THE TWENTIETH CENTURY IN AMERICA
By the end of the 20th century, more than two billion persons — one-third of the human race — were at least nominally Christian, and the gospel had reached every corner of the globe in one form or another. Considered in purely historical terms, it might well seem that nothing has ever come nearer to constituting a truly global faith. On the other hand, Christian adherence had never before come in so vast a variety of forms, some of them all but incomprehensible to one another. If Christianity is a global faith, it is not by any means a unified or uniform community.
Nowhere does this diversity of Christian confessions show itself more vividly than in North America, and in the United States in particular, where the always heterogeneous Christianity of the various original settlers was further fecundated by the great inpouring of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
(LIKE THIS AUTHORS USE OF WORDS I'VE NEVER HEARD OF, MODERN CHRISTIANITY IS A DICTIONARY OF DIVERSIFIED, DISSIMILARITY, INNOVATION, MISCELLANY, MELANGE, PASTICHE, HETEROGENEITY, HODGEPODGE, AND OMNIUM-GATHERUM [from the Readers Digest "Word-Finder"] - Keith Hunt )
The Evangelical Protestantism that took such firm hold in the United States in the 19th century was not, of course, a single church, nor was it even organized around a single unvarying theology. It admitted of innumerable variants, and in the second decade of the 20th century, a new variant arose called 'fundamentalism', so named because of a series of 12 books outlining its principles that appeared from 1909 to 1915 under the collective title The Fundamentals.
[The number of Catholics that came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was so great that the Catholic Church is now far and away the country's largest denomination]
In principle, fundamentalism was a reaction to 'liberal theology', which is to say those forms of mainline Protestantism that were willing to allow for a certain latitude in their interpretation of the content of scripture (regarding, for instance, which aspects of its narratives were to be taken literally, and which symbolically). It was also, however, a reaction against many of the developments of modern society, religion and science that fundamentalists believed undermined Christian faith, such as Darwinism, spiritualism, Mormonism and materialism. The actual 'fundamentals' were a set of the five basic 'propositions' supposedly definitive of true Christianity: Christ's substitutionary atonement for sin, the reality of miracles, the virgin birth, Christ's bodily resurrection and the inerrancy of scripture (some versions of the list include Christ's divinity and the last judgment).
Of these, scriptural inerrancy was the only wholly novel principle. It went far beyond the traditional Christian belief in the divine inspiration and truthfulness in scripture; it meant that every single event reported in the Bible was historically factual, every word recorded therein literally true and every apparent contradiction unreal. Such a view of scripture might have been tacitly held by many Christians down the centuries; but, as an explicit dogma, it was contrary to almost all of Christian tradition, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox.
(WELL NOT SO HARD TO COME BY IF YOU READ THE BIBLE AND BELIEVE WHAT IT SAYS, THAT ALL SCRIPTURE IS GOD BREATHED, INSPIRED. WHY ON EARTH BOTHER BELIEVING IN A GOD, IF YOU CAN'T BELIEVE HE HAS THE POWER TO WRITE AN INSPIRED BOOK, THAT IS FULLY ACCURATE, EXCEPT FOR THE VERY WELL KNOWN WORDS OR PHRASES THAT WE KNOW ARE MAN MADE ERRORS [LIKE THE WORD "EASTER" IN THE BOOK OF ACTS] - Keith Hunt)
[Baptist worshippers in the 1930s. Baptist churches in America were generally 'holiness congregations,' which subscribed to an Evangelical theology]
Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement
Just as significant a development for American Evangelicalism — and ultimately more important in global terms — was the birth in the first decade of the century of the 'Pentecostal' movement, a variety of 'enthusiast' spirituality that involves belief in a second baptism 'by the Holy Spirit' (as distinct from that 'by water') that confers on the believer the spiritual 'charisms' or gifts experienced by the first-century Church: speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, prophecy, the power to cast out demons and so forth. Many Pentecostals believed that, in their time, the 'latter reign' of the Holy Spirit had begun, and dated its start to the Azusa Street Mission Revival of 1906-15, in Los Angeles - a revival disdained by its critics for both its mixture of races and its ecstatic worship.
Pentecostalism, moreover, did not remain confined to Evangelical communities; in the 1960s it began to migrate into the mainline Protestant, Catholic and even (in a very small way) Orthodox Churches in America. In 1960, it even made its way into the staid and respectable environs of the Episcopal Church, brought there by - among others - an Episcopal priest named Dennis Bennett (1917-91). In 1967, the Roman Catholic theology student (and later deacon) Kevin Ranaghan (b. 1940), along with his wife, experienced a charismatic conversion, and it was largely because of him that a 'Charismatic renewal' began to spread through the Catholic Church, not only in America, but around the world.
As a rule, the denominations where the Charismatics appeared came to accept this style of spirituality as a legitimate and even admirable form of Christian life, grounded in Biblical tradition. It soon became evident, for instance, that a belief in the gifts of the Spirit did not alienate Catholics from their Church, but often seemed to make them better Catholics. By the end of the century, the Catholic Charismatic movement had become not only a recognized form of Catholicism, but in some parts of the world (such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines and Brazil) one of the dominant forms.
(YES MANY CHRISTIANS DO NOT KNOW THERE IS A "PENTECOSTAL-CHARASMATIC" TYPE MOVEMENT WITHIN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - SEEN IT FIRST HAND - Keith Hunt)
The American civil rights movement that began after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. the Board of Education (which desegregated public education) was in many very real respects a movement within the American churches. Peaceful protests were promoted and supported by local congregations and Christian organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In fact, one of the founders of that conference, the Baptist pastor T. J. Jemison (b. 1918), set the pattern for such protests by leading a bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1953. Another founder, the Rev. Fred Shuttleworth (b.1922) - whom the Ku Klux Klan attempted to assassinate in 1957 - was one of the chief organizers of the 'Freedom Rides' of 1961.
The most famous, revered and ultimately mourned of the civil rights movement's many ordained leaders was the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-68), the Baptist minister who — through his sheer eloquence, unrelenting effort and personal courage - did perhaps more than anyone else to transform the movement into a national cause. And his unwavering commitment to peaceful protest made the violence of the movement's opponents — violence, incidentally, that was often even worse in northern cities such as Chicago than in the south — that much more vividly repellent in the eyes of many millions who saw and heard it reported in the media. The national scope of the movement became clear in 1963, with the 'March on Washington'. No event did more to force the moral demands of the movement into the consciousness of the nation — with the exception, perhaps, of King's assassination in 1968, in Memphis,Tennessee.
(YES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS INDEED A GREAT MAN FOR EQUALITY OF THE BLACKS OF AMERICA. HIS PEACEFUL CHRISTIAN IDEOLOGY WAS SUPERB TO BEHOLD. AND HE WAS BIBLICALLY CORRECT THAT ALL PEOPLE SHOULD BE TREATED EQUAL, WITH LOVE AND RESPECT - IN WORK AND PLAY - Keith Hunt)
THE SCOPES TRIAL
Easily the most famous episode of conflict between American evangelical fundamentalism and modern 'materialist' ideas was the 'Scopes Trial' of 1925, in Dayton,Tennessee, in which two legendary figures in American law and politics - Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) and William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) - fought a pitched court battle over the right of a public school instructor to teach evolution.
The instructor in question was one John Scopes (1900-70), who was accused of teaching from a text book (Civic Biology by George Hunter) that included a chapter on biological evolution; technically this violated Tennessee's 'Butler Act', passed earlier that year, which prohibited the teaching of any theory denying the biblical story of creation and suggesting human descent from lower beasts. Darrow, an agnostic and member of the American Civil Liberties Union, volunteered to join the defence team, while Bryan, who shared the beliefs of the fundamentalist movement, joined the prosecution. The moment in the trial that entered most deeply into national lore involved Bryan taking the stand, as an 'expert on the Bible', to be cross-examined by Darrow on the plausibility of the scriptural accounts of creation and of various miracles; this circular and aimless debate was ultimately expunged from the record. Scopes was found guilty, but was merely fined $100; on appeal, the conviction was nullified.
The trial has usually been remembered merely as a conflict between primitive religiosity and disinterested science, but the facts of the case are rather more complicated. Bryan was in his youth one of the most passionate and populist of 'progressive' politicians, a champion of labour and of the poor, an enemy of race theory, and a firm believer in democracy. In his day, evolutionary theory was inextricably associated with eugenics, and from early on he had denounced Darwinism as a philosophy of hatred and oppression, ardently believing that the Christian law of love was the only true basis of a just society. As yet, the rather obvious truth that evolutionary science need involve no social ideology whatsoever was not obvious even to Darwinian scientists.
Moreover, Civic Biology was a monstrously racist text, which ranked humanity in five categories of evolutionary development (with blacks at the bottom and whites at the top), advocated eugenic cleansing of the race, denounced intermarriage and the perpetuation of 'degenerate' stock and suggested 'humane' steps for the elimination of social 'parasites'. These were the ideas that Bryan had long believed would lead humanity into an age of war, murder and tyranny; and, given what came in the decades following the trial, it would be hard to argue that Bryan - whatever his faults - was simply an alarmist.
YES INDEED THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, HATRED, BIAS, BIGOTRY, CAME ALONG WITH THE RISE OF EVOLUTION AND SECULARISM, AND THE FOUNDATION OF THE BIBLE WAS CUT DOWN AND DEMOLISHED. BUT I MUST ADD THAT SOME TRIED USING THE BIBLE TO UPHOLD SEGREGATION AND THAT BLACKS SHOULD BE A SLAVE PEOPLE TO THE WHITES. TERRIBLY BAD THEOLOGY BROUGHT TERRIBLY BAD RESULTS.