History of Religion in the United States

By Clifton E. Olmstead | Go to book overview
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Christian Idealism in
National Life

TO THE REPRESENTATIVE AMERICAN CHURCHGOER DURING THE DECADES IMME- diately following the Civil War, religion was first and foremost a matter of integrity and respectability. He might be careless in his orthodoxy, slovenly in his worship, and indifferent in his attitude toward social ills; but he was anxious not to be denied a reputation for piety, charity, and unimpeachable conduct. He wore his religion much as he did his Prince Albert coat; it was a thing of pride, a symbol of status pointing to his dignity as a man. In theory he knew himself to be a sinner for this was the pronouncement of orthodoxy, but he never allowed formality to stand in the way of practice. Orthodoxy was his profession; activism was his life. If the two elements suffered from incompatibility this did not concern him, for logic was not his forte.

Reared in the burgeoning optimism of an environment surrounded by new physical, social, and intellectual frontiers, he recognized no end to opportunity and no limits to success. Whether on the broad western frontier or in the teeming cities of the East or even in some distant clime, society would be better, more Christian, because of his presence. Grad


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History of Religion in the United States


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