Author

Amy M. Smith

Date of Award

5-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Advisor

Nathan Godfried

Second Committee Member

Ngo Vinh Long

Third Committee Member

Elizabeth McKillen

Abstract

This thesis will explore the path of Christian Socialism in America and the emergence of a “new” evangelical Christian consumerism in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1930s the United States experienced a revival of socially engaged evangelical activity within its Protestant communities. As World War II ended and the Cold War state expanded, evangelicalism buried a socialist dialogue it had previously displayed. This thesis will explore the demise of Christian Socialist thought, as it became victim to the ethos of an advancing Christian consumerism. It will do this by tracing the writings and actions of five prominent Christian theologians of the early 20th century; Methodist minister and journalist Paul Hutchinson, brothers and prominent evangelical theologians H. Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr, statesman and Presbyterian John Foster Dulles, and the popular Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham. All men were well known religious figures of the twentieth century and all were deeply committed to evangelical Christianity. By the mid-1940s a “new” evangelicalism emerged and inculcated within its ranks a love of big business which allied believers to a rising post-war consumer base. Although this fostered a love for wealth which seemed diametrically opposed to the ancient Christian message, it went largely unchallenged. The rising cultural power of both Liberal and Conservative evangelicalism ostracized and eventually delegitimized a Christian Socialist dialogue that had championed the rights of the laboring classes, the poor and the minorities in voicing concerns against an unjust and, what some labeled, an “un-Christian” economic system.

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