tv Lectures in History American Churches During WWI CSPAN November 26, 2022 11:00am-12:16pm EST
invasion had been stopped on lake champlain and new orleans, but it was not stopped in the chesapeake bay, which was the height of american naval strength. washington had been burned. the chesapeake loss to the shannon emphasized the disastrous results of lack, training and discipline. but america couldn't take pride in her fighting ships. and then a few frigates and smaller vessels had than held their own. all forerunners of our great modern fighting ships. then and ships of 1812, fighting of our great free republic.
topic and we will only get part way through that today for class next time you have the readings that are more focused on the social gospel clergy and i respond to social gospel clergy so we won't be done with this today. we are going to give work our way through. a broad overview of the question. on the first day of class, you read woodrow wilson's neutrality from august 19th 1914. within the first two weeks or so of the war and in there was a section. i said, i'm going to come back to this and this is a section of the neutrality proclamation. i wish i had paid closer attention to years ago. and this is the sentence wilson pleading with the nation, pleading neutrality in thought word and deeds said the spirit of the nation in this critical
matter will be determined largely by what and society and those in public meetings do and upon what newspaper and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits and men proclaim as their opinions on the street. so that key phrase there, we're going to zero in on what ministers utter in their pulpits pulpits. what striking about this original neutrality is that here, unlike what's going to happen after, us intervention in 1917 and on through the war itself on through the peace process at point wilson is appealing for caution restraint what not to say the passions not to stir up in the churches from the pulpit, not divide america ethnically religiously.
since americans have conflicting loyal especially if they're recent immigrants coming from many different nations at war with each. so this is in the context of an appeal to hold back be cautious and that's not the case after u.s. intervention in april 1917 then it's a question of mobilizing the churches a little bit earlier come to think of it. there was an effort to mobilize the churches for the sake of preparedness maybe already in 1916. but much directly. in 1917. but now that question, what did ministers utter their pulpits now want to think through without this becoming too tedious? i want to think a little bit as we go along about today how, how we as historians, how we do job without getting too technical,
because there are some serious obstacles here for us if want to understand what even even accumulate record of what pastors priests rabbis guys said in the pulpits pulpits. now of course question of the american and world war one fits into a much much broader problem much broader question there's nothing new about religion and war. in 1914, the 1918 or 1919, nothing new about this at all. any ancient. mobilized religion for the sake of waging its wars, mobilize it, made sure it was on there side. right. and defeated the enemies gods. there's no to escape the question of religious practice religious worship in those days
and, the violence of warfare it's part of that that broader problem of human society human human conflict. but by the time you get the enlightenment and, the enlightenment thinking back on, the so-called wars of religion, the 1600 1600s, a common emerges that religion actually makes the world a more violent and dangerous place religion a problem to be solved. it makes the world a more violent, disordered and place and assessments of war, imperial wars of the 1700s. this is a common that it intensified his warfare. is that actually true does religion. you can you can hear that i'm
doing with no nuance at all and we're going to have to nuance this quite a bit does religion just on its own intensify warfare, does it encourage the totalizing of war? we can think about that. we thought about this some already a little bit. the case of woodrow wilson. i want to return to that today. does religion automate get code opted by governments for the sake of war? does religion automatically get co-opted taken control of by governments for the sake of justifying their wars or mobilizing manpower material wealth, continuing wars especially if wars become controversial. unpopular. and is that all that we can really say about it is that is that is that the story of our experience that religion gets co-opted and it it doesn't have the intrigue the institutional
integrity to really defend itself in. times of war. and i'm going to talk about one history and who made exactly argument concerning america in the first world war. without telling this whole story and this would be this be a great upper level class maybe you can talk me into this. the united states had wrestled, i should say, even more broadly america pre united states america has always confronted the question of the role of religion, the role of the churches in its wars. you can find that in colonial america and the series of colonial wars. what is the role of the churches you local pastors preaching, militia sermons during the and indian war so is a common a common theme from the pulpit preaching on fast days preaching election day sermons. this is true the war for
independence true during the war of 1812. there's a strong. kind of redemptive explanation given to the war of 1812 in america's victory, the mexican war, and the problems of a largely nation waging war against a predominately catholic nation and that comes up all the time. there's been some great books written about that the us civil war saturated with questions of religion, questions of the role of the churches, questions of the impact of the war on the churches, question of the impact of the war of the churches on the war itself and justifying the war north and south, spanish war on beyond world war one into the second world war and in a culturally divisive, deeply culturally divisive of way during the vietnam war was quite a bit of reading about this over the summer, doing some more
research and writing about american civil religion and being reminded id of the effort, especially by the american left to mobilize the churches. they constantly, the church must have a prophetic witness, prophetic witness. it comes to civil rights domestically in a prophetic witness when it comes to international relations and waging war in southeast. so really, dora, did efforts serious efforts to mobilize the clergy, mobilize congregations to raise their consciousness about these questions so this is this is we can't escape this we can't escape this and we can also safely say that nation at war. from 1914 to 1918 also wrestled with this problem of the churches and the war the german clergy. and there are some famous
statements released. the german clergy during the war justify saying germany's war aims, the church of england and. i think we won't have time to explore this today, but think about the difference it makes to have nation with an established church and a nation with purely voluntary religious organizations like the united states, it's going to look very different. the russian orthodox church, maybe you've seen pictures of the battlefields. maybe you've seen pictures of soldiers preparing for battle on the eastern front. and there's an orthodox priest blessing the troops, blessing the weapons, blessing even something like a symbolic, a ceremonial drum for. the troops, the catholic in france, in italy, in austria and so on. as americans, we talk a lot and
we debate a lot. church and state and we boast about our institutional constitutional separation of church and state. first, on the national level with the bill of rights, and then state by state even those states that held on to their churches such as massachusetts by the 1830s, there is no in the united states which has an established church, there's separation from top to bottom of church and state. but what if and i'm stealing this from from a smarter historian, what if we switch the question, we focus so much on the relationship between and state in america in our supreme decisions all over the place. but what if we substitute words for church and state? what if we say religion and nation? and if you say, does america have separation of religion and nation? the answer is emphatically no.
and this gets noticed by. our friends in europe when they when they observe our inaugural inauguration ceremonies they hear a presidential inaugural address they that our speeches speeches sound like sermons and our sermons sound like political speeches. we're really good at that. we've been known for that for at least 200 years. so we routinely mix religion and nation politicians and right democrat republic and independent all quote from the bible. you can go through the most recent inaugural addresses, as i did last semester. students in american heritage and and every every new president, whether it's donald
trump, joe biden, every president is quoting from the bible bible. so while we affirm the institutional separation of churches from the government, while we defend freedom of worship, we mix religion and politics all the time there is currently the really hot topic of christian nationalism. but the more you look more carefully, you look at the history of christian nationalism, you find that it's not a recent development, it's not a product of. right wingers. it's been around for a long long time and we're going to see some of that today. this is part of the controversy during the first world war. this is part of the one of the causes of concern turn in various denominations that the
that the government was creating with the cooperation of other churches was creating a christian nationalism was putting the churches of america totally in the service of the government and. its war aims and it's war mobilized asia. so if you hear people talk about christian nationalism and raise the alarm about it pause stop think it goes way way back in american and it's as much a product of the american left as it is and this is so easy to demonstrate as much a product of the american as it is of the american right. so world war one, i think, makes this obvious. i think in most the real question is religious convictions get mixed, with which political agenda, not who
mixes and who doesn't. the more the better diagnostic is. which religious convictions get mixed with which political agenda. so who's whose theology mixes with whose ideology? that's the question. and the rare. the rare voice is a and a pastor or church member who calls for an a politics pulpit. the non pulpit and. i'm going to walk you through examples of this today. but that voice has been there? it has been heard. it was heard at the time, muted in every american war. and with the handout i gave it today going to i'm going to walk you through some of these concerns and problem is the problem is and this has been a 30 year long more than 30 year
long struggle for me in thinking the first world war and religion. historians are are are are blind to this to these distinctions. i'm going to i'm going to show you exactly what goes wrong in the way we've tried to tell the story of religion in war. and i have to say that of the earliest scholarship on this in the 1920s and thirties was actually by an animus against it was driven by that conviction that religion makes world a more dangerous, intolerant, violent place. so of course, if we going to if are going to. try to try to work against the modern total warfare, if we say we're never going to we're never going to endure something world war one again, then then then
those scholars are going to say, so we've got to make sure we keep religion out of this. i i and and there's a flaw. there's a flaw at the heart of of this scholarship big question here. here's the kind of the big question you put a star by right. the question that's not new in world war one and doesn't go away. the question you can ask in the 21st century about domestic issues, well, is what does church owe the government what does the church owe the government specifically here? what does the church owe the nation in time of war? and you're going to have deep disagreements about that. what does the church owe the nation? it comes to political issues. just saturday i heard a pastor retired who wanted to remind all
the pastors he was talking to. i ballard in november. you got to get out. you got to tell your people. you've got to mobilize your people. if you want brochures. i have brochures for you that you can give your people whatever the merits of that. there's that question what does the church owe the social political order? what does it owe the government in this case, time of war? what this has come up with the justice done a key book, right? and in both of his recent books in the bibliography essay in which he says there is no history of religion. america and religion in world war one. that's true. it's been a hundred years and counting and we have no history standard history. think about all the military histories we have of world war one. think of the economic histories we have of world war one, the
political histories, the biographies. we don't have. a standard comprehensive history of the question of the churches of religion and and the first world war and. that article i sent out if you had time to at it, it's something i wrote about ten or 12 years ago. that's what i'm driving in that piece. and what said in 2010 or 2012 is still just as true that we have never gotten busy to tell the story and to tell it well of religion and the war. so no general, one of the early is is a really dramatic visual aid here. one of the earliest to come out and still the most influential book called preachers present arms by ray h. abrams, a sociologist, 1933 and.
the book appeared be so thorough, so deeply researched, so authoritative that. it has been quoted for 90 years now as the definitive study of religion in world war one in america, and that really unfortunate, really unfortunate later. he published a new edition, an updated version of it to include clergy during world war two and to include the clergy during the vietnam war. so 30 some years later, he was focusing on this this question as sociologist abrams argued, presupposed that the institutional church had been the word i used earlier had been by the federal government. it had been sort of naively co-operative, complacent, and and it had just allowed itself
to be sucked into the war effort, which is not the story is not the story. but what he did here and it's a remarkable bit of research. this is way before the digital age, way before newspapers com this guy went through hundreds and hundreds of newspaper hours and drew what the preachers had said about the meaning of the war, why we're fighting who we are, america, who the germans are what's what's the cause? what's the meaning of the war? and he up -- quote after -- quote and that's easy to so here's my little historical method point right we talk method about what's our principle of selection and what's our principle of exclusion. you might call it cherry picking. it's easy to go out and find
everything, find all the most embarrassing things that every bishop, every pastor, every evangelist, every professor, every religious editor. it's so easy to go out and find the most quotable of the quotable and string them together and say, see, and because historians keep pulling book off the shelf and i see this happen all the time, pull it off the shelf. and i look in the footnotes and there it is. oh abrams preachers present arms. congratulations for having such a successful book, but you've distorted our understanding of the war and it and it seems to be so hard to loosen grip of this book. and so then you end with quote selective quotation from selective quotations.
and that makes the problem even worse it compounds it and to and to work beyond. this requires an entire read conceptualizing of the whole historical research problem. now, i don't i don't to distort this book there's a lot of valuable information in it and it can lead you other sources. but let me let me think about a related here. let's think about let's think what we would to do. let's think about what we have to do if we were going write a better book, how do we do this? if you want to steal of this, i just check with me first. i don't know if i'm going live long enough to get around to this project. i badly, badly want to check with me. so what would it take to do a better job as historians, a more
nuanced portrayal, a more sensitive portrayal? how could we help make visible what historians and i'm not even saying intentionally what historians have made invisible we're really good at that as we can draw these things to the surface and make everything else disappear and we can bring things to the surface that are not truly representative, that are not truly in proportion to what everybody was saying and doing and thinking. and then somebody who reads the book says, oh, that's what that's what americans thought. so my my least favorite abstract category, it's ranks right up there with the north and the in the 1860s. well, in north they thought this and i've said this before the semester right except for those who didn't write so american american christians thought this
during world war one except for those who didn't add that mentally add that to almost every claim this. where would we go? well would want to look at sermons. this is what woodrow said. it matters what is uttered. of course, you're woodrow wilson. you can't say said or preach has to be whatever is uttered in the pulpits. so you want do that and i'll talk about how hard that you would want to think. how did christians worship? did they in any different way during the war? did they sing different and there were there were hymns added to the hymn books during world war one for the sake of war mobilization in britain, in america battle hymn of the republic added to the church of england's book during the war, added to the presbyter here in hamburg here and the united states.
so would there be patriotic songs? would there special music that was patriotic god bless america yet hadn't been written yet? america beautiful. how about flags in churches churches now this is this where this is where people get really nervous and they think aha, i knew you were going to do something un-american eventually. if you even raise this question, why are there united states flags and churches? people get very nervous. like, what are you up to? you can't up to anything good. if you even asked question well, this is really unusual 100 years ago really unusual when this starts happening during the first world war. are there examples earlier there are there are examples during the civil war of of union flags flying on top of churches in church towers.
that's true. but it did not become ordained area for there to be the banner at the front of a church and there so often now typically that we don't even notice it's there also on saturday and that same meeting i was in i looked and there was the american flag and the christian flag. some people are not with the christian flag. they are both at the front of the church. and so, you know, being the annoying, i think, you know, there's a history to that there's a history of that christian flag that was developed by the national council of churches. and so i'm sitting there thinking these thoughts, being distracted distracted. but why might that be controversial. there were battle flags brought into the church and often ceremonies to. bless the battle flags. well, it's a it's if nothing
else, it is a an emblem of sovereignty. an emblem of sovereignty that this belongs to the united states. so you think about that in a worship service. all right. an emblem of. and is is the united states sovereign in now i know this is a complicated question and people talk about necessity of gratitude for the blessings of living in a free society. i know i know but this was star rattling to people during the first world war and, bringing the war right inside the church. you have the war throughout the week that that your filled with anxiety about and then you come into church and you're singing the battle hymn of the republic. there's the flag. there are the battle flags. there's a sermon about the war. there's a read yesterday in a newspaper a pastor during what was called liberty bond sunday
there a series of these and the united states government provided sermon outlines and entire prepared sermons for pastors to preach on these special sundays. and there was a pastor preached the provided sermon on liberty bonds sunday and then at the end of the service he publicly purchased like $100 war bond right there. he was doing his bit and he wanted his congregation to invest in war bonds right there at the end of the service. so this is the thing that's puzzling. and carter, you were saying, too, before class about it's hard to imagine this happening today. and it was in a different little bit different context. now, some of this say, yeah, it's hard to imagine this happening today, but in other ways you think, well, this is also familiar. this is also there's kind of
what i call self mobilization goes on. this is what this is what the preachers present. arms, i think misses that that it doesn't take the government pressuring the churches there was never a law passed during world war one requiring the churches to do any of this the churches self mobilized and i'm dealing with that big abstraction. right the churches. i'll refine that in a moment. the self mobilization. anyway law of war time, religious books. back 30 some years ago, working on my dissertation on this topic, i looked through publications such as book list and book review digest, and i looked at the bestseller list, nonfiction and for fiction during the war. and it turned out that most of the nonfiction and bestsellers were books about theology and
the war, trying to interpret the religious meaning of the war and, even in the fiction category. h.g. wells science fiction guru and philosopher of history, and fabian socialist. he started writing novels during world war one that were much directly religious. he wrote another book called god the invisible king and the social gospel clergy in america. we're just gushing about this because here is secular, atheistic socialist h.g. wells. here he is. embrace seeing faith in the time of war. so there's an outpouring books like this if you know the technical theology ical language books on theory how do you reconcile how do you justify the ways of god to man when the world is full of suffering and
death and, evil? how do you reconcile the presence of evil in world with god's goodness is power and. a flood of books articles, seminary journals, denominational journals. on this question. and it's especially challenging question for the more liberal and social gospel who have for generation has been teaching that the world is improving steadily, the world is becoming more and enlightened and humane and benevolent. we are learning to put aside war and conflict. we are reconcile labor and capital. the world is becoming a more peaceful and orderly place. and then have world war one. and there are questions like, what is god doing in this world,
in this war? what is god doing? what is he trying to teach us in this war? so that's everywhere. and what i'm driving toward is the more or you spend time a student said to me once, i love this. you got to go back to the history back the history and sit down. that's exactly what you to do. and if you go back to world one and you sit down and listen and you realize that everybody is talking about the religious significance of the war and the wars, significance to religion in the church. and if you expected the kingdom of god to be right around the corner, you had some explaining to do looking at the devastation of the western front, the eastern front, there are also very practical questions of pastor care in war time about what you would face as minister of a congregation.
think about the young men of your congregation either enlisting or, being drafted for the war. you have to pastoral care for that young man and for family. a young woman volunteers for the for the ymca work overseas and decides to go and help out with nursing care or help out in what we call the ymca huts and serve the soldiers on front line, giving them books, writing paper or envelopes. cigaret as they how would you counsel these young people and their going off and to what could be death. what about the dislocations in the workforce what about women in your congregation now going industrial work going to work for the cable car sweeping the
streets in downtown what about these social the sense of social dislocation the sense of of of challenge to the families. how do you do this and how do you and how do you reverse this? when the war is over and you try to go back to normal times? so there are those demands on pastors and other officers in the church. we have its own unique story. the story of the service of chaplains in the war war jewish rabbis, catholic priests, protestant clergy of all denominations. how are you going to divide that up? and there's little bit of a vulgar turf that goes on. every denomination says we need representation and we need it proportionate to the size of our denomination here in the us and lobbying the government. the department of war about
making sure we get a certain of clergy and the federal council of churches lobbying congress to increase the number of chaplains on the front. but they went into a very difficult circumstance, as i know, one seminary professor at princeton who volunteer her to work with the ymca. he left his seminary career for a couple years and there he was making vats of hot chocolate. now not very glamorous, making of hot chocolate for french and american soldiers on the field. i wish i had some good visual aids for you today. i'll try to remember to bring this to class time. but the way religious symbol ism was used by the government used war posters. i've got a great example.
there's one of a oversaw nurse, not that she's, but a larger than life nurse and she's seated and she has cradled in her arms a stricken american on a stretcher. and behind her the red cross of red cross. it's a full color poster. and the caption at the top says, the greatest mother in the world. and you look at it, you think this looks familiar and you realize that it is a imitation of the pieta. and that's a whole genre of statuary. if you're familiar perhaps with the michelangelo pieta, there's a larger than life. mary cradling jesus right after the descent from the cross and
it's exactly that. so using that and that's it's one of those things you look at that and you say you know it's like the dog tipping his head when you're talking to him. he's trying to figure out what you're saying. you just tip your head and you think, am i seeing? i think i'm seeing. and did no one notice at the time and object and i've seen it used a reproduction of it used recently it was in a post office appealing for fundraising for red cross. and there it was again, like, do you know what this is? do you know what this is? well, how about this complicated question? we would have this imaginary book, this an imaginary book, not only have to look at the practice of faith in wartime, church by church, by church, but we would have to consider if dunning is right and i think it
is that the story of american involvement in world war one is the story of woodrow wilson. then we would have to pay careful attention to woodrow wilson's own faith. everybody mentions it, but very few go into much depth and look at the nuance and you know, i get i get hung up on this question. historians who say, well, he was a presbyterian and then that's all you need to know. well he's a calvinist. that's all you need to know. so of course, he thinks this way. well, you've read a bit quite a bit from woodrow wilson, and you know how religious experts, explicitly christian or more vaguely themes, language are woven through all of his speeches. i'm going to give you some examples of things we haven't read yet this semester, but his own faith. yes, it's true that he was raised by a presbyterian minister, father in the south in virginia, north carolina, in
south carolina, in georgia. that's true it's true that he was an ordained elder in the big mainline presbyterian church. that's all true. we have to go a step further. he was part the very liberal sort of the victorians sentimental liberal theology of the day. and in our next class. we will we will look at the contrast with a much more orthodox presbyterian whom he knew. this is what wilson said may of 1911. the occasion was the 400th anniversary sorry, the throne, the anniversary of, the publication of the king james version of the bible, the 16th, 11, so-called authorized version. he was asked to speak at a commemorations like this. all over the country. and he was asked speak i believe it was in denver colorado. these are selective quotations.
i am at risk of being guilty of doing what i've complained about other people doing picking the quotable, most quotable the quotations and piling them up. but they do tell us something true. an important about wilson's theology. quote, no man can down and withhold his hands from the war against wrong and get peace of his acquiescence the most solid and satisfied peace is that which comes from the constant spiritual warfare. and there times in the history of nations when must take up the crude instruments, bloodshed in order to vindicate spiritual conceptions. as 1911 for liberty is a spiritual conception. and when men take up arms, set other men free, there is something sacred and holy in warfare. i will cry peace as long as there sin and wrong in the world world. so much going on there, so much going on there.
he's not going to cry. peace while there is still sin wrong in the world. so you might say he's not going to be crying peace ever. so this before there's a european war before there's an expectation of a great european war he's already connecting the nation and religion the spiritual and the material the holy war a sacred holy war. and he's speaking about literal national of liberation on of other peoples. this is where you have to be really careful because you want to read this backwards. you to say oh this is foreshadowing like literary foreshadowing here. he doesn't know he doesn't know that he's going to be leading the united states into the
greatest war yet in human history. all right. so that's one thing you would have to grapple with. here's a short line, one sentence from a speech from 1914, a speech called militant christianity. so this is october. war has been underway for about two months. he said, i am not fond of thinking of christianity as the means of saving individual souls. i'm not fond thinking of christianity as the means of saving individual souls, even though that's out of context. it's not a typical says that often that's a that that him as part of the social effort and you recognize this fact right this is this the message of social gospel clergy that was circle these were his friends and associates. one more in 1915 he was invited
to speak before the newly created federal council of churches which claim to represent maybe 40 some million americans an ecumenical effort for the sake of social reform. cooperation for the sake social reform. and this is what said and you can find this whole speech or a reporter's account of this speech in new york times 1951. he says there, is a mighty task before us. and it welds us together. it is to make the united states a mighty christian nation, and to christianize world. my earlier claim that there's nothing new about christian nationalism and christian nationalism isn't, the monopoly of the political or social right. there's wilson saying that this
that this is the task facing. the united states in 1915 and what it means to christianize the world that would a lot of care a lot of thinking and research. this is what the social gospel had been saying it has a it has a more meaning. remember it's not about individual salvation has an earthly social meaning for. the economy and politics, society and education so to christianize the world would mean to transform relations, to get rid of balance of power. as we've been talking about. all right. now back to problem of rea abrams preachers arms. i and the obstacles we would face as historians if we wanted do a careful careful job here so much so many of our world war one sources when it comes the
churches in america so much of that choosing has already been done for us and i don't mean by ray abrams in 1933 i mean the moment right. you got to watch for this and you can apply what i'm going to say to any research project. you have if the choosing has already been done before you start, you have to be careful. best example i know the new york times in the spring of 1917. it's a primary source and. this has become more of the case because the entire run of the new york times is available, digitally searchable database that you all have free access to free and and so it's easy here and we have to be pretty careful as researchers about doing the easy thing the convenient thing
is it actually the best source for us. but let me be much more specific about problem here. i've students work on this over the years i had whole class take different of this problem. one year a number of years ago. so let's say i want to i want to be smart my research i can't read every newspaper in america for every sun during the war. i can't do that so what am i going to do? i'm going to be smart. let me predict ahead of time. when newspapers would be most, most likely to report on the churches. well, guess what? let's think back to. april 1917, when woodrow wilson delivered his war message to congress on april second 1917. that was a monday. isn't exciting. that was a monday. monday of what? monday of holy week? the day before was palm when
congress. finally, both houses of congress. finally passed the war resolution. the declaration war on germany. it was maybe two or 3:00 in the morning on good friday. and if you want some real cringeworthy statements made, go look at the congressional record. it was, i say, by the clock on the wall that it is now friday, friday morning, you know, the day our lord sacrificed himself for humanity and what a privilege it is for america to be sacrificing herself for humanity on this day. and that can be multiplied many times over. all right. so then imagine if you're the kind of pastor who really wants to preach on the war. you've got to think about what going to do. you see the headlines friday morning, friday morning america declares war, america at with
germany. and you think, okay, it's easter sunday, right? it's easter sunday. now, what am i going to preach so let's now imagine that you are an editor here at the new york times and you are working assignments for that for your reporters or let's say another really good place to look is the brooklyn daily eagle. you're an editor there. you're going to send your reporters out? where are you going to send them. i you by surprise. i've been talking nonstop. where are you going to send them. send them to the churches, which churches? so if you got to be smart, you have just many reporters and you got to send them out sunday morning. i sent one to the cathedral. okay, so do like st patrick's.
yeah, okay. get the beer. exactly right. so you might send reporters to the most prominent churches, big, influential, high status churches. what else might you do? gather the ones that most have the most exciting, or the people who are the most controversial. yes. so a newspaper wants a quotable sunday morning sermon. does a newspaper want a traditional sermon on the resurrection. that's not that's not news. right right. thank you for catching that. no, it's called good news. yes, but it's not news if you're for the new year, if you for the new york times. so you want that reporter and that reporter is going to jot down the most quotable stuff and
and to be part of story. and they're going to compile these together. and guess what? you've got you've got a story on monday that says, look at how the churches respond to the war. and then historians keep going to that. and going to that and going to that and never think they go back in the history and sit down. they never think that it's distorted. they're not saying intense strongly misleading, deceptive it's not conspiring conspiracy against the future to mislead us. it's what it was trying to achieve. so what, you have no record of in the newspaper, of record, but you have no record of what perhaps just ordinary did on easter gather. so how do you go about finding
what right, right, right. and assuming you don't thousands of historians at your disposal, research assistance at your disposal what would you do. with now we can what could be a problem like the convenience of a new york times database and now we can expand that something like newspaper cars.com, something the library of congress chronicling chronicles of america, chronicling america and all those newspapers, all searchable databases and could go. i think what you would have to do to design this well. you would have to pick a series of cities cities. distribution across the country. maybe, maybe cities that have a of different ethnic groups and religious denominations, but
maybe not, because maybe you're trying to if i have time, i'll come to the to the question of lutherans, the midwest and their experience of this war. okay. so you would you you would want to go to a number of different cities geographically distributed from a variety denominations and not the big sundaes, easter sunday and so on. not the most dramatic or or potential where there's that potential and but but here is a problem. and and i've had students work a little bit on this and the results the results show that there is another story there that here is pastor so-and-so at the local lutheran church just doing the ordinary thing,
ordinary, ordinary christian worship, not not selling liberty bonds, the pulpit, not setting recruitment tables out front for enlistments, just doing just doing church. here's here's a big challenge and i don't have an answer for this. how do you how do you write a i think you can write as part of a contrast to the more militant. how do you write a story about the ordinary ordinary. i joked that i want to i want to write a children's book right in the name of the children's book is the day nothing happened. it's going be a really exciting really exciting children's book. well and this would be a hard sell hard sell to a to a press and to an editor. 19 america,. 1917 to 1919.
the day. the years that pastors went about their business. so you would have to contextualize it as a counterbalance. but we don't we haven't taken the first step as researchers to know what typical was it typical we have no answer to this was it typical for an american to work walk into church on sunday and hear a war sermon, or was it to hear an ordinary something from the lectionary, an ordinary for that day? we have no idea. no idea. and it would be it would be a lot of work. but i think it's important just to raise the question. where could we go. i've mentioned this before. we could go now to denominational journals. you have one in front of you here. this from the presbytery
presbyterian of the south. i want to show you this is a story said this too many times already already. this story told right here in this editorial in july of 1917, this story is invisible in the history of american society in world war one, american churches in world war one. this is invisible. gave you one really exciting exception to that. a new book that i'm going to plug, not my i'm going to plug a book after a few paragraphs. i'm on the where it says contributed church and the government the reverend winn he talks about what a serious time this is about the we're concerned about not only the welfare of the church, but the welfare of our country now. and that second column on the first page, the people of the united states a whole believe that our cause in present war is
absolutely that right and duty impel us to put forth our power the utmost to restore and preserve the liberties of mankind. you could stop there and you think, well, that sounds kind of well sewn in a deep heart interest thus engendered is leading the church church aside from her mission to handle matters which should dealt with by the people as and not as members of the church. if you are a missouri synod lutheran, this sounds very familiar to you. this is a southern presbyterian who is arguing for a of two kingdom theology or what's called in presbyterian circles, often a doctrine of the spirituality of the church. there are certain which the government or its people give attention to, and there are certain things which are to be cared for by the church and the
church and the state are both strongest. they continue strictly their respective provinces. i have i go off on this tangent. i have good friends of who who argue that separation of church and state is a much more. development like second half of the 20th century in our jurisprudence and, so on. but there plenty of people talking about the importance, the vital importance of the institutional separation of church and state. and it's coming from the clergy it's not coming from secular is saying we got to keep these two things separate because religion is so dangerous to the state. no, it's the clergy themselves theologically very conservative who are saying these are two different things and we even in wartime, we not forget the difference. but what do we now find? appeals are made by the government directly, the churches and their sunday schools to observe certain days
for helping the government. for example, june third was appointed for bond sunday liberty bond sunday pastors were urged to preach patriotic sermons to show the people how they do, how they could help by buying bonds, and to earnestly encourage to buy material furnished from which to prepare those sermons. in addition, literature was provided the sunday schools and a regular program made out. nobody has written about this. nobody has done the archival to go find all these sermon outlines. and i don't know if they survived of here the schools were told about the war and what we are fighting for and asked to say whether they would stand by the present. this is a sunday school stand by the and his war measures. this looks very much not as if the camel has gotten his nose under tent, but his whole body, the tent, the government is actually giving our ministers the subjects for their sermons, the material out of which their sermons are to be built and
appointed the day for their i'm sorry to be built and appointing the day for delivery. of course, all comes in the form of a request but with popular feeling stir it as it is. it amounts to a command aid and experience shows that what is a request today? an order tomorrow. moreover, the editors of some of our great religious are calling upon their pastors become recruiting agents for the government etc. etc. do you see the paragraph right after it begins? one branch. i've got to stop reading this for a second. that last sentence there. isn't it time to call a halt to retrace our steps and give again to the work appointed by the master? there it is. there it is. and this entire editorial was reprinted. in one of the leading lutheran.
thankful for somebody else, other than the grumpy german lutherans saying this a problem. this is a problem david, do you think that there would have been more radical voices, especially in the government who would have looked down upon this possibly even called sedition? yes yes. there's in the article sent out yesterday, if you have a chance to go look at that. i detail their what the treatment of the what are called the historic peace churches the treatment of the mennonites in particular. you can go to the mennonite museum in indiana and you can learn more about conscientious objectors. i know that's not exactly your question and i'll come to your question the the treatment of
the jehovah's witnesses is just shocking. they were sent to federal prison. the leaders of the jehovah's witnesses rounded up in brooklyn and convicted and sent to federal prison in atlanta. this it's really shocking. i and it was very easy. let me stop there retrace my steps what he recommends and let you know about something called every state think except one every state had what was called a committee of defense. a council of defense. there was a national council of defense. and all these state councils of defense and there were local councils of defense. and you if you were a member of a council defense, you were expected to. watch and listen and report on subversive activity.
one case i know of that i've read read the accounts of in south carolina a man who the red cross to his front door to ask for a donation and and he is just a grumpy old man and he he refused to contribute the red cross. he was reported to the council of defense the state council and the man investigated for pro-german subversive activities. so could a pastor like this be investigated? absolutely absolute. and that would have to be part of the larger story as what kind of pressure and what pastor here says about the of public opinion. the pressure. that's the kind of thing he's talking about. i mean, pastors are under enough pressure when they're everybody's hand as. they go out the door on sunday. you never mentioned this in your sermon why did you talk about this? and i don't agree with your interpretation of this verse. so imagine this you never mentioned the war. why didn't you mention the war today? i've read our denominational journal that today is bond
sunday or today is victory sunday, and you never mentioned the war. tremendous could be tremendous pressure. they're not going turn the page in that handout because i want to say some things before we finished. yeah. so how would you do this, catherine? right. how would you fight all this? you would need? this is this is what i find so exciting about these denominational journals. now being digitally available. google books, you've got four runs of the english lutheran. those of you who study german, you could tackle the german language lutheran papers during the war i've mentioned in class. i know this sounds totally uninteresting, but there's a mass circulation religious publication called the sunday school times. it was founded in the 1860s. and i, i think the magazine survived 100 years might be wrong about that but it's a really long time and it's evangelical it's right against
the social gospel but the pages of that magazine which a weekly magazine meant to equip sunday school teachers to do good job in their local churches, which is really nice because it gets you into the sunday school it gets you is so hard. we talk about the man in the pew, right? man, the pulpit is lot easier than the man of the pew to understand. he's thinking. but you can get here to what the sunday school. teachers were reading so it's it's fairly traditional evangelical condemns theological and the higher criticism and the social gospel but then what do you find you find that it's printing advertised it's coming from the federal council of churches the liberal federal council of churches promoting these sundays prayer raising woodrow wilson to the sky for being such a christian statesman
and inspiring to the nation. and so that's that's that's really great resource and totally searchable. i think it's available archive archive.org so much and that was one one benefit of covid too. how much more became digitally available companies whole publishers opened up their entire so many resources because of because of covid. well if we were to go further there's much more i could say but if we were to go further a a complete a fair or a proportionate survey of the churches in america would have to consider, as i mentioned, the historic piece, churches would have to look at the jehovah's witnesses would have to look at the roman catholic church in all of its variety. and what what were the differences being a priest in
ethnic community in chicago go and if it's a polish community, they're going to have one view of the war. if it's a german community there, have another view of the war. there are wonderful archives available at catholic university in d.c. hardly touched about the catholic. i always get the name mixed up war work council. they're there and that's just waiting be tapped. the episcopal church with its cultural and theological ties to the church of england the lutheran churches such as the very missouri synod, the mainline protestant churches, evangelists such as billy sunday. again, very quotable and as we as we wrap up this class here's really encouraging sign. this is a brand new book ben
wetzel published from cornell university press it it looks a little bit like going to be yet one more book one more hand-wringing book about the toxicity of christian nationalism. this is not what this book is christianity, warfare and national identity 6919 20 chapters on civil war, spanish-american world war one two major chapters on world war one. one looking at the social gospel clergy kind of thing i did in my book 20 years ago, looking at the more liberal mainline social gospel for promises of. national redemption, international redemption, social transformation. so he has one of those chapters looking at leading social gospel clergy and the next chapter is a stand alone chapter on the lutheran church. missouri synod. that's how i found this article from the presbyterian journal the presbyterian of the south
and he is calling for exactly what needs to be done. we we talk a lot about those who are like the silenced voices of history and so on. well, there are silence, other silence. in the case of the study of the first world war historians, almost total, including me, have almost totally ignored the german lutheran church. and that's just one example. just one example. and that could be multiplied again and again. i'm going to read you. one more not beautiful prose, but a quotation block, quotation that reinforces all these points. this is from a canadian from a canadian who was a methodist chaplain. and it would help if i turn to the right page here.
there it is, a methodist chaplain writing in 1918 when he confronted the claims about holy war, he says, that's all tommy rott to me, most of us here know ourselves that the fight no, the no ourselves and the fight too well to presume identify it with the cause of jesus. it is true. we have our orators to the union jack picture the british jack all the crosses and shouting jehovah my banner. but most of us, for one reason or another, would prefer the union jack for all its crosses be mingled less freely with the emblems of our religion? my reason is that it lowers the standard of jesus, yet i it is every christian's duty and privilege to contribute to the winning of war, not as a christian, but as a citizen of our warring country, not
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