalists. Like the Episcopal churches, even after their name change, their Presbyterian institutional polity, their preference for land and building, and their requirements for a theologically trained, denominationally chosen and installed pastor, kept them behind the edges of the frontier.
The institutional and non-lay led denominations lagged an average of 200 miles behind the frontier where more settled communities were like they were used to existed. And, only communities some 200 miles behind the frontier were large enough in population and affluent enough to afford the more formal pastors and their churches. It took established towns to support those more formal and institutional denominations.
Lutherans seem to be the strange anomaly among the six denominations. Lutherans did make it to the frontier, even to the Mississippi river and they did grow. However, it was persecution and lack of a colony base in New England that pushed Lutherans to the Missouri territory and northward into Canada where they settled & grew some distance from persecution. They were the only formal and highly structured and institutional denomination found on the advanced edges of the frontier.
Roman Catholics attention to and attitude toward evangelization on the Western frontier can be seen in following ad in 1800s:
“We offer you: No salary. No recompense, no holidays, no pensions. But: hard work and a poor dwelling, few consolations, many disappointments, frequent sickness, a violent, lonely death, an unknown grave.” (Source: Exhibit at South Dakota Cultural Center, Pierre, SD provided by John Guillatt of South Dakota Baptist Convention.)
Methodists had a strategy, a carefully defined and carefully managed geographic circuit-rider plan that fitted them for the frontier. Their plan was the “method” found in the word “Methodist.” That plan, designed by Wesley for England, which was only partially accepted there, was a perfect fit for the US frontier, at least until about 1900.
A Quote: “When the rigors of circuit riding in the early days, as the Church moved over the country, are brought before the mind and imagination, the question is frequently asked, ‘How did they stand it?’ The answer is: ‘They didn’t.’ They died under it. No group of men ever lived up more fully to the truth, ‘He that looseth his life shall find it.’ (pp. 42-43, Halford E. Luccock, Endless Line of Splendor. The Advance for Christ and His Church of The Methodist Church publisher, Chicago, Illinois, 1950)
A Quote: “They died, most of them, before their careers were much more than begun.” Of the 650 preachers who had joined the Methodist itinerancy by the opening of the 19th century, about 500 had to ‘locate,’ a term that was used for those too worn-out to travel further. Many of the rest had to take periods for recuperation. Others located not because of health, but by reason of lack of support and the desire to marry and establish a home.” (Luccock)
Of the first 737 circuit riders of the Conferences to die—that is, all who died up to 1847
Of 672 of those first preachers whose records fully exist,
A Quote: “Many circuits were from 300 to 600 miles in length…For instance, in 1791, Freeborn Garrettson was assigned to a circuit which included almost half of what is now the state of New York…In 1814 James B. Finley, on the Cross Creek Circuit, Ohio, had a circuit covering more than two counties, and preached 32 times on every round. The salary schedule has an eloquence of its own. Cash was almost unknown. In 1821 Benjamin T. Crouch records receiving only $38 toward his year’s allowance. The same year Peter Cartwright received the highest salary in the Kentucky Conference--$238. But when he moved, with his wife and six children, to the Sangamon Circuit, Illinois, he received $40, all told, for the year.” (pp. 44-45, Luccock)
“Methodism grew fast until after 1850, but Baptist growth from 1800 to 1960 is unparalleled. From a little over 100,000 in 1800, Baptists were approaching 20 million by 1960.”(Gaustad: 1962 as quoted by Neil Braun)
The basic reason is that Baptist theology and polity fitted them better for the frontier than any other denomination of churches.
Over time, for sure by the early 1900s, as new church starts and membership growth continued to occur, as religious status became the leading characteristic of an American, the Bible Belt had formed across the southern USA. The American culture was developing a stronger Christian ethic, with Christian values as its base. This base was “in practice” for some, and only in the “awareness” or “conscience, ought-to stage” for others. It is out of this base that the terms “WASP” (“White Anglo-Saxon Protestant”) and “Judeo-Christian” emerged in the mid-1900s. (Comments cited from Herberg, Handlin and others) Even then, the typical American by the 1900s favored and spoke of America as a moral Christian society.
“Their big concern was the preservation of their way of life; above all, the transplanting of their churches.” (pp. 10-11, Herberg.)
In his footnotes Herberg quotes Marcus L. Hansen’s research in The Problem of the Third Generation Immigrant (Augustana Historical Society, Rock Island, Ill., 1938, p. 15 who said: “The church was the first, the most important, and the most significant institution that the immigrants established.” Their churches went to the frontier with them. Those churches that fit the frontier and that were comfortable on the frontier won the frontier.
The singular most identifying characteristic among most ethnics who migrated to the USA from 1775 to 1924 was their religious status. As their language became mostly English and as they gave up some of their cultural identity, the sum of their status as “Americans” settled into one of three acceptable identifying religious markers—Protestant, Catholic or Jew. (Herberg)
So, by the 1950s in the USA the identification of an American was according to one of these three categories—Protestant, Catholic or Jew. To not be one of these three categories was not to be an American.
Again, the three primary researchers and authors of this era concerning American immigration were Herberg, Handlin & Hansen.
Their works are seen as classic writings today.
They cited this period as the span of years when Christianity was at its highest peak from 1775 to 1950.
In review of what went before, the singular most identifying characteristic among most ethnics who migrated to the USA from 1775 to 1924 was their religious status. As their language became mostly English and as they gave up some of their cultural identity, the sum of their status as “Americans” settled into three acceptable identifying religious markers—Protestant, Catholic or Jew.
So, by the 1950s in the USA the identification of an American was according to one of these three categories—Protestant, Catholic or Jew.
“Conversions from one community (denomination or category) to the other take place, but they seem to be very small and do not appreciably affect the over-all picture.” (Herberg, p. 160) (Herberg quotes the Yearbook of American Churches, edition for 1960, pp. 261-262 for his data. In the research Herberg quotes 140,414 as the Catholics’ record of conversions to Catholicism from Protestantism. He used The 1959 National Catholic Almanac, p. 407 for this information. This data is for the year 1957. For a more in-depth study, see Thomas J.M. Burke’s “Did Four Million Catholics Become Protestants?, America, April 10, 1954.
Burke’s article, a survey by the American Institute of Public Opinion (a Gallup poll) in 1955 indicated that of an adult population of 96,000,000, only about 4 per cent no longer belonged to the religious community of their birth; of these: 1,400,000 were Protestants who had originally been Catholics, and 1,400,000 were Catholics who had originally been Protestants, and about 1,000,000 had made changes of some other kind. See also John A. O’Brien, You Too Can Win Souls (Macmillan, 1955).” (Cited in Herberg’s footnotes on pages 170-171.)
“In the early 1940s, Ruby Jo Kennedy undertook an investigation of intermarriage trends in New Haven from 1870 to 1940. She published her findings in the American Journal of Sociology for January 1944 under the significant title, ‘Single or Triple Melting Pot?’…The years 1870, 1900, 1930, and 1940 were isolated for detailed examination…’The large nationality groups in New Haven,’ Mrs. Kennedy found, ‘represent a triple division on religious grounds: Jewish, Protestant (British-American, German, and Scandinavian), and Catholic (Irish, Italian, and Polish)…’ In its early immigrant days, each of these ethnic groups tended to be endogamous; with the years, however, people began to marry outside the group. (Herberg’s quote of Kennedy data on page 33)
Kennedy found: Irish in-marriage was 93.05 per cent in 1870; 74.75 per cent in 1900, 74.25 per cent in 1930, and 45.06 per cent in 1940; German in-marriage was 86.67 per cent in 1870, 55.26 per cent in 1900, 39.84 per cent in 1930, and 27.19 per cent in 1940; for the Italians and the Poles, the comparable figures were 97.71 per cent and 100 per cent respectively in 1900, 86.71 and 68.04 per cent in 1930, and 81.89 per cent and 52.78 per cent in 1940. But, ‘while strict ethnic endogamy is loosening, religious endogamy is persisting…” (Herberg’s quote of Kennedy data on page 33)
By the 1950s, religion not only divided into the three ‘pools’; but those in each religious category tended to marry only within their pool. Hollingshead found in a study that:
“Members of Catholic stocks married Catholics in 95.35 per cent of the cases in 1870, 85.78 per cent in 1900, 82.05 per cent in 1930, and 83.71 in 1940; members of Protestant stocks married Protestants in 99.11 per cent of the cases in 1870, 90.66 per cent in 1900, 78.19 per cent in 1930, and 79.72 per cent in 1940; Jews married Jews in 100 per cent of the cases in 1870, 98.82 per cent in 1900, 97.01 per cent in 1930, and 94.32 per cent in 1940. ‘Future cleavages,’ in Mrs. Kennedy’s opinion, ‘will therefore be along religious lines rather than along nationality lines as in the past….Cultural [i.e. ethnic] lines may fade, but religious barriers are holding fast….When marriage crosses religious barriers, as it often does, religion still plays a prominent role, especially among Catholics,’ in that such marriages are often conditioned upon, and result in, one of the partners being brought into the religious community of the other.’” (pp. 32-33, Herberg)
“The traditional ‘single melting pot’ idea must now be abandoned, and a new conception, which we term the ‘triple melting pot’ theory of American assimilation, will take its place, as the true expression of what is happening to the various nationality groups in the United States….The ‘triple melting pot’ type of assimilation is occurring through intermarriage, with Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism serving as the three fundamental bulwarks…The different nationalities are merging, but within three religious compartments rather than indiscriminately…A triple religious cleavage, rather than a multilinear nationality cleavage, therefore seems likely to characterize American society in the future.’” (pp. 32-33, Herberg)
By 1950, one’s personal identity, political qualification, social status, marriage, and a few other functional American characteristics were primarily determined by their identify with one of the three religions that was most appropriate for ethnic background and geographic location in the USA.
(See Will Herberg’s Protestant-Catholic-Jew.)
At the beginning of this era Franklin Roosevelt regularly and publically expressed his religious beliefs and prayers.
It was beginning to be true in the late 1930s, increased as being true in the 1940s, throughout the 1950s and into the early1960s that, to be elected to a significant state and national office in the USA, the candidate had to represent, or make the public think they represented, Judeo-Christian values or he or she would seldom ever be elected to a significant political office.
This was especially true in the Bible Belt of the USA. And, except in pervasively Catholic areas, it was difficult for a Roman Catholic to be elected to a national office.
Religious credentials were important for business leaders, salesmen and community leaders.
Pastors, Rabbis and Priests were at the top of the list of the most respected persons in American life.
Those Judeo-Christian values that can be seen in the background of the US Constitution, had emerged as the broad American ideal by the mid-1800s and were commonly taught and nourished in the US public schools from the 1800s to the early 1970s.
Prayers were said in the schools, prior to the beginning of any sports events, Ten Commandments posted in public places, and prayers to God for blessings habitually offered by politicians.
It was the 1960s before the USA elected a Catholic as president for fear that a Catholic president would allow the Pope in Rome to influence American political decisions in ways unfavorable to Protestants and Protestant values. Also, until Reagan, no divorcee had ever been elected as President of the USA.
Southern Baptists, by 1950, not only emerged as the largest and most influential Protestant denomination in the USA, they existed predominantly in the “Bible Belt.”
Methodists and Southern Baptists were the major denominations that produced the “Bible Belt” with Presbyterians following some distance behind them.
The people who produced the Methodist and Baptist denominations and the Bible Belt were migrant peoples, mostly from Europe, mostly northern Europe.
Most of these had fled Europe looking for religious freedom, while the others came to the colonies looking for decent work, land, a say in political matters, a vote and a better lifestyle which spelled “freedom.”
“No one who attempts to see the contemporary religious situation in the United States in perspective can fail to be struck by the extraordinary pervasiveness of religious identification among present-day Americans. Almost everybody in the United States today (1953) locates himself in one or another of the three great religious communities. Asked to identify themselves in terms of religious ‘preference,’ 95 per cent of the American people, according to a recent public opinion survey, declared themselves to be either Protestants, Catholics, or Jews (68 percent Protestants, 23 per cent Catholics, 4 per cent Jews); only 5 per cent admitted to no ‘preference.’” (p. 46, Herberg. Herberg gained this data from the Catholic Digest, January 1953. The survey was conducted by Ben Gaffin and Associates. Only adults over 18 are considered.)
“Much the same may be said about the high and growing repute of religion in the American public mind. ‘Religion is given continued public and political approval…’Godless’ is a powerful epithet…At least nominal public acceptance of religion tends to be a prerequisite to political success (Herberg quotes Williams’ American Society, pp. 326, 336.)….It was not always so; there was a time when an atheist or agnostic like Robert C. Ingersoll, who went around the country defying God and making anti-religious speeches, could nevertheless occupy a respected and influential position in American politics. Today that would be quite inconceivable, a professed ‘unbeliever’ would be anathema to either of the big parties and would have no chance whatever in political life.” (p. 51, Herberg)
Congressional Religious Affiliations-1957
“The contrast between the days of Ingersoll and our day, when every candidate for public office is virtually required to testify to his high esteem for religion, measures the position that religion as a ‘value’ or institution, has acquired in the American public mind. Of the 528 members of the two houses of the 85th Congress, only 4 gave no religious affiliation; 416 registered as Protestants, 95 as Roman Catholics, 12 as Jews, and one as a Sikh.” (p. 52, Herberg. Herberg quotes the Report of the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress, released April 6, 1957.)
“The figures for church membership tell the same story but in greater detail. Religious statistics in this country are notoriously inaccurate, but the trend is so well marked that it overrides all margins of error. In the quarter of a century between 1926 and 1950 the population of continental United States increased 28.6 per cent, membership of religious bodies increased 59.8 per cent; in other words, church membership grew more than twice as fast as population. Protestants increased 63.7 per cent, Catholics 53.9 per cent, Jews 22.5 per cent. Among Protestants, however, the increase varied considerably as between denominations; Baptist increase was well over 100 per cent, some ‘holiness’ sects grew even more rapidly, while the figure for the Episcopal Church was only 36.7 per cent, for the Methodist Church 32.2 per cent, for the Northern Presbyterians 22.4 per cent, and for the Congregationalists 21.1 per cent. (p. 47, Herberg. Herberg found in Information Service, March 8, 1952 that “The trend continues. In the thirty-two years between 1926 and 1957, the population of continental United States increased about 45 per cent while the membership of religious bodies increased nearly 92 per cent, more than twice as fast. (Yearbook of American Churches, edition for 1959, p. 294.)
“In 1950 total church membership was reckoned at 85,319,000, or about 57 per cent of the total population. In 1958 it was 109,557,741, or about 63 per cent, marking an all-time high in the nation’s history. (p. 47, Herberg. Data taken from Yearbook of American Churches, edition for 1960, pp. 258, 279.)
Southern Baptist evangelism and church planting methods, or approaches, tended to develop in the midst of this highly religious identification and historical period. It was upon this base of Judeo-Christian values that the post-World War II years, especially the1950s, rested. Those Judeo-Christian values were assumed to exist by an overwhelming majority of the citizens in the USA.
These Judeo-Christian values permeated the justice and legal system of the USA and were assumed to be the best rules to live and do business by in the USA. (See Herberg’s book Protestant, Catholic, and Jew for multiple quotes documenting this.)
Consequently, Southern Baptists, and other evangelical denominations, and Para-church agencies such as Post-WWII Navigators, Campus Crusades, Inter-Varsity, and others, understood and established themselves and their Christian groups upon these assumptions and aspirations of typical Americans in the USA during this era. This was the situation just prior to the next stage of immigration and history in the USA.
A study of Christian materials, and especially witnessing presentations, in the period between 1945 and 1965 reveals the assumption that an American had enough background knowledge and beliefs about God and Christianity such that those basics would not have to be covered during witnessing sessions. It was also assumed that an American accepted the Bible as authoritative and that it was to be respected.
We now look back on the period from 1945 to 1960 as the most formative and significant religious ingathering period in American history. This does not minimize the affects and the magnitude of the Great Awakenings in the 1700s, or the Great Prayer Revival in 1850. However, the growth of religious denominations, agencies and institutions within this period speaks for itself. Southern Baptists grew by 100% in this period. (Herberg)
Herberg’s Quote: “This is at least part of the picture presented by religion in contemporary America. Christians flocking to church, yet forgetting all about Christ when it comes to naming the most significant events in history; men and women valuing the Bible as revelation, purchasing and distributing it by the millions, yet apparently seldom reading it themselves. Every aspect of contemporary religious life reflects this paradox—pervasive secularism amid mounting religiosity, ‘the strengthening of the religious structure in spite of increasing secularism…America seems to be at once the most religious and the most secular of nations… can there be much doubt that, by and large, the religion which actually prevails among Americans today has lost much of its authentic Christian (or Jewish) content.” (p. 2-3, Herberg)
Dr. Leonard Sanderson, Evangelism Secretary of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, a prolific writer and respected speaker within the SBC sounded the same note of concern as Herberg, Hamlin and others. He often said that, based upon lifestyles, he doubted that half of the members in Southern Baptist churches were really converted Christians. He spoke of finding a lot of cultural Christianity in SBC churches.
As the American population became year by year more homogeneously Anglo and as most of the American population had come to see itself as either Protestant, Catholic or Jew, a number of things occurred:
A note concerning this section: An in-depth coverage of this section will not be included in this PowerPoint. A more detailed coverage of this period is in an available document—Frontiers of Lostness. Contact this author or the Church Planting Group of NAMB for a copy.
By this time in American history Immigrant Chainswere becoming a major trait of the ethnic status in the USA. “Immigrant Chains form when members of one immigrant family settle in America, and then convince family members and friends to join them. The established immigrants help the new immigrants find homes and work in the same area. Immigrant chains have influenced settlement patterns all over the country, helping to create large communities of Cubans in Miami, Dominicans in New York, and Chinese in San Francisco, among others.” (The Newest Americans, Edited. Greenwood Press; 2003. Page 9.)
The most homogeneous era and the most religious period in US history from 1945-1965 soon:
The most homogeneous era in US history and the most religious period in US history:
The most homogeneous era in US history and the most religious period in US history soon:
“Although immigrants can live anywhere in the United States, nearly two-thirds of them settle in just six states. California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois count more immigrants among their population than all other stated combined. California alone is the destination of one-fourth of the nations immigrants.” (The Newest Americans, p. 17.)
“Because finding work and living near others who share their experience is so important, nearly all new immigrants (93 percent) live in urban areas. The most popular U.S. destinations in 2000 were New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.” (The Newest Americans, p. 17)
Source: The Newest Americans, p. 11 & Immigration and Naturalization Service
“In addition to the nearly 1 million legal immigrants who arrive in the United States each year, hundreds of thousands of people enter the country without permission…The Immigrant and Naturalization Service (INS) estimates the number at close to 300,000 a year.” (The Newest Americans, p. 13.)
The setting in America today better fits the Great Commission’s “panta ta ethne” mandate of Christ than any other era in American history. It seems that God has brought the “uttermost” to our individual “Jerusalems.”
Never in the history of America has ethnic, heart language, worldview sensitive been so appropriate and required than today.
Projections of Net Migration to the United States. (June 2006 Publication) A CBO Paper as one in a continuation of A Series on Immigration. The Congress of the United States: Congressional Budget Office. David A. Brauer was final compiler. Projections are computed according to low, medium & high assumptions. In such research, the Medium Assumption is the norm within the research.
Ethnographer, Missiologist, Growth Analyst and Field Assessments Consultant of SBC’s IMB
Global Research Department of OOO
January 16, 2006 Edition: Previous Edition
This Edition 22 October 2007
Section 6 Is an Extension of the Previous Part One Document
This section was prepared at the request of NAMB’s Church Planting Division for presentation in 2007
Ethnographer, Missiologist, Growth Analyst and Field Assessments Consultant of SBC’s IMB
Global Research Department of OOO
November 30, 2006 Edition (11:30 A.M.)
Updated and Revised December 2007
Updated Edition for Kentucky DOM Session May 2008