Religion and Society in
America
The Emergence of Modern American
Religious Life – Part 1
Week 7 – Lecture 1
The Emergence of Modern American
Religious Life – Part 1
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Everyday Life in America
Changes within the Benevolent Empire
Divisions from within Protestant America
A Preview of External Threats to Protestant
America
Everyday Life in America
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“A strange formlessness marks the halfcentury which follows the Civil War. The term
“postbellum America” lacks the specificity of
“antebellum America.” One explanation for
the difficulty is that evangelicalism was no
longer calling the tune—or more accurately,
that fewer people were heeding the call.”
Sydney Ahlstrom - A Religious History of the
American People
Everyday Life in America
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Historians difficulty in defining terminology for era is
reflective of the tremendous changes taking place
The “postbellum” 1860 – 1900
Reconstruction: 1865 – 1870, 76, 77
The Gilded Age: 1870 – 1900
Victorian America: 1850s – 1890s
The New South: 1877 – 1930s
The Progressive Era: 1889 – 1920
The Age of Populism: 1890 - ?
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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The population of the US reaches 39,818,449 in
1870, a 36% increase in numbers since the last
census of 1860. During the next three decades,
this rate of growth or the percentage of increase
over the previous census would fall no lower
than 25%. By the opening of the next century,
America’s population would reach 79,994,575.
The number of Americans living in cities reached
nearly 50 percent.
Immigrants, mostly from southern, central, and
eastern Europe arrive by the millions.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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The unequal impact of industrialism underlay the
emergence of a variety of new social
movements. In rapid succession, white workers
embarked upon a series of organizing drives: the
Knights of Labor in the late 1870s, the American
Federation of Labor during the 1890s, the
Socialist Party of America in the early 1900s, and
the Industrial Workers of the World after 1905.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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African Americans, European immigrants, Hispanic
Americans, and Asian Americans all intensified their
separate institutional and community-building activities,
designed to fight the impact of racial, class, and ethnic
discrimination on their lives.
Pluralistic religious expression slowly builds in America
Following the Spanish-American War, the United States
also took its place as a new empire with its own colonial
claims over peoples of color in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and
Guam.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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NAACP (1909) and the National Urban League
(1910) are formed by African Americans and a
small number of whites.
Susan B. Anthony, vice-president-at-large of the
National Woman Suffrage Association is arrested
and fined $100 in New York for casting a vote in
the 1872 presidential election.
James Garfield, 20th president, was shot by a
disappointed office seeker on July 2, 1881 and
died on Sept. 19, 1881. He was succeeded by
Chester A. Arthur (1829-86).
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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While encountering economic depressions in the
1870s and 1890s, the nation’s economy
continued to grow on the heels of
“standardization” and the booming railroad
system. Bulk machinery from Sears, Roebuck
and Montgomery Ward made up only part of
freight-rail traffic which included a sundry of
products including dried goods. As one historian
has noted, each new box of consumer products
that arrived by rail to small towns everywhere
carried with it the implicit message, “this is the
new way of the world.”
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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Union Pacific-Central Pacific Line completed in
1869. The first railroad car to have traveled from
the Pacific coast arrives in New York in July,
1870.
Between 1880 and 1910 the population of the
South grew by five million. One out of every six
Southerners lived in a town or village.
Compared to the Midwest or North, the South
remained a rural region but was undergoing
dramatic economic changes.
Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 1907
Cotton Plantation outside Atlanta, Georgia
c.1917
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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Refrigerated railroad cars developed in the
1870s, which revolutionized the distribution of
food in parts of the United States. The new
ability to deliver goods quickly also ushers in the
heyday of the “American cowboy” as the demand
for meat in eastern markets soars.
Barbed wire is invented revolutionizing farming
and opening up the West to large agricultural
production.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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By 1878, New Haven becomes the first city to
operate a telephone switchboard system on a
regular basis. The first long-distance service
between New York and Boston was offered in
1884.
The year 1877 also witnessed massive labor
strikes particularly in the railroad industry.
Federal troops were called out several times
throughout the period to put down union
movements for increased wages.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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Unprecedented concentrations of wealth among
select families known as “the 400.” The
ostentatious forms in which this wealth was
displayed gives credence to the label, the
“Gilded Age.” During this period, Vanderbilt, the
Chicago railroad magnate, makes his notorious
decree “the public be damned.”
(1900) the South constitutes only 11% of the
nation’s population
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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A roller skating craze sweeps the nation in the
1870s.
In 1880, Cleveland, Ohio becomes the first city
to boost an electrical streetlight system.
1887 Thomas A. Edison first markets the
phonograph in New York City.
First moving picture show was shown in New
York City in 1896.
In 1897, the first Boston marathon was run.
John McDermott wins the race in 2 hours 55
minutes.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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By 1900, 14% of all homes had bathtubs, and
only 8% had phones.
At the turn of the century, Americans owned
8,000 cars and the nation had 144 miles of
paved roads.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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Musical instruments such as banjos were mass
produced in the 1880s and guitars in the 1890s.
The mass production of instruments coupled with
the rise of rail travel leads to an explosion in
musical expression. A type of cross-pollination
occurs as country, “ragged” music, gospel, and
jazz begin to make inroads into new markets.
Young evangelists and entertainers often
accompanied one another performing at the
same events in small towns.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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Epidemics of yellow fever, cholera, and smallpox
swept through Southern cities (and Northern
cities) killing thousands during these decades.
In 1878 alone, 14,000 Americans die from these
diseases. Proscribed cures include cigars and
whiskey.
In August 1873, plagues of grasshoppers and
droughts devastate western farmers.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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The “Wild West” thrives in towns such as
Abilene, Kansas where “Wild Bill” Hickok, who
had previously killed 43 people, became the
marshal of the town.
Frank and Jesse James form a gang during
these years robbing numerous banks in the
Midwest. The robberies continue until 1882
when Jesse James was shot dead. His brother
soon surrendered to authorities, was acquitted of
all charges against him, and lived out his life in
Missouri.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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So-called “Indian Wars” are carried out
throughout the west during the 1870s – 1890s.
Anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, and anti-foreign
groups grow rapidly in the midst of the waves of
immigrants coming to the United States.
In 1880, it is estimated that 17% of the nation is
illiterate.
Child labor sours in popularity in both the North
and the South during this time. By 1890, it is
estimated that 23,000 children were at work in
factories and agriculture.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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In 1900, more than 95% of all births took place in
the home.
By 1900, the average laborer in the U.S. made 22
cents an hour and brought home $200 to $400
annually.
In 1900, the five leading causes of death in the
U.S. were: pneumonia and influenza, tuberculosis,
diarrhea, heart disease, and stroke.
That same year only 6% of all Americans had
graduated from high school.
Everyday Life in America – “The Gilded
Age” (1865 – 1900)
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In 1900, the average life expectancy in the
United States was 47 years of age.
That same year only 6% of all Americans had
graduated from high school.
Changes within the Benevolent Empire
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Henry Ward Beecher, minister of the
Plymouth Congregational Church of
Brooklyn, NY achieves national prominence
by 1868. So popular are Beecher’s
sermons that they are reprinted in the
nation’s leading papers on the following
Tuesday and are sold outside the church for
5 cents a copy.
Changes within the Benevolent Empire
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Dwight L. Moody begins his career
organizing revival meetings in the East in
1875. During the next two decades, Moody
would become the premiere evangelical
preacher in the nation. His work included
hymn writing and the establishment of
several “bible institutes.” His death on
December 22, 1899 marked a sea change
in the nation’s religious life.
Changes within the Benevolent Empire
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William Ashley “Billy” Sunday, a former
professional baseball player and YMCA
employee in Chicago, begins to evangelize
to small crowds in 1896. He was ordained
in 1903 in the Presbyterian Church and by
the time of his death he had preached to
more people than any other preacher in
America.
Changes within the Benevolent Empire
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5 “characteristics” within Protestantism from
pre- and post-war
Moral “reforms” of the antebellum period,
during the postbellum kept pace with
different focus
Women’s roles as “moral and spiritual”
leaders continue to expand into the public
sphere
Changes within the Benevolent Empire
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Ideological reforms of society, in turn, affect
reforms in the churches (example – women
in the pulpit & Holiness movements).
Laissez-faire economics coupled with ideas
of self-help, both religious and secular, bring
about a crisis in Protestantism. Social
reforms cast in light of mission.
The adoption and adaptation of business
practices and organization within the
reformist sphere.
Divisions from within Protestant America
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Oliver Wendell
Holmes, Jr.
described his
generation as
“almost the first
of young men
who have been
brought up in an
atmosphere of
investigation.”
Divisions from within Protestant America
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Meeting of the First Vatican Council in 1869
in which Cardinal Manning advocates for a
definition of “Papal Infallibility.”
In “The Gay Science” published in 1882,
Friedrich Nietzsche makes his observation
the “death of God.”
1859 Charles Darwin publishes his Origin of
Species
Divisions from within Protestant America
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1859 Charles Darwin
publishes his Origin
of Species. In
postwar America, a
considerable debate
emerges concerning
it meaning among the
intellectual elite.
Divisions from within Protestant America
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“New” methods and forms of academic
study of the Bible first derived in Europe in
the previous decades begin to take a
foothold in the United States. Use of
archeological findings, and the advent of
textual criticism begin to threaten the very
foundations of American Protestantism.
Divisions from within Protestant America
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Elizabeth Cady
Stanton (1815-1902)
publishes her
Women’s Bible in
1892 and 1895
Introduction to the Women’s Bible
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While their clergymen told them on the one hand, that
they owed all the blessings and freedom they enjoyed
to the Bible, on the other, they said it clearly marked
out their circumscribed sphere of action: that the
demands for political and civil rights were irreligious,
dangerous to the stability of the home, the state and
the church. Clerical appeals were circulated from time
to time conjuring members of their churches to take no
part in the anti-slavery or woman suffrage movements,
as they were infidel in their tendencies, undermining
the very foundations of society. No wonder the majority
of women stood still, and with bowed heads, accepted
the situation.
Introduction to the Women’s Bible
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Others fear that they might compromise their
evangelical faith by affiliating with those of more liberal
views, who do not regard the Bible as the "Word of
God," but like any other book, to be judged by its
merits. If the Bible teaches the equality of Woman, why
does the church refuse to ordain women to preach the
gospel, to fill the offices of deacons and elders, and to
administer the Sacraments, or to admit them as
delegates to the Synods, General Assemblies and
Conferences of the different denominations? They
have never yet invited a woman to join one of their
Revising Committees, nor tried to mitigate the
sentence pronounced on her by changing one count in
the indictment served on her in Paradise.
Divisions from within Protestant America
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Orello Cone publishes his work Gospel Criticism
and Historical Christianity in 1891. Cone’s work is
widely popular and becomes the first to spread the
methods of biblical criticism, long-since advanced
by German scholars, concerning the biblical text.
During the same year Washington Gladden writes
Who Wrote the Bible? which sought to mediate
between proponents of the new criticism and those
affirming more traditional views.
Divisions from within Protestant America
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Booker T. Washington founds the Tuskegee
Institute in 1881.
Josiah Strong publishes Our Country in 1885. The
work criticized America’s new concentration of
wealth and challenged churches to concern
themselves with social problems. With the
publication of The New Era in 1893, Strong
becomes a national figure. His works were so
popular, they are published into several European
languages, as well as Chinese and Japanese.
Divisions from within Protestant America
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In 1878, Methodist-sponsored Vanderbilt
University dismissed Alexander Winchell, a
geologist, for his findings which contradicted
biblical chronology.
Robert G. Ingersoll, described by one historian as
the “John the Baptist” of American agnosticism in
the late-nineteenth century, declared that “every
new religion has a little less superstition than the
old, so that the religion of science is but a question
of time.”
Divisions within Protestant America
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Colored Methodist Episcopal Church
(denomination) established in Jackson,
Tennessee in 1870.
In 1872, Charles Taze Russell organizes a
group of followers who would eventually
become known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Mary Baker Eddy publishes Science and
Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875).
Four years later, the Church of Christ,
Scientist was founded (Christian Scientists).
A Preview of External Threats to
Protestant America
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The “excision” of God from culture gains a
greater following by the close of the century.
“By the end of the 1860s, science had little
use for God. This was really no sudden
transformation (though its last stages raised
considerable noise around Charles Darwin).
Rather, the excision of God from science
culminated a long trend, the eventual
outcome of which had been forecast long
before…
A Preview of External Threats to
Protestant America
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After Darwin’s Origin of Species appeared in 1859,
God rapidly became redundant in the whole
business…The Darwinian hypothesis of natural
selection explained two of three great instances of
divine activity in biology—the origin of species and
the adaptation of animals and plants…Ten years
later, Thomas Huxley proposed a solution to the
remaining mystery of biology, the origin of life. The
basic unit of life, he claimed, was protoplasm.”
A Preview of External Threats to
Protestant America
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Anthropology invested with social scientific
methods suggest that human “need” for transcend
being really just a “coping mechanism” for nature’s
mysteries. Arguments “of the heart” that
suggested primal religious impulses or immediate
intuitions of the divine.
Intellectual uncertainties about religious belief
produced the conviction that knowledge of God
laid beyond human powers of comprehension.
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Religion and Society in America