Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century

By Small, Joseph D. | First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, October 2012 | Go to article overview
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Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century


Small, Joseph D., First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life


Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century

BY MARK TOOLEY

BRISTOL HOUSE, 406 PAGES, $27.95

Perhaps Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, has set out to provide the story of Methodism's political engagement in the twentieth century. His thesis (which only appears in the last paragraph) is that American Methodism in 1900 was growing, confident, unified, and politically formidable, while because of its political activism, one hundred years later it was experiencing steep membership decline, disunity, and political marginalization.

Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century is less a story than a log, however; less a history than a chronicle. Instead of a cohesive narrative, it offers a cascade of events, pronouncements, and individual responses, without an appraisal of their place within the whole. The chapter on the Great Depression and the New Deal, for instance, includes in rapid sequence statements by a General Conference, two regional conferences, three meetings of bishops, four individual bishops, eight ministers, a denominational official, a professor, a conference newspaper, and the president of the United States--all in the space of six pages.

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