Evangelical Disenchantment

Evangelical Disenchantment: Nine Portraits of Faith and Doubt

David Hempton
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Evangelical Disenchantment
    Book Description:

    In this engaging and at times heartbreaking book, David Hempton looks at evangelicalism through the lens of well-known individuals who once embraced the evangelical tradition, but later repudiated it. The author recounts the faith journeys of nine creative artists, social reformers, and public intellectuals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including such diverse figures as George Eliot, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Vincent van Gogh, and James Baldwin. Within their highly individual stories, Hempton finds not only clues to the development of these particular creative men and women but also myriad insights into the strengths and weaknesses of one of the fastest growing religious traditions in the modern world.

    Allowing his subjects to express themselves in their own voices-through letters, essays, speeches, novels, apologias, paintings-Hempton seeks to understand the factors at work in the shaping of their religious beliefs, and how their negotiations of faith informed their public and private lives. The nine were great public communicators, but in private often felt deep uncertainties. Hempton's moving portraits highlight common themes among the experiences of these disillusioned evangelicals while also revealing fresh insights into the evangelical movement and its relations to the wider culture.

    Featuring portraits of:

    · George Eliot

    · Frances W. Newman

    · Theodore Dwight Weld

    · Sarah Grimké

    · Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    · Frances Willard

    · Vincent van Gogh

    · Edmund Gosse

    · James Baldwin

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14282-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction Evangelicalism and Disenchantment
    (pp. 1-18)

    The idea for this book first occurred to me some thirty years ago when, as a research student in the University of St. Andrews, I spent the time between the completion of my Ph.D. dissertation and my oral defense by engaging in research for a journal article on the so-called crisis of evangelicalism in the 1820s and ’30s. The article eventually appeared as “Evangelicalism and Eschatology” in theJournal of Ecclesiastical History(1979), but more important than my rather pedestrian article was a riveting anonymous essay I read in theWestminster Reviewfor 1855. What was striking about the essay...

  5. 2 George Eliot—Dr. Cumming’s Fundamentalism Evangelicalism and Morality
    (pp. 19-40)

    Consider the following two accounts of evangelicalism, one written anonymously and the other under a pseudonym, but both in fact written by the same person. They were published within a few years of one another in the later 1850s, which is conveniently about the halfway mark between the rise of evangelicalism among the displaced and persecuted Protestants of central Europe in the late seventeenth century and its remarkable global expansion in our own time. The author of both accounts is the English novelist Mary Ann Evans, alias George Eliot. The first is a blistering critique of a metropolitan Calvinist preacher...

  6. 3 Francis W. Newman—The Road to Baghdad Evangelicalism and Mission
    (pp. 41-69)

    Francis Newman, like his better-known brother, John Henry, the eminent Roman Catholic theologian, underwent an evangelical religious conversion in his early teenage years.¹ He had grown up as the fourth of six children in a relatively prosperous English home, the son of a solid and sensible Anglican businessman who later went bankrupt, and a more pious Huguenot mother. John Henry, who in Francis’s mind seemed to alternate between a model older brother and someone with whom to fight furiously over theology, was born in 1801, Francis in 1805.² Francis Newman’s account of his early embrace of evangelicalism is written in...

  7. 4 Theodore Dwight Weld—The American Century Evangelicalism and Reform
    (pp. 70-91)

    Although his personal journey from evangelical firebrand to humanistic firebrand to passive observer was unique, Theodore Dwight Weld’s life intersected with many of the most important religious currents of nineteenth-century America.¹ Born in the same year that Napoleon ceded the Louisiana territory to the United States, Weld, the last of the great antislavery patriarchs of the 1830s, died in 1895. Weld, who came from a long line of New England Puritan clergymen, was converted to evangelical Christianity in 1826 at a re- vival led by Charles Finney in upstate New York. He died almost seventy years later a member of...

  8. 5 Sarah Grimké, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frances Willard—Bible Stories Evangelicalism and Feminism
    (pp. 92-113)

    The relationship between the rise of popular evangelicalism during the second Great Awakening and the development of American feminism in the early nineteenth century is a hotly debated topic. On the one hand it has been argued that evangelicalism, particularly the varieties spawned by the rise of Methodism and the revivals associated with Charles Finney, supplied the moral outrage and conversionist zeal that empowered women to act publicly through countless voluntary organizations.¹ Middle and upper class women, so the argument goes, benefited from social and economic changes that freed them from domestic drudgery, were empowered by religious conversions to seek...

  9. 6 Vincent van Gogh—A Hard Pilgrimage Evangelicalism and Secularization
    (pp. 114-138)

    Consider the following two extracts from the published letters of Vincent van Gogh.¹ The first is taken from his only surviving sermon, preached in the Richmond Methodist Church in the autumn of 1876 during van Gogh’s intensely evangelical phase, when he still retained ambitions to be a Christian minister in a populist evangelical tradition.² The second, written over a decade later, is a piece of worldly advice to his sister Wilhelmien (Wil) from an older brother whose religious framework and spirituality had changed in many important respects. The sermon is worth reproducing at some length, not only to hear van...

  10. 7 Edmund Gosse—Father and Son Evangelicalism and Childhood
    (pp. 139-162)

    Edmund Gosse’s epilogue to his bookFather and Son,from which this quotation is taken, was written in the first decade of the twentieth century.¹ The book, which carries the subtitleA Study of Two Temperaments,is an exploration of the relationship between Gosse’s father, the distinguished Victorian naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, and Edmund, his only son, who later became one of England’s most influential literary figures.² The book not only is regarded as Gosse’s finest literary achievement, but also is viewed as one of the most compelling dissections ever written of the pernicious effects of evangelical religion on family...

  11. 8 James Baldwin—Preacher and Prophet Evangelicalism and Race
    (pp. 163-186)

    Shortly after James Baldwin died in self-imposed exile in southern France, his brother played Sara Jordan Powell’s version of “Amazing Grace,” perhaps the best loved hymn of both white and African American evangelicals. Yet the author of the hymn, John Newton, was once a slave trader, one of those exploitative servants of the imperial system that transported West Africans to the Caribbean Islands and America, where they were sold into plantation agriculture to grow cotton for the spinning mills of the north of England. The African victims of this dehumanizing triangular trade who fetched up in the New World were...

  12. 9 Conclusion Enchantment and Disenchantment
    (pp. 187-198)

    In Harold Frederic’s fin-de-siècle novelThe Damnation of Theron Ware,the novelist creates a character who sets out as a serious young Methodist preacher and ends as a disillusioned minister ready to swap the world of camp meetings and revivals for a job in real estate and an imagined career as a political orator.¹ Theron Ware’s disenchantment with the narrow Methodism of his life and preaching station in the Mohawk Valley is the result of many influences. In the imaginary town of Octavius, which is drawn largely from Frederic’s hometown of Utica, New York, Ware encounters a range of people...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 199-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-233)