Baptized in the Fire of Revolution: The American Social Gospel and the YMCA in China, 1919-1937

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Baptized in the Fire of Revolution: The American Social Gospel and the YMCA in China, 1919-1937.

By Jun Xing. Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 238. $39.50.

This thin volume presents a cross-cultural study of how the social gospel, through the American YMCA, was first accepted in China, only to be rejected for a Communist revolution. Xing, a native of China and assistant professor of history at Colorado State University, has revised here his doctoral dissertation, completed at the University of Minnesota in American studies. Utilizing a wealth of archival sources, this book is a laudable first attempt by the author to explore the issue of cultural relations between Americans and Chinese.

Employing methodology in part based on Antonio Gramsci's "cultural hegemony" theory, Xing reviews the background of the social gospel and the YMCA in America, as well as the successful efforts of the Y to establish an indigenous association movement in China in the early twentieth century. There the YMCA-sponsored programs such as literacy campaigns, health education, and citizenship training classes made it popular with young urban Chinese who supported social reforms. Yet, "after an initial period of wholehearted acceptance, the social gospel lost ground to its secular alternative communism," and "the Y lost its mandate in the ongoing Chinese social reconstruction" of the 1930s (pp. …

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