Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925

By George M. Marsden | Go to book overview

Puritans. They knew that greed and pleasure loving never could construct a glorious civilization. They did not play cards, nor go to dances, nor tolerate liquor shops, nor attend theatres.... " 45 The abolition of selected sins of the flesh was the principal moral concern remaining for those whose hopes for a Christian America had been crushed by the changes in the modern world.

Much had changed since the days of the alliance of Jonathan Blanchard with the Beechers. One side of American evangelicalism was becoming a movement of the disinherited. In 1915 Charles Blanchard wrote that the true disciples of Christ usually would be found "in smaller, poorer churches." 46 So also had the Blanchard ethical rigor subtly shifted away from efforts to transform the culture toward symbols of separation from it. Jonathan Blanchard had been a Puritan exhorting America to become Zion; Charles was a Puritan in an American Babylon.


III. D. L. Moody
and a New American Evangelism

"As he stood on the platform," wrote the Reverend Lyman Abbott in praise of Dwight L. Moody, "he looked like a business man; he dressed like a business man; he took the meeting in hand as a business man would...." 1 Abbot's comment, written shortly before Moody's death in 1899, points out some characteristics of Moody's revivalism that since have sometimes been obscured. Moody's evangelism had a degree of middle-class respectability about it that was not always present in American revivalism. His methods and his message sparked nothing like the fierce controversies that stalked his immediate predecessor, Charles Finney, during Finney's early career. Neither did Moody's businessman style partake of the extravagant, theatrical, acrobatic, and country-yokel touches of his immediate successor, Billy Sunday. Moody's meetings, although warmed by the informalities of Ira Sankey's hymnsings, were relatively decorous. Sentiment rather than sensation characterized his messages. They contained (as the title of a collection of his sermons advertised) "living truths for head and heart, illustrated by .... thrilling anecdotes and incidents, personal experiences, touching home scenes, and stories of tender pathos." 2 His message, aside from the constant stress on the necessity of conversion, was of the love of God. His theology, although basically orthodox, was ambiguous to the point of seeming not to be theology at all. Moody could thus maintain cordial relations with mem

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