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Social Gospel and the American Working Class

Summary and Keywords

The term “Social Gospel” was coined by ministers and other well-meaning American Protestants with the intention of encouraging the urban and rural poor to understand that Christ cared about them and saw their struggles. The second half of the 19th century saw a rise of both domestic and international missionary fervor. Church and civic leaders feared a future in which freethinkers, agnostics, atheists, and other skeptics dominated spiritual life and well-educated ministers were marginal to American culture. They grew concerned with the rising number of independent and Pentecostal churches without extensive theological training or denominational authority. American Protestants especially feared that immigrant religious and cultural traditions, including Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, were not quintessentially American. Most of all, they worried that those belief systems could not promote what they saw as the traditional American values and mores central to the nation.

However, at least on the surface, the Social Gospel did not dwell on extinguishing ideas or traditions. Rather, as was typical of the Progressive Era, it forwarded a wide-ranging set of visions that emphasized scientific and professional expertise, guided by Christian ethics, to solve social and political problems. It fostered an energetic culture of conferences, magazines, and paperback books dedicated to reforming the nation. Books and articles unpacked social surveys that sorted through possible solutions to urban and rural poverty and reported on productive relationships between churches and municipal governments. Pastoral conferences often focused on planning revivals in urban auditoriums, churches, stadiums, or the open air, where participants not only were confronted with old-fashioned gospel messages but with lectures on what Christians could do to improve their communities.

The Social Gospel’s theological turn stressed the need for both individual redemption from sinful behavior, and the redemption of whole societies from damaged community relationships. Revivalists not only entreated listeners to reject personal habits like drinking, smoking, chewing tobacco, gambling, theater-going, and extramarital sex. They also encouraged listeners to replace the gathering space of the saloon with churches, schools, and public parks. Leaders usually saw themselves redeeming the “social sin” that produced impoverished neighborhoods, low-wage jobs, preventable diseases, and chronic unemployment and offering alternatives that kept businesses intact. In the Social Creed of the Churches (1908), ministers across the denominations proposed industrial reforms limiting work hours and improving working conditions, as well as government regulations setting a living wage and providing protection for the injured, sick, and elderly. Sometimes, Social Gospel leaders defended collective bargaining and built alliances with labor leaders. At other times, they proposed palliative solutions that would instill Christian “brotherhood” on the shop floor and render unions unnecessary. This wavering on principles produced complicated and sometimes tense relationships among union leaders, workers, and Social Gospel leaders.

Elements of the Social Gospel movement have carried even into the 21st century, leading some historians to challenge the idea that the movement died with the close of the Great War. The American Civil Liberties Union and Fellowship of Reconciliation, for example, did not lose any time in keeping alive the Social Gospel’s commitments to protecting the poor and defenseless. However, the rise of “premillennial dispensationalist” theology and the general disillusionment produced by the war’s massive casualties marked a major turning point, if not an endpoint, to the Social Gospel’s influence as a well-funded, Protestant evangelical force. The brutality of the war undermined American optimism—much of it fueled by Social Gospel thinking—about creating a more just, prosperous, and peaceful world. Meanwhile, attorney general A. Mitchell Palmer’s campaign against alleged anarchists and Bolsheviks immediately after the war—America’s first “Red Scare”—targeted a large number of labor and religious organizations with the accusation that socialist ideas were undemocratic and un-American. By the 1920s, many Social Gospel leaders had distanced themselves from the organized working classes. They either accepted new arrangements for harmonizing the interests of labor and capital or took their left-leaning political ideals underground.

Keywords: Social Gospel, working class, industrialization, race, Christianity, American South

The Emergence of the Social Gospel

The roots of Social Christianity can be traced to the Second Great Awakening (1830s–1840s), when artisans, farmers, and small shopkeepers used the language of Protestant reform to point out the abusiveness of slavery and the new market economy. Mechanization, new transportation systems, and new trade routes were undermining the value of artisans’ skills and depreciating the value of farmers’ crops. Slavery robbed humans of their autonomy and their humanity. Many Americans defended their rights to self-maintenance with republican rhetoric. Workingmen argued that they were the primary producers of the nation’s wealth and productivity and therefore deserved the right to support themselves with a full day’s work. Observing that new middle-class business owners were often members of prominent churches, workingmen accused clergy of condoning “Mammon” (a Biblical term for greed) among the new class of business owners and of not doing enough to ensure that the nation’s wealth was more fairly distributed.

The jeremiads preached by Christian republicans in the 1840s grew more directly from a Protestant culture of revivalism and reform than they did from the parallel Marxist movement for “working class consciousness.” Self-identified Christian wage earners campaigned for better wages and a shorter workday alongside other efforts to dignify the value of hard work, including restoring the Sunday Sabbath, abolishing alcohol use, and ending slavery.1 Artisans often saw themselves as producers, entitled to wages in proportion to the value they created. Christian producers’ demands often coincided with those of early Marxists, who also emphasized the value workers created on the shop floor. However, the International Workingmen’s Party also emphasized the problem of private enterprise and the cooperation of the bourgeois class with the nation-state. In contrast, Christian republican artisans more often celebrated the nation, including its bourgeois business leaders and the potential to build a “Christian Commonwealth” together.2 In fact, the Second Great Awakening united middle-class and working-class Protestants in such a common mindset of piety and work that some historians have raised doubts about the extent to which the labor activism by the artisanal class of the period ought to be identified as “class consciousness.”3

Yet Christian republicans and members of the International Workingmen’s Party shared many beliefs even if they did not have the same long-term goals. Some revivalists of the Second Great Awakening, for example, established utopian communities based on the conviction that Christianity did not sanction private ownership of capital or profiteering at the expense of others. Some Shakers, Quakers, Mormons, and others formed communal settlements around these principles.4 Many identified themselves as “socialist.” These Christians often took inspiration from Marx and other European thinkers and politicians, such as Robert Owen (England), Charles Fourier (France), and Giuseppe Mazzini (Italy). Similarly, some trade unions, notably the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, were militant in their defense of labor and the possibility of a future Christian Commonwealth.

Before the Civil War, discussions about the hope for a Christian Commonwealth were limited by sectional conflict over slavery and tension over the nation’s economic future. After the war, when rapid industrialization and the attendant European immigration coincided with a series of devastating losses for small farmers, Christian workers and clerics started a national conversation about what was the most just way to secure a Cooperative Commonwealth. Cities had grown more quickly than had the infrastructure needed to sustain them. Those who remained farmers struggled to obtain the credit they needed to continue farming. Many farmers (who often also worked as wage laborers) accused the railroad trusts of undermining the Jeffersonian dream of an agrarian republic by eliminating competition and setting high, fixed shipping costs. The Knights of Labor, founded as a secret society in 1869, organized entire industries, including railroad workers, around the professed Christian principles of just wages for honest work. Suffering ten- to twelve-hour work days with little rest, members argued that anyone who produced value deserved “Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Sleep, and Eight Hours for What We Will,” in addition to a day of rest each week. The Knights attracted a large number of Irish immigrants and Irish Americans and even gained the approval of the Pope. By the 1880s, the Knights had built a relationship with the Farmer’s Alliance and fashioned all “farmers and laborers” as the backbone of production, wealth, and progress. They nominated a joint candidate for president in 1892 and in 1896. William Jennings Bryan, the “fusion” candidate in 1896, championed the possibility of a cooperative, Christian Commonwealth. That category of discussions on the most Christian way to set wages, working conditions, and markets became known as the Social Gospel or Social Christianity.

Social Gospel and the Nation

The Social Gospel arose during that post–Civil War moment when many white Protestants felt a calling to heal and reform the war-torn South. White Northern missionaries and civic leaders, once deeply suspicious of white Southerners, immigrants, Mormons, and Catholics, now cooperated with white Protestant church leaders across the country in the task of spreading the gospel message and reconstructing the nation’s social, economic, physical, and political infrastructure. National reform and missionary organizations built thriving, intersectional ties among white Protestant men and women in the name of a better, more Christian nation. However, most Northern missionaries overlooked Southern Christians’ beliefs about African American racial inferiority. Their willingness to “move past” sectional conflict meant that partnerships were often founded in a collective forgetting of the atrocities of slavery, the problem of racial apartheid, and the dangers of maintaining a cotton-based Southern economy through sharecropping. As one historian has argued, the new Christian nationalism came at the cost of silencing those who challenged the reign of white supremacy in the American South.5

Protestant missionaries in the late 19th century often saw racial and cultural backgrounds as mutable—notably more mutable than did many other racists of their day. But the fact that missionary work was widespread in the period after the Civil War implied a belief that the nation would suffer if people of color and immigrants continued to practice their beliefs and customs as they always had.6 American Baptists, for example, upheld faith as a litmus test for citizenship. They believed that African Americans and Chinese Americans could become citizens of the reconstructed nation, but only once they were Christians. Hence, whiteness and Christianity were made central to late-19th-century standards of citizenship, even when completely inhabiting that identity was out of reach to a large fraction of Americans.

Indeed, the historian Edward Blum has argued compellingly that the Social Gospel was a white nationalist movement. Missionaries were often moved by compassion. But they also were united by the hope that immigrants, Catholics, Mormons, and the black and white rural poor might experience racial and cultural transformation. In Our Country (1885), the director of the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions, Josiah Strong, declared that the “Anglo-Saxon race” had a responsibility to spread the blessings of “civil liberty” and “pure, spiritual Christianity” throughout North America. He spoke of the “perils” of “Romanism” (Roman Catholicism) and “Mormonism.”7 In arguing that “there can be no reasonable doubt that North America is to be the great home of the Anglo-Saxon, the principle seat of his power, the center of his life and influence,” Strong indicated that cultural minorities needed to adopt Protestant evangelicalism to preserve the nation’s identity.8 In linking “race” to the virtues ostensibly necessary for independent reason and civil democracy, Strong suggested that the racial qualities of new immigrants were insufficient outside conversion to evangelical Protestantism.

Strong’s Board of Home Missions invested millions of dollars in evangelizing and “uplifting” communities of Southern and Eastern Europeans, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans, both inside and outside the borders of the United States. Strong saw these foreigners as members of “primitive civilizations,” in need of both Christian faith and material conveniences to compete in the modern world. Presbyterians and other liberal Protestants erected larger and more ornate church buildings in an effort to both solidify their authority and reach out to their urban neighbors.9 Large, multifaceted churches now contained gyms, classrooms, kitchens, and meeting spaces and saw their ministries encompassing more than weekly services. The “institutional church,” as it was called, offered job training, youth activities, cultural-enrichment courses, public lectures, public dances, and exercise opportunities.10 Protestant liberals also worked closely with city and state government authorities to reform cities by ending gambling, prostitution, and the sale of alcohol.11 Social workers and ministers usually understood themselves to be practicing benevolence, but their condescension toward the cultural heritage and alternate religious of their subjects was not difficult to detect.

Urban, White Working-Class Christianities

Yet, artisans and wage earners were too clever to either simply accept, or ignore, the onslaught of invitations from reformers, social workers, and ministers eager to build relationships with them. The religious history of urban workers in the late 19th century is a story of both alliances and competitions with Social Gospel leaders. The Anglo and ethnic white poor celebrated Christ, frequently a more working-class version, as they also celebrated the hope of better wages and working conditions, and a coming social democracy.

For decades after the Civil War, the Knights of Labor functioned as a church for working people. Initially a secret society, the union served spiritual, social, and political purposes. Leaders and members saw themselves—much like middle-class social workers—as an order of Christian workers seeking to reconstruct relationships in the workplace through a change of heart. The Knights accepted as members all those who earned their livelihood through their own productivity, and not from rent, interest, or profit. As one Knight put it, “When the Golden Rule of Christ shall measure the relations of men in all their duties toward their fellows . . . Then the Pentecost shall come, and every man will have according to his needs.”12 The Knights were deeply critical of mainstream Protestant and Catholic ministers for condoning the extortion of the working classes, and ministers were critical of the Knights’ history as a secret society.13

Wage earners across the spectrum of skills and ethnicities mobilized Christian language in defense of just wages and working conditions. Conservative skilled workers in the American Federation of Labor struck up official and unofficial relationships with the Federal Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church as they defended their right to a greater share in the blessings of capitalism. By the 1910s, the Federal Council of Churches had exchanged a delegate with the American Federation of Labor in several cities, encouraging ongoing cooperation in their shared goals of social justice.14 Ministers from the Federal Council of Churches investigated strikes to determine the extent to which wages and working conditions merited immediate change. In return, union members often invited ministers to speak at their gatherings. Ministers sometimes returned the favor and invited union members to address them. Catholic priests were strongly opposed to socialist organizations of any shade, for they insisted on the human right to private property. But Rerum Novarum, the 1891 papal encyclical that endorsed nonsocialist unions as just, became an organizing tool for the apolitical American Federation of Labor.

The poorest immigrants, often those hailing from war-torn Southern and Eastern Europe, and carrying artisanal skills rendered obsolete by newly-engineered machines—also articulated versions of Social Christianity. However, many belonged to Eastern Orthodox, Jewish or other faith communities, and found few allies among the most influential, liberal Protestant and Irish Catholic political leaders. Others, including Eugene Debs, the socialist labor leader, celebrated a politically radical, human Jesus who sought social and economic revolution. A growing number of books and freethinking and agnostic societies, as well as labor temples, labor newspapers, and the Industrial Workers of the World, made room for discussions of the possibility that Jesus was a proletarian, radical Jew.15 Conflicts between working-class politics and official church doctrine on property-ownership sometimes led to clashes among conservatives, socialists, and syndicalists over how to win the support of the middle class. For example, Irish Americans in New York City debated to what extent Henry George’s candidacy for the Union Labor Party was defensible in Catholic doctrine—and how much it mattered.16 Socialists debated whether their party should officially state its disappointment in Protestant and Catholic ministers’ failure to articulate Christian justice. For some socialists, true Christianity was central to the socialist cause. For others, religion was entirely irrelevant.17 These political and religious tensions made some working-class organizing more difficult, but they also made it clear that the Social Gospel did not belong to the middle classes.

A number of working-class political parties arose to critique Christian businessmen for doing little to recognize that their workers deserved the opportunity to support themselves. Most notable among these were members of Eugene Debs’s socialdemocratic parties of the 1890s. Debs’s followers extended the Populists’ call to nationalize the railroads and telegraph lines to make it a call to nationalize “all industries controlled by monopolies, trusts and combines.” They also extended the plea for the unlimited coinage of silver currency to a call for the public ownership of mines, oil and gas wells, and large public works projects.18 In 1901, Debs’s Social Democratic Party merged with the more heavily Marxist Socialist Labor Party to create the Socialist Party of America. The new Socialist Party embraced a wide range of socialist reforms and included a number of Christian ministers who ran People’s Churches, as well as a Christian Socialist Fellowship that published its own periodicals. However, in the interest of casting the widest net for organizing purposes, the party did not take any formal stance on religion.

Running alongside the development of socialist fellowships and socialist parties was a vibrant print culture, which also proclaimed the value of creating a Christian Commonwealth. In Progress and Poverty (1879), the American journalist and economist Henry George called for federal property taxes that would increase the costs of serving as absentee landlord in both rural and urban areas. George’s book, as well as his candidacy for mayor of New York City, provoked a vibrant national discussion on the extent to which God intended the fruits of land and other natural resources to be commonly shared. A new paperback-book culture featured satirical, speculative, didactic, and economic critiques of the Gospel of Wealth. William Stead’s If Christ Came to Chicago (1894), William Demarest Lloyd’s Wealth against Commonwealth (1894), Robert Blatchford’s Merrie England: A Plain Exposition of Socialism (1895), Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1898), and Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? (1899) each argued that Christian societies ought to embrace the cooperative ownership and management of resources, on at least some level. Working people celebrated a Christ who was much more comfortable in immigrant-run taverns, ethnic societies, the Knights of Labor, socialist circles, workingmen’s newspapers, and the Central Labor Unions than in Protestant churches.

Gender, Class, and Reform

Print-culture debates over how Jesus would have responded to industrial America were part of a broad, international discussion on the essentials of the Christian faith. In the late 19th century, a large number of women spanning class, race, and denominations entered into religious work as the hands and feet of Jesus, even if almost none of them could serve as ordained clergy. Methodist and Baptist women worked as social workers, nurses, teachers, preachers, and deaconesses. Catholic women did the same and often founded new religious orders in the process. Priscilla Pope-Levison has characterized this generation of religious women as institution builders, for so many lived out the Social Gospel by building charities, orphanages, denominations, schools, and hospitals. Despite the fact that women’s right to vote was not federally protected until 1920, the widespread belief that the Christian calling demanded service to the poor—both physically and spiritually—empowered women’s work in the public sphere.19

Social Gospel women often defended their public service as a direct expression of their womanhood and essential calling to motherhood. On this note, Frances Willard founded the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an international advocacy group that rallied women’s support for reforming alcohol use and providing labor protections for women and children, along with a number of other public health protections. The powerful lobby framed its advocacy as an effort to protect the families and the vulnerable women and children they encountered, both within and outside the United States. The union women forged relationships with women and churches in the United States and in India, China, and Japan. When WWI war broke out, they saw themselves as brokers of international peace.

“Maternalists,” as these women reformers were often called, often saw saloons as part of a cultural trend that included “white slavery” (sex trafficking), alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and red-light districts. They spoke out against “vice districts” that reduced women to sex objects and set them up for social and economic failure. Many opposed the harshness of the penal system, preferring to reform and rehabilitate women and families instead. In the face of a rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases, Social Gospel women often advanced the value of “social purity,” or sexual abstinence outside marriage. Some have described the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s multifaceted reform efforts as a larger American imperial project, for it sought to use the tools of faith and social policy to reform cultures around the world. Christian women social reformers usually emphasized the common bonds of womanhood. They were committed to women’s suffrage, education and leadership in the public sphere, but understood the protection of women’s roles in marriage and family to necessarily involve the complete rejection of contraceptives. In their view, contraceptives condoned and even encouraged extramarital sex.20

By the early 20th century, some middle-class Christian reformers cooperated with working-class women’s movements and ignited the mass social movement known as “feminism.” For example, with the strategic support of the “respectable,” middle-class Women’s Trade Union League, in 1909, twenty thousand women garment workers walked out of New York factories and proceeded to win contracts for better wages and working conditions. Labor radicals saw themselves as partnering with working-class women when they defended women’s rights to collective bargaining, jobs in industry, and birth control. However, when Catholic and Protestant church leaders condemned birth control, women’s education, women’s work outside the home, and socialism for degrading to the family unit, Social Gospel women lost some of their clout as working-class advocates. Many male church leaders attacked “feminists” for being harmful to marriages and children. Feminists, in turn, accused churches, and sometimes even the Christian faith itself, of endorsing patriarchy and perpetuating the suffering of the poor.21

Many Social Gospel women were already reticent to acknowledge the social distance that existed between the churches and the poor, but the wars over feminism and birth control exacerbated these tensions. Even if Social Gospel women supported suffrage, they often believed that evangelism and social reform were the only viable path toward redeeming social problems. Many working-class women, especially non-Protestants, resented this suggestion and joined with working-class men to defend the labor movement as a better vehicle for social and economic change. Social Gospel women, like their male counterparts, lost working-class allies when they concentrated their efforts on evangelism and charity and failed to partner with movements led by workers themselves. Despite the prominent role of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and other Christian reform groups of the late-19th-century woman’s movement, Social Gospel women stood only on the margins of the 20th-century feminist movement.

Race and the Social Gospel

Just as class seemed invisible to many Social Gospel women, Social Gospel leaders in both the North and South often failed to address race. Shailer Matthews, a prominent Chicago pastor and author of books on the movement, described the Social Gospel as residing at that intersection between missions and relief efforts. Ministers applied the “message of the Christian salvation to society, the economic life, and social institutions . . . as well as to individuals.” Walter Rauschenbusch, perhaps the most eloquent of the Social Gospel theologians, emphasized society, not individuals, as the primary entity encumbered by sin and in need of salvation. Ministers emphasized the role of Christian missionaries in reconstructing both impoverished people and their environments. They saw themselves as seeking to reform both social vices, such as prostitution and gambling, and social conditions, such as poor wages and working conditions. All were seen as markers of what Rauschenbusch described as “social sin.”22 The institution of white supremacy, however, rarely factored as an example of social sin.

Many Northern white missionaries moved south after the war to help reconstruct social and economic institutions. In fact, while the federal government’s Freedmen’s Bureau spent about $5,262,500 between 1865 and 1871, home missionary bodies such as the American Missionary Association, the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the American Baptist Home Mission Society each invested between $2 and $7 million between 1861 and 1889. Some were quick to identify racism and illiteracy as the sources of Southern backwardness. For example, the secretary of the American Missionary Association, Michael Strieby, observed, “The real difficulty [in reconstructing the South] . . . is the ignorance and degradation of the blacks and the prejudices and hatreds of the whites—in other words it is in the minds and hearts of men.”23 But extinguishing this “prejudice” was rarely a priority. Most missionaries did not endorse segregation, but they were usually willing to work within its confines. Missionaries cooperated with white Southerners who encouraged former slaves to attend white churches and sit in the back or on the balcony.24 Their gospel emphasized the liberating potential of education and human brotherhood, the value of self-help, and the potential of social evolution. But missionaries also sponsored two sets of secondary schools in the South, civic associations and normal schools (teacher-training academies), and they saw themselves as training “race leaders” to inspire and lead their own segregated communities.

In fact, Social Gospel missionaries in the South accommodated Southern codes of white supremacy to such an extent that historian Edward Blum has argued that they were critical to the reunion of white Northerners and Southerners after the Civil War.25 By 1876, federal support of Reconstruction initiatives was largely over. African Americans faced segregation in all public accommodations, legal disfranchisement, and the free reign of the white vigilante group the Ku Klux Klan. Missionaries were not in agreement about the extent to which the federal army should continue to occupy voting districts in the South and therefore did little to protect Southern voting rights over the long term.

The Federal Council of Churches, organized in 1908, carried on many of the habits and patterns established by missionary societies during Reconstruction. They identified the “alleviation of poverty” as a national priority and issued numerous sociological investigations of wages and working conditions, seeking to expose and remedy the problems of industrial workers. These clergymen also orchestrated a number of evangelistic revivals among the working classes. Generous funding from John D. Rockefeller and other prominent Protestants enabled the Federal Council to become a powerful resource for social change.26 Together with settlement-house women, they enacted many Progressive reforms at the city and state levels.27 But the problems of vigilante violence and African American poverty and disease remained on the perhiphery of the Federal Council’s attention. To the extent that the council addressed the “Negro problem,” it usually folded it into the general plight of the urban poor. Yet in urban ministries, Northern ministers focused much more heavily on building partnerships with immigrant communities than did the African American communities.

An explicitly antiracist Social Gospel that survived the end of Reconstruction was largely located within working-class churches; black churches; black colleges; some socialist fellowships; and some corners of national organizations, such as the Federal Council of Churches, the National Urban League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Particularly in the South, African Americans joined churches as a means of finding community, social mobility, and survival. More than 230 black clergymen held public office during Reconstruction, and many continued to work for civil rights and equal access to education—both independently and with national civic organizations—after the federal government support for civil rights declined. Many black ministers saw themselves as taking responsibility for not only their congregations but also the future of their race. They circulated denominational publications and books. Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, for example, toured Africa with the American Colonization Society and encouraged Southern blacks to celebrate their blackness by returning to Africa.28

Between 1890 and 1906, church membership among African Americans grew from 2.6 million to 3.6 million. The majority of the new members joined independent black churches, but the National Baptist Convention accounted for 61 percent of all black churchgoers, and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ), and Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) made up the next largest groups.29 Each denomination maintained publications and black colleges that encouraged African Americans to pursue community leadership and social mobility. Independent black churches, many of which grew out of the Holiness-Pentecostal tradition, were especially attractive to the very poor. Often referred to as “Sanctified,” they maintained that God’s people could speak in tongues and perform miracles like those in the early Church.30 Even when African American churches were not explicitly involved in politics, the spaces they created for community and grief served an indispensable political purpose, particularly for the working classes, during the deeply violent nadir of African American history.

One set of ideas kept alive in poor and rural churches celebrated the tradition of agrarian socialism. In the early 20th century, a class of white and black tenant farmers—frequently organized through Holiness revivals—claimed that God intended that natural resources were for all his people to enjoy, not just landowners. Tenant farmers and sharecroppers did backbreaking, meagerly compensated work. They lived on and farmed the property of their landlord in return for a payment after harvest time. This underclass frequently found themselves in debt to landlords for supplies, animals, and seeds, and unable therefore to leave and seek better jobs. Some worked as “hired hands” to escape debt, but these wages, too, provided little. Tenant farmers, despite the fact that they worked the land, lacked land of their own and therefore functioned in a different political and economic category than “yeomen farmers,” or independent freeholders. In fact, it was the fear of falling into “tenantry” that motivated many Populists, Knights of Labor, and socialists to organize for the rights of producers.31 While freeholding farmers and workers could bond over shared hopes for nationalized railroads and greater negotiating power for independent producers, those without the luxuries of land ownership, literacy, entitlement to the franchise, and marketable skills often rallied around other religious and political convictions, and Christian agrarian socialism appealed to many small farmers and wage laborers in poor regions of Oklahoma, Missouri, and the Ozarks.32

The Southern Tenant Farmers Association, founded in 1934, blended 19th-century socialist agrarianism with an antiracist Social Gospel. Iowa-born Social Gospel theologian Alva Taylor worked closely with Bible College of Missouri and the Disciples of Christ’s Board of Temperance and Social Welfare to train and mentor black and white ministers within the South. Taylor, along with Claude Williams, Howard Kester, and Ward Rogers, played key roles in founding the association and other black nationalist and union campaigns of the 1930s.33 Meanwhile, both within and outside the American South, W. E. B. Du Bois continued what Gary Dorrien has referred to as the “Black Social Gospel” well into the 20th century.34 Marcus Garvey helped found the Universal Negro Improvement Association for the celebration of pan-African identity and advocated the return of Africans to Africa. Both emphasized African Americans’ widely disparate treatment in a republic that claimed descriptors such as “democratic” and “free.”

The Eclipse of the Social Gospel Movement

Although historians dispute when and whether the Social Gospel movement ended, World War I marked a definite turning point. To the extent ministers and wage earners had imagined themselves working toward the millennialist goals of a renewed creation and a more just and peaceful world, some of that optimism came to a halt. Not only did the war and the 1918 flu pandemic together take 66 million lives, four empires, and a good deal of infrastructure throughout Europe. But, American Protestants were torn over Woodrow Wilson’s decision to mobilize the United States for war. They were especially torn over his proposed Covenant of the League of Nations. Many Social Gospel leaders, including women peace activists, pacifist ministers, and labor radicals, stood against the war. Members of the newly formed Fellowship of Reconciliation declared that “as Christians,” they were “forbidden to wage war” and saw their stance as conscientious objectors as a statement of solidarity with Christians and others who sought peace around the world.35 Labor radicals around the world also encouraged workers to be wary of patriotism’s false consciousness. In 1916, the members of the Industrial Workers of the World declared themselves the “determined opponents of all nationalistic sectionalism, or patriotism, and the militarism preached and supported by our enemy, the capitalist class.”36

In large part because the war was so controversial, Wilson inaugurated a draft and rigorously enforced the new Espionage Act of 1917 and an expansion known as the Sedition Act of 1918. The acts made it a felony to speak out against the American government and its war effort, interpreting “Americanness” loosely. Churches, labor unions, civic organizations, and anyone who publicly opposed the war had to either capitulate or remain silent, or face harsh consequences. Churches that had built close relationships with labor unions and immigrants were singled out for investigations to find evidence of socialist and other un-American activity. Hundreds of immigrant radicals were deported. Labor and political leaders, including Eugene Debs, Kate Richards O’Hare, and Victor Berger, were charged with offenses. Although the Fellowship of Reconciliation, some Pentecostals, and a few other radical clergy officially spoke out against the war and defended their civil liberties, most “respectable” Protestant and Catholic clergy cooperated with the war effort. At the request of President Wilson, the Federal Council of Churches and the American Federation of Labor each officially endorsed US entry into the war. By 1919, the Federal Council had publicly redefined the Social Gospel movement as a commitment to “social service” and denied any history of close collaboration with socialists.

Meanwhile, World War I accelerated the growth of a late-19th-century British theological movement known to some as “premillennial dispensationalism.” Evangelicals newly converted to this school of Bible interpretation divided human history into seven “dispensations,” placed the modern world in the final “church age,” and stressed the urgent need to convert before Christ’s imminent return to earth. This premillennial eschatology implied a literal, or “fundamentalist,” reading of the Scriptures that countermanded the Social Gospellers’ attention to “social sin.” In fact, The Fundamentals, a multivolume set of essays published in Los Angeles between 1910 and 1915 attacked Social Gospel modernists and socialism and argued that evangelization and the cultivation of personal faith were a far greater priority for the Church than an investment in social and political reconstruction. When a series anarchist bombings and attempted bombings occurred in the spring of 1919, dispensational premillennialists insisted that the end times were near and that Jesus would return to a distraught and decaying world, not a perfect one.37

Many fundamentalists not only supported Woodrow Wilson’s war, but also embraced the Espionage Act. Charles Erdman of Princeton Theological Seminary wrote, in volume 12 of The Fundamentals, “There must be a new insistence on the sacredness of the state and the truth that government is a divine institution . . . Every expression of anarchy and lawlessness should be severely reproved and speedily repressed.”38 Fundamentalist ministers sought leadership over the same bodies of Protestants that the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches had been leading. They threw off their predecessors’ commitment to improving social and industrial conditions and argued that these issues were merely a distraction from the more important call to focus on personal evangelism.39 The new evangelical fundamentalist theologies resonated especially with many white, upwardly mobile evangelicals.40

Nonetheless, despite the Federal Council of Churches’ dismissal of solidarity with radical laborers and the rising challenge of premillennial dispensationalism, the Great War offered organized labor many opportunities to win coveted contracts. If the Red Scare vilified socialists and other radicals, it also made space for trade unionists to advocate for all-American “democracy in industry,” or “industrial democracy.” In part because Wilson set up a War Industries Board to mediate strikes and keep production going, workers struck like never before, and won a number of concessions.41 Father John Ryan, a Catholic priest on the National Catholic War Council, penned The Bishops Program for Social Reconstruction in 1919, calling for expansive labor laws, federal mediation in collective-bargaining disputes, payment of a living wage to heads of households, and providing for a social safety net, or “social insurance.” That year, the Commission on Church and Social Service within the Federal Council issued a similar statement called The Church and Social Reconstruction, which invited similar legislative changes. Neither statement explicitly stated that unions should themselves be entrusted to negotiate fair contracts. The most “radical” white clergy, as they were called in 1919, looked to the state instead of the working classes for leadership over industrial relations.42 However, both statements endorsed important goals of organized labor and elevated them to national discussions.

Some labor and religious leaders accepted the consequences of the Espionage Act but persisted in their Social Gospel beliefs despite the frustrating, conservative turns in the 1920s. W. E. B. Du Bois, A. J. Muste, Bayard Rustin, Harry Ward, and a number of other African American and white leaders continued to support unions and radicals from the far left. They did this in the interwar era from their positions in the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, the People’s Institute for Applied Religion, the New York Labor Temple, and a variety of other organizations.43 In this respect, the Social Gospel movement outlasted the Great War. However, whether or not the Social Gospel movement ended in 1919, the year represented a turning point in the relationship between clergy and the workers they served. Until the Great Depression, organized wage earners who sought to expand the power of unions stood largely outside the mainstream of both labor and the churches.

Discussion of the Literature

Scholarly attention to working-class Christianity arose out of the flowering of social, labor, and working-class history. Herbert Gutman’s 1966 seminal article, “Protestantism and the American Labor Movement: The Christian Spirit in the Gilded Age,” showed that the religious histories of wage earners in the late 19th century were significantly different from those of the clergy in the mainstream churches. In fact, Gutman showed, religion was one prism through which workers articulated their responses to the upheavals of industrial America.44 Historians built upon this observation in a number of ways. James Green’s Grass-Roots Socialism (1978) chronicled the overlap between Holiness-Pentecostal revivals, the Appeal to Reason socialist newspaper, and the rise of agrarian socialism in the Upper South. Nick Salvatore’s Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist (1982) told of the rural, Protestant, working-class cultures from which American socialist convictions emerged. Ken Fones-Wolf’s Trade Union Gospel (1989) explored the interactions between working-class Christianities and those of middle-class churches in Philadelphia.

A decade later, renewed interest in missionaries and their roles in empire-building inspired a new framework from which to observe the Social Gospel. Ralph Luker, Paul Harvey, Matthew Frye Jacobson, and Edward Blum each examined the phenomenon of “home missions” (missionaries within the territorial United States) in the late 19th century, and found that missionaries played strategic political and economic roles. Luker showed that the failure of many of the boards of home missions to thoroughly resist racism and disfranchisement allowed for the rise of a violent, segregationist era right under the watch of white missionaries. Jacobson highlighted Christian missionaries who acted in unison toward “swarthy races” both inside and outside the territorial United States. Missionaries often articulated their subjects as primitive and in need of the blessings of their white Christian faith, as well as of an abundance of American consumer goods. Not only in the South, but in the urban North and the Philippines, missionaries acted on behalf of the nation. They sought to create Christian citizens because that was the only category of citizen most Protestants could comfortably imagine. As Edward Blum explained, missionaries played a role in creating a unified national identity for the country in the wake of Civil War. Their national networks created reunions among whites in the North, South, and West of the country, yet they largely ignored the violence and disfranchisement of African American Southerners. Many of these historians also emphasized the roles of African American churches, and some white working class-churches and organizations, in carrying on alternate prophetic gospels of redemption. Many African American missionaries, for example, were animated by Pan-Africanism and the hope of returning to Africa.45

More recently, scholars have become interested in the uniqueness of working-class Christianities throughout the long Social Gospel era. To what extent was the Social Gospel a middle-class movement, intended to suppress working-class, unorthodox, and African American cultures of Christian dissent? To what extent did working people create the movement that went by that name? On one hand, scholars such as Dave Burns, Edward O’Donnell, Janine Giordano Drake, and Gary Dorrien have illuminated significant chasms among religious convictions, formed by class, race, ethnicity, and politics. Working-class radicals in the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party of America were united by unorthodox views about Jesus and his ministry. The Irish Catholic and working-class Protestant social gospel that animated the Union Labor Party in New York City stood starkly apart from that of the Catholic hierarchy and of much of the antisocialist Protestant religious milieu of New York City. The Federal Council of Church’s major revivals sought to target and dispel socialist and Christian Socialist activity. African Americans celebrated a different Jesus, and a different kind of salvation, from that of many white neighbors.

On the other hand, other scholars have illustrated working-class social gospels that worked inside larger movements for broad social change. Steven Rosswurm, Ken Fones-Wolf and Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Jarod Roll, Erik Gellman, Heath Carter, Edward O’Donnell, and Matthew Pehl have followed working-class Christian movements inside the larger labor organizations, such as the Central Labor Union, the American Federation of Labor, or the Congress of Industrial Organizations.46 They have concluded that even if the middle-class expressions of labor reform have always been moderate compromises, the most important features of the Social Gospel were initiated by wage earners. These authors have shown that churches and Christian labor organizations, from the late 19th century through the Great Depression, were circulating most of the fundamental ideas behind labor reform, long before those ideas appeared in upper-class pulpits, national labor organizations, and Congress.

These two sets of arguments do not contradict one another. Rather, they reinforce the observation that the Social Gospel, when rendered as a proper noun and described as a single movement, was never the same as the working-class Christianity that lay beneath it and all around it. In fact, Social Gospel clergy drew their energy from publicly sifting valuable critiques from dangerous heresies and bringing the alternate Christ figure before their congregations for discussion and debate. Researchers now agree that the chasm of class during the Gilded Age played a central role in provoking the rise of theological liberalism and the attendant theologies for approaching the poor. However, we have only just begun to understand working-class religious life during the long Social Gospel era. While we know a little about working-class Christianities in parts of some Northern cities and the rural South, very little is known about the Social Gospel in the West, particularly among African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Little is also known about the interaction of the Social Gospel movement with Eastern Orthodox immigrants and Mormons. For an era animated by the national goals of taming, shaping, and uniting the immigrant working classes, African Americans, and the people of the western territories and states, the research on class and the Social Gospel has only scratched the surface.

Primary Sources

Popular print culture provides a major archive of source material for scholars of class and the Social Gospel. Inexpensive, paperback books like those listed above illuminate how important it was to both wealthy and poor Christians to determine the values and politics of the historical Jesus. Ebsco’s “Religion and Social Change” subscription database provides an exhaustive array of these cheap books and pamphlets on the topic.47 The William L. Bull lectures at the Philadelphia Divinity School brought together luminaries of the Social Gospel movement to discuss “Christian Sociology,” or the “application of Christian principles to the Social, Industrial, and Economic problems of the time.”48 Speakers included Jacob Riis, Lyman Abbott, Carroll Davidson Wright, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. Du Bois, and each of their lectures was published. Not only does this print culture illustrate the diversity of Christian Sociological ideas and their popularity with middle-class readers; it also illustrates the boundaries of the movement. For example, William Levi Bull, the patron of the lecture series, wrote, “The only restriction I wish to place on the lecturer is that he shall be a believer in the moral teachings and principles of the Christian Religion as the true solvent of our Social, Industrial and Economic problems.”49

The histories of social workers, reformers, and home-missions workers are also captured in collections of private papers, denominational magazines, and the records of major organizations such as the Federal Council of Churches, the Methodist Federation for Social Service, the American Institute of Social Service, the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions, and the US Council of Bishops. Methodists were not only numerous, but the Methodist Federation for Social Service archival collection at Drew University includes several important collections of both individuals and organizations. These sources often reveal clergy’s ambition to gain influence with the general public and, especially, with state and local government officials. In many cases those efforts were successful, and the papers of clergy have been preserved by public city historical societies. Moreover, because the Federal Council of Churches worked extensively with the Bureau of Industrial Research, much of the Federal Council’s work on labor has been preserved in federally sponsored strike reports and social surveys. In addition to providing valuable urban demographic data and information on wages and working hours, social surveys illustrate the value of the new social science to many reformers and social workers. They also offer insight into what middle-class people found most important about the layers of working classes.

Although the records written and preserved by religious organizations do well at illustrating the goals and perceptions of clergy, they often provide only minimal insight into the religious experiences, beliefs, and political ideas of the working people to whom they ministered. Very often, social surveys and denominational publications minimized, caricatured, or significantly distorted the convictions and beliefs of the working classes. Reformers, after all, needed to prove to their donors that their evangelistic work attended to people in spiritual ignorance. To access the religious beliefs and debates among the urban working classes, trade-union publications, socialist newspapers, labor newspapers, and local newspapers provide much better insight. To see some of the tensions between the religious beliefs of missionaries and social workers, conferences of Christian social workers, especially the Sagamore Conference, record important conversations between clergy and labor.

For those interested in the rural working classes, the papers of (usually) white missionaries sent to the South to do mission work often contain histories of the churches and church members with whom they worked. Several libraries, including the Kansas Historical Society, Tainment Library at New York University, and Duke University special collections, include major collections of socialist history and ephemera. The Marxist Internet Archive is an invaluable digital archive.

Although by no means were all working people members of organized unions, much less active members of socialist parties, union leaders and socialist party leaders sought to speak to and for the classes of wage earners. Their newspaper editors were in the habit of assembling research on the experiences of workers, and speaking to workers about matters they deemed important. Hence, discussions on religion in working-class newspapers may not illustrate how all wage earners felt about any particular concern, but they do demonstrate that middle-class clergy were an important subject of concern for large numbers of wage earners.

Further Reading

Blum, Edward. Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865–1898. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

    Carter, Heath. Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

      Dorrien, Gary. The New Abolition: W. E. B. DuBois and the Black Social Gospel. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

        Edwards, Wendy Deichmann, and Carolyn De Swarte Gifford. Gender and the Social Gospel. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.Find this resource:

          Fones-Wolf, Ken, and Elizabeth Fones-Wolf. Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.Find this resource:

            Flynt, Wayne. Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998.Find this resource:

              Green, James. Grass-roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895–1943. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1978.Find this resource:

                Harvey, Paul. Through the Storm, through the Night: A History of African American Christianity. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.Find this resource:

                  Luker, Ralph. The Social Gospel in Black and White: American Racial Reform, 1885–1912. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.Find this resource:

                    O’Donnell, Edward T. Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

                      Pehl, Matthew. Making of Working-Class Religion. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016.Find this resource:

                        Salvatore, Nick. Eugene Debs: Citizen and Socialist. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.Find this resource:


                          (1.) Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984); Jama Laserow, Religion and the Working Class in Antebellum America (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995); William Sutton, Journeymen for Jesus: Evangelical Artisans Confront Capitalism in Jacksonian Baltimore (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998); Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991); and Heath Carter, Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

                          (2.) Jama Laserow, Religion and the Working Class in Antebellum America (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995); Mark Noll, ed., God and Mammon: Protestants, Money, and the Market, 1790–1860 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990); Bruce Laurie, Working People of Philadelphia, 1800–1850 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980); Wilentz, Chants Democratic; Theresa Murphy, Ten Hours’ Labor: Religion, Reform, and Gender in Early New England (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992); Ronald Schultz, “Alternative Communities: American Artisans and the Evangelical Appeal, 1780–1830,” in American Artisans: Crafting Social Identity, 1750–1850, eds. Howard Rock, Paul Gilje, and Robert Asher (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 65–76; and William Sutton, Journeymen for Jesus: Evangelical Artisans Confront Capitalism in Jacksonian Baltimore (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998).

                          (3.) Paul Johnson has most notably raised this critique of the Second Great Awakening. See Paul Johnson, A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815–1837 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979); Gordon Wood, “The Enemy Is Us: Democratic Capitalism in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic 16 (1996): 293–308.

                          (4.) Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); Spencer Klaw, Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community (New York: Penguin, 1993); and Maren Lockwood Carden, Oneida: Utopian Community to Modern Corporation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969).

                          (5.) Edward Blum, Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion and American Nationalism, 1865–1898 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007).

                          (6.) Derek Chang, Citizens of a Christian Nation: Evangelical Missions and the Problem of Race in the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010); and Matthew Frye Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876–1917 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000).

                          (7.) Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues.

                          (8.) Josiah Strong, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis (New York: Baker & Taylor, 1885), 40.

                          (9.) Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues; and Daniel Bays and Grant Wacker, The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home: Explorations in North American Cultural History (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010).

                          (10.) Matthew Bowman, The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 128.

                          (11.) Gaines Foster, Moral Reconstruction: Christian Lobbyists and the Federal Legislation of Morality, 1865–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); and Ronald C. White Jr. and C. Howard Hopkins, The Social Gospel: Religion and Reform in Changing America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976).

                          (12.) Robert Weir, Beyond Labor’s Veil: The Culture of the Knights of Labor (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 73.

                          (13.) Weir, Beyond Labor’s Veil, 86; Marc Karson, American Labor Unions and Politics, 1900–1918 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958).

                          (14.) Carter, Union Made, 164.

                          (15.) David Burns, The Life and Death of the Radical Historical Jesus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789–1860 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987); and Bouck White, The Call of the Carpenter (New York: Doubleday, 1913).

                          (16.) Edward O’Donnell, Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).

                          (17.) Jacob Dorn, ed., Socialism and Christianity in Early 20th Century America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998).

                          (18.) “Declaration of Principles of the Social Democratic Party,” Social Democratic Herald, June 9, 1898, 3.

                          (19.) Priscilla Pope-Levison, Building the Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era (New York: New York University Press, 2015); Suellen Hoy, Good Hearts: Catholic Sisters in Chicago’s Past (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006); and Maureen Fitzgerald, Habits of Compassion: Irish Catholic Nuns and the Origins of New York’s Welfare System, 1830–1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006).

                          (20.) Wendy Deichmann Edwards and Carolyn De Swarte Gifford, Gender and the Social Gospel (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003); Maureen Flanagan, America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivisms, 1890s–1920s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); Ian Tyrell, Woman’s World / Woman’s Empire: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991); and Elizabeth Dorn Lublin, Reforming Japan: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in the Meji Period (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010).

                          (21.) Annelise Orleck, Common Sense and a Little Fire: Women and Working Class Politics in the United States, 1900–1965 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); Helen Camp, Iron in Her Soul: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the American Left (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1991); Kathi Kern, Mrs. Stanton’s Bible (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002); and Kathleen Tobin, The American Religious Debate over Birth Control, 1907–1937 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001).

                          (22.) For more on social sin and the crusades to eliminate them, see Gaines Foster, Moral Reconstruction. On Rauschenbush and his efforts to address social sin, see Christopher Evans, The Kingdom Is Always but Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbush (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004).

                          (23.) Ralph Luker, Social Gospel in Black and White: American Racial Reform, 1885–1912 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 15.

                          (24.) Paul Harvey, Through the Storm, through the Night: A History of African American Christianity (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013), 71.

                          (25.) Edward Blum, Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion and American Nationalism, 1865–1898 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007).

                          (26.) For more on Rockefeller funding, see Charles Harvey, “John D. Rockefeller Jr., and the Interchurch World Movement of 1919–1920: A Different Angle on the Ecumenical Movement,” Church History 51.2 (1982): 198–209. On the role of the Federal Council of Churches in the Social Gospel movement, see Donald Gorrell, The Age of Social Responsibility: The Social Gospel in the Progressive Era, 1900–1920 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1989).

                          (27.) On the Social Gospel and settlement houses, see Robyn Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890–1935 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984); Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, Black Neighbors: Race and the Limits of Reform in the American Settlement House Movement, 1890–1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); and Susan Curtis, A Consuming Faith: The Social Gospel and Modern American Culture (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001).

                          (28.) Luker, Social Gospel, 43; Harvey, Through the Storm, 81–82.

                          (29.) Harvey, Through the Storm, 75, 72.

                          (30.) Harvey, Through the Storm, 88.

                          (31.) A number of scholars have addressed this, including Steven Hahn, Roots of Southern Populism: Yeomen Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1850–1890 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983); Donna Barnes, The Louisiana Populist Movement, 1881–1900 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2011); and Elizabeth Sanders, Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State, 1877–1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).

                          (32.) James Green, Grass-Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895–1943 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978); Garin Burbank, When Farmers Voted Red: The Gospel of Socialism in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1910–1924 (Praeger, 1977); Jarod Roll, Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010); Jarod Roll and Erik Gellman, Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America (Urbana: University of Illinios Press, 2011); and Alison Collis Greene, No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

                          (33.) Ken Fones-Wolf and Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 16.

                          (34.) Gary Dorrien, The New Abolition: W. E. B DuBois and the Black Social Gospel (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015); and Edward Blum, W. E. B. Du Bois: American Prophet (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).

                          (35.) Joseph Kip Kosek, Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 26.

                          (36.) “The IWW Position on War”. Industrial Workers of the World, 1916.

                          (37.) Matthew Avery Sutton, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

                          (38.) Charles Erdman, “The Church and Socialism,” in The Fundamentals: A Testimony, vol. 12 (Chicago: Testimony Publishing Company, 1910–1915), 108–119.

                          (39.) Sutton, American Apocalypse, 49–59.

                          (40.) Tim Gloege, Guaranteed Pure: The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); and Darren Grem, The Blessings of Business: How Corporations Shaped Conservative Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

                          (41.) Joseph McCartin, Labor’s Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern Labor Relations, 1912–1921 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998).

                          (42.) Janine Giordano Drake, “Between Religion and Politics: The Working Class Religious Left” (PhD diss., University of Illinois, 2014).

                          (43.) Kosek, Acts of Conscience; Leilah Danielson, American Gandhi: A. J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014); Blum, Du Bois: American Prophet; Doug Rossinow, Visions of Progress: The Left-Liberal Tradition in America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009); Roll, Spirit of Rebellion; Erik Gellman and Jarod Roll, Gospel of the Working Class; Matthew Pehl, The Making of Working Class Religion (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016).

                          (44.) Herbert Gutman, “Protestantism and the American Labor Movement,” American Historical Review 72.1 (1966): 74–101.

                          (45.) Luker, Social Gospel; Harvey, Through the Storm; Paul Harvey, Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); and Blum, Reforging; Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues.

                          (46.) Steven Rosswurm, The CIO’s Left-Led Unions (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992); Douglas Seaton, Catholics and Radicals: The Association of Catholic Trade Unionists and the American Labor Movement; from Depression to Cold War (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1981); Greene, No Depression; K. Fones-Wolf and E. Fones-Wolf, Struggle for the Soul; Roll, Spirit; and Gellman and Roll, Gospel; Carter, Union Made; Pehl, Working-Class Religion.

                          (47.) “Religion and Social Change, 1723–1921,” EBSCO Historical Monographs Collection (2017).

                          (48.) Carroll D. Wright, The Battles of Labor (Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, 1906), 3.

                          (49.) Wright, The Battles of Labor, 4.