American Apocalypse

American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism

MATTHEW AVERY SUTTON
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 420
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qdt92
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  • Book Info
    American Apocalypse
    Book Description:

    In the first comprehensive history of American evangelicalism to appear in a generation, Matthew Sutton shows how charismatic Protestant preachers, anticipating the end of the world, paradoxically transformed it. Narrating the story from the perspective of the faithful, he shows how apocalyptic thinking influences the American mainstream today.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73618-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. PROLOGUE
    (pp. 1-7)

    On Thursday April 11, 1912, Philip Mauro boarded the Cunard Line steamerCarpathiafrom New York’s Pier 54. He planned to spend yet another summer on the Mediterranean relaxing with his family and doing some evangelistic writing. Ever since his conversion to a radical form of evangelical Christianity, the wealthy corporate attorney had used his gifts of persuasion, refined by multiple appearances before the United States Supreme Court, to make the case for faith.¹

    Mauro’s summer plans fell apart just after midnight on the fifteenth when theCarpathiareceived an urgent communication from a nearby US-bound ship, the RMSTitanic....

  5. 1 JESUS IS COMING
    (pp. 8-46)

    At least that’s what William E. Blackstone assured thousands of anxious Christians in 1878. A wealthy Chicago real estate developer and friend of evangelist Dwight L. Moody, Blackstone felt energized by the chaos he saw around him. The dapper man with bald head and prominent mutton chops believed that the Bible laid out a series of signs that would indicate when the end was nigh. The signs were starting to appear.

    Certain that time was running out, Blackstone decided to take up a pen and draftJesus Is Comingto warn as many people as possible about the imminent apocalypse....

  6. 2 GLOBAL WAR AND CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM
    (pp. 47-78)

    Emerald City divine Mark Matthews loved God and he loved Woodrow Wilson. The tall, lanky, Georgia-born minister, who looked more like a stern plantation overseer than a warm cleric, relished the fact that a fellow southerner, Presbyterian, and Democrat had won the White House. Matthews believed that with Woodrow Wilson at the helm the United States would finally return to the sea of righteousness. During the early decades of the twentieth century, Matthews became one of the most powerful religious leaders in the United States. His Seattle congregation was the largest Presbyterian church in the world, with over ten thousand...

  7. 3 THE BIRTH OF FUNDAMENTALISM
    (pp. 79-113)

    On a brisk spring morning in 1922, popular liberal minister Harry Emerson Fosdick stepped up to the pulpit of Manhattan’s First Presbyterian Church to deliver what became one of the most famous sermons in American history. The homily titled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” exposed the revolution under way in American religious life. The articulate, audacious cleric answered the question posed by his sermon title with a resounding and emphatic no. But Fosdick was mistaken; over the course of the twentieth century fundamentalists did triumph in important ways. They have played a decisive role in shaping modern Christianity, they have impacted...

  8. 4 THE CULTURE WARS BEGIN
    (pp. 114-147)

    In 1918 John Roach Straton accepted a call to Manhattan’s Calvary Baptist Church. Shortly after assuming his new post he launched a campaign against Broadway, the most iconic institution in his new hometown. Straton promised the people of New York that he would “put up a man-sized fight” against the theatre’s “forces of sin and godlessness.” He described the theatre as “a covetous, Mammon-worshipping, money-seeking institution” that appealed only “to the lower instincts of the race.” He called female actors “brazen licentiates” and alleged that they routinely bore “illegitimate children.” Sunday curtains troubled him as well. Broadway, the tall, gaunt...

  9. 5 AMERICAN EDUCATION ON TRIAL
    (pp. 148-177)

    In the last years of William Jennings Bryan’s life, he took on a foe far greater than the Republican candidates who had three times derailed his quest for the presidency. He pledged to defeat the new science that he believed threatened the souls of the nation’s schoolchildren. In 1922, theNew York Timesasked the former presidential nominee, past secretary of state, and staunch Presbyterian to explain his crusade to eradicate evolution from public school curricula. In a long article, the Great Commoner offered many criticisms of evolution, but his religious arguments resonated most widely. “Not one syllable in the...

  10. 6 SEEKING SALVATION WITH THE GOP
    (pp. 178-206)

    In 1928 Al Smith set his sights on the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. That the New York governor could possibly win the election troubled fundamentalists. Smith seemed to represent everything they had been combating since the end of World War I. He was a product of big-city machine politics, he owed his success to New York’s infamous Tammany Hall, and he was the Roman Catholic grandson of immigrants. He opposed Prohibition and he drank and smoked. Fundamentalists feared that to let their country fall into the hands of a wet Irish Romanist was to bring down...

  11. 7 THE RISE OF THE TYRANTS
    (pp. 207-231)

    In late 1933, missionary and medical doctor L. Nelson Bell sat down at his desk in Qingjiangpu, China, to write his weekly letter home to his mother. As usual, he dedicated most of the missive to discussing the activities of his children. Thirteen-year-old daughter Ruth, he explained, had written him a “lively” report of events at her boarding school in Pyongyang, Korea. While ironing some clothes, Ruth spontaneously blurted out to a classmate, “Oh just think, the end of the world may come soon and then we will be so happy.” Apparently, her friend was not at all surprised by...

  12. 8 CHRIST’S DEAL VERSUS THE NEW DEAL
    (pp. 232-262)

    The president had a problem. During the summer of 1935, a political operative working for Franklin Delano Roosevelt traveled the country hoping to gauge levels of support for the administration. The Democrats wanted to be prepared for the 1936 presidential campaign. The operative’s August report contained such important conclusions that FDR’s secretary insisted that the president read it personally. “In my opinion,” the operative explained in the memorandum, “the strongest opposition to Mr. Roosevelt—in 1936—would come, not from the economic reactionaries, but from the religious reactionaries (if you can separate the two)…. The opposition of what one can...

  13. 9 REVIVING AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM
    (pp. 263-292)

    Harold John Ockenga had faith in the United States. “We have a providential position in history,” he preached just as the world plunged into war. “Our continent was preserved to incarnate the development of the best civilization. Humanly speaking, it is almost as though God pinned His last hope on America.” Like the Puritan divines, Ockenga believed that God had chosen the United States to play a special role in the world; and like his Great War predecessors, he knew that American Christians could speed up or slow down the march toward the apocalypse. With Hitler storming across Europe and...

  14. 10 BECOMING COLD WARRIORS FOR CHRIST
    (pp. 293-325)

    In 1947 Carl F. H. Henry published a major critique of American fundamentalism and laid out a new agenda for the future. “For the first protracted period in its history,” he asserted inThe Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, “evangelical Christianity stands divorced from the great social reform movements.” For Henry, this was unconscionable. “Modern Fundamentalism,” he lamented, “does not explicitly sketch the social implications of its message for the non-Christian world; it does not challenge the injustices of the totalitarianisms, the secularisms of modern education, the evils of racial hatred, the wrongs of current labor-management relations, the inadequate bases...

  15. 11 APOCALYPSE NOW
    (pp. 326-366)

    On September 23, 1949, President Harry Truman revealed to the world that the Soviet Union had conducted a successful test of an atomic bomb. Two days later, a handsome, lanky, thirty-one-year-old evangelist stepped up to the podium in a makeshift tabernacle erected on a vacant lot in southern California. “I think that we are living at a time in world history when God is giving us a desperate choice, a choice of either revival or judgment,” the preacher blustered in a southern twang. “There is no alternative! … God Almighty is going to bring judgment upon this city unless people...

  16. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 367-374)

    American evangelicalism is thriving in the twenty-first century. While nineteenth-century premillennialists would most likely fail to recognize their spiritual great-grandchildren, white evangelicals have achieved much of what they set out to do since World War II. While they still claim at times to be a persecuted minority, in re orienting their movement and linking their faith with the major social and political issues of the era, they have accomplished more than most ever dreamed possible. Evangelicals have helped to make and break presidential candidates, influenced US foreign policy, and shaped the debates on the most important social and cultural issues...

  17. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 377-380)
  18. NOTES
    (pp. 381-436)
  19. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 437-440)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 441-459)