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The Collapse of the Evangelical Consensus   by the 1920s, theevangelicalhegemonythathadinspiredthefoundingof many collegeslikeMacalesterwasdisintegrating.LiberalandconservativeProtestants differed not only over theological questions but also increasingly over political and social issues. These differences inevitably came to inform differing views of educationaswell.Duringhistenureaspresidentof MacalesterCollegebetween 1924 and his untimely death in 1937, John Carey Acheson was able to maintain cooperationamongindividualsascribingtoaspectrumof religiousandpolitical beliefs. Nevertheless, as we will see, despite the delicacy of this negotiation, the college moved away from conservative religion and the earlier college mission of advancing Christianity. Internationalism and the Growing Differences among Protestants The evangelical dream that World War I would spread the democracy of God worldwidewasdashedinthepostwarperiod.Afterthewar,postmillennialevangelicals like Woodrow Wilson and, closer to home, James Wallace pinned their hopesonthenewinternationalorganization,theLeagueof Nations,whichthey sawasthebestopportunityforintegratingtheirreligiouslybasedunderstanding of American democracy into postwar Europe. Through the League’s influence, theypredicted,America’ssocialandpoliticalstructures,informedbyevangelicalism , would be widely emulated and sweep away the depredations and excesses of prewar Europe. But Congress, whose Democratic wing was increasingly focused now on extricating the country from foreign entanglements and whose Republicanwingwasfocusedoninternalbusinessexpansion,blockedU.S.entry  | nature & revelation into the very organization for whose founding Wilson would receive the Nobel Prize. For liberal and moderate Protestants like Wallace, who had been loyal to the Republican Party despite their support of Wilson’s international agenda, it was inconceivable that “their” party, the party of Lincoln, would turn its back on this opportunity to work closely with other Christian nations to broadcast the Gospel and infuse Christian-based democracy throughout the world. The always outspoken Wallace called it “the Great Betrayal,” writing in hindsight that a handful of bitter senators had “betrayed the world’s hopes of organized peaceandof thesubstitutionof internationaljusticeforwar.”1 Isolationismgrew widespreadasRepublicanleaderswhohadpreviouslysupportedU.S.participation in international discussions adopted the view that America should focus instead on its own internal problems. In contrast to the nation’s shift toward isolationism, however, Macalester’s interest in internationalism grew. In the 1920s, as we have seen in the previous chapter,thisinterestgrewdirectlyoutof themissionaryagendaof evangelicalism. That missionary interest would continue at Macalester in the postwar period. John Acheson worked diligently as the national chairman of the Layman’s Missionary Movement to convince Protestant men and women of the importance of supporting the always underfunded missionaries who brought Christianity to far-flung places around the globe. Guest missionaries on holiday from their work abroad spoke on campus, exposing Macalester students in the 1920s and 1930s to lectures that stirred their imaginations with stories of the spiritual and, increasingly, physical and medical needs of the people around the world. This evangelical component remained an important force on campus through the 1920s and 1930s. Yet the cohesion between religious liberals and conservatives that Acheson worked so hard to foster was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. While liberals like Acheson continued tochampion the postmillennial work of Christianity as a means of ameliorating social and political strife throughout the world, religious conservatives even more fervently embraced Biblicism, or the belief in scriptural inerrancy, to help them comprehend the destructive impact of the war. The only salvation for humanity, conservatives argued, would come from God and be available only through individual conversion. While the political counterpart of liberal Protestantism was the desire for a worldwide political federation that would foster cooperation among nations and a commitment to improving the lives of American citizens through social The Collapse of the Evangelical Consensus |  work, the political counterpart of Protestant conservativism, and particularly of fundamentalism, was increasing American isolationism and individualism. Withthecrisisof theGreatDepressionandtheadventof PresidentFranklin D.Roosevelt’sNewDeal,thereligiousLeftwaschallengedinnewwaysthatdistancedthemevenfurtherfromtheirmoreconservativecoreligionists .Themain challengearosefromthetransformationintheroleof governmentbroughtabout bytheNewDeal.Roosevelt’sactions,whichincreasedgovernmentresponsibility forthewelfareof individualcitizens,challengedthebelief inindividualismthat pervaded all but the most liberal wings of the Protestant church. As we saw in the last chapter, the integration of concerns for social welfare in the church had grown out of the intersection of social science, evangelical home missionary work,andanunderstandingof Jesus’smessageasoneof loveandcaringforone’s neighbors, which had resulted in the development of the social gospel. Yet only the most liberal of congregations adopted this Christian approach exclusively. At Macalester, as we have seen, social gospel work existed alongside evangelical missionizing.TheDepressionforcedmanyevangelicalchurchestoadoptamore socialapproachtotheircongregationalmissionsastheycametotheaidof both congregation members and their neighbors within their communities. Given that Protestantism had only recently taken on responsibility for social welfare, many felt that government work in that area was a dangerous step too far, one thatthreatenedpersonalintegrityaswellasAmericandemocracy.Conservatives and many moderates like James Wallace predicted doom would result from the New Deal as people relinquished responsibility for their personal affairs to the government.2 Government welfare programs could only lead to socialism, they claimed...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816673346
Related ISBN
9780816656264
MARC Record
OCLC
648711615
Pages
424
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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