tv Lectures in History 20th Century Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism CSPAN February 18, 2018 12:45pm-1:53pm EST
virginia to learn about its rich history. learn more about lynchburg and other stops on a tour at c-span.org/cities tour. you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> lectures in history, molly worthen teaches a class about history and the intellectual underpinnings of protestant fundamentalism and 20th century america. the 1925 scopes monkey trial, which pitted the teaching of evolution versus creationism in public schools and gained national attention. later, she delves into the origins and growth of pentecostalism, which drives for a personal connection with the divine and includes such aspects as faith healing and speaking in tongues. her class is a little over an hour.
worthen: let's begin. today's lecture is on the history of american fundamentalism and pentecostalism. i'm going to try to answer three big questions today. number 1 -- what is protestant from the mental i fundamentalis? what does the term mean? second, how did fundamentalists relate to mainstream culture? third, why has fundamentalism and so much more influential in the united states than in any other society in the western world? curious. terms that you here today?
do you know people who call themselves fundamentalist or use this label? i can see some nodding. any examples? yes? groupsng to describe that would do terrorists attacks. it's a term that you hear often in the context of islam. what about here among american christian groups? that areeople christians here we would've called by the mentalist christians in the pejorative, i don't think it's often not used by the fundamentalists themselves. you have heard it more of a pejorative term and that is interesting because it lines up in my experience. i've certainly met some proud independent activists who claim that term fundamentalist, but generally it seems to be used as an insult.
it's not a label that most christians would want applied to themselves. i think that the history of that connotation, that kind of negative sense in which we hear the word today, it really became crystallized in one particular historical episode and that is the infamous, or famous, depending on your view, scopes trial. there we go. of 1925. the monkey trial that dominated newspaper headlines in the summer of 1925. now, the scopes trial has a certain status in popular culture. you are probably at least vaguely aware of what it involved, but let me tell you the basic facts of the trial. the state of tennessee passed a law forbidding the teaching of the theory of evolution in tennessee public high school.
the aclu, the american civil liberties union, wanted to challenge the constitutionality of this law. and so they put together and financed a case. they recruited a tennessee high school teacher, a substitute science teacher, a young guy named john scopes, who agreed to purposefully incriminate himself by making a point of teaching the chapter from their textbook on the theory of evolution and then urging his own students to testify against him. to rat him out. to get him in trouble so he would be charged with this crime and it would go to trial. that is exactly what happened. this turned out to be an amazing publicity opportunity for the little town of dayton, tennessee. 200 reporters descended on the town in july of 1925. a few thousand spectators from various parts of the south and
further afield. if you had walked down the street of dayton in july, you would have seen trained chimpanzees playing on the courthouse lawn. billboards featuring a picture of a chimp drinking the local variety of soda pop. local merchants were really trying to capitalize on this moment in the sun. the trial itself was pretty sensational because both sides, the defense and the prosecution, managed to recruit a star for their side. on the prosecution's team was william jennings bryan, the great commoner, the populist democrat who had run for president three times. he had been woodrow wilson's secretary of state and was known as the great defender of traditional protestantism. and a great lawyer joined the defense team as well. probably the most famous
left-wing lawyer of the time and famously agnostic on the matter of religion. and that was clarence darrow. he was known for his bold politics. here he is in his characteristically flourish , making his opening arguments. here are clarence darrow and william jennings bryan on the upper right. this is sort of a sample of the street scene. this is a table set up with anti-evolution tracks and books. both sides of this debate really seeing this as an opportunity. now, the aclu wanted to challenge the law on the grounds of academic freedom. that was the tact that they wanted to take. but clarence darrow veered in a very different direction.
he decided to put traditional religion on trial. and he summoned to the stand for cross examination william jennings bryan himself, which was very unorthodox for one of the attorneys for the prosecution to be summoned for cross examination. darrow aimed to make a fool of this great statesman. he wanted to showcase the conflict between science and religion. he asked bryan questions like how could joshua possibly have compelled the sunshine to stand still? or can you tell us the exact date of the flood? and bryan did his best to remain firm in defending his views , although in many cases he did not really have a clear and sharp answer to rebut darrow.
i will say that bryan refused to defend young earth creationism. he would not defend the view that each day of creation described in genesis literally means 24 hours. he said it could mean a longer period of time. but, in general, he defended the conservative, traditional reading of scripture. and he kind of came off as an old man who has been out of his depth. the judge ended up throwing out the testimony and in fact most of the testimony for the defense as irrelevant to the question of whether or not this high school teacher had broken the law. it was pretty clear that he had. in the end, the jury found scopes guilty and he was ordered to pay a fine. although the conviction was later thrown out on a technicality.
now, inside the courthouse, the crowd was definitely on bryan's side. on the side of the prosecution, cheering for bryan. but darrow and the defenders of evolution really seemed to win over the mainstream press in the big cities. a journalist for "the baltimore sun," a guy named a jo hl mencken, was dispatched to cover the trial and he wrote some incredibly searing and mocking reports about the people that he met there. i just want to read an excerpt of one of his reports. "the net effect of clarence darrow's closing arguments yesterday seems to be preciously the same as if he had bawled it up a rain spout in the interior of afghanistan. the morons in the audience when it was over simply hissed. bryan has these hillbillies locked up in his pen and he
knows it. since his earliest days, indeed, his chief strength has been among the folk of the remote hills and forlorn, lonely farms. his nonsense is their ideal of sense. when he deludes them with his theological bilge, they rejoiced like pilgrims sporting in the river of jordan." holy cow. no matter what you might think of hl mencken's ideology, he had a certain genius for comic condescension. and reports like this had powerful effects. this trial came to be widely seen as a cultural defeat for fundamentalism. as the moments that made famous the caricature of the fundamentalist as the uneducated redneck.
and the scopes trial has become this icon of the clash between fundamentalism and modernism. and i think it is so telling that 1925 was also the year of the creation in canada of the united church of canada. remember, i told you about that great moment of protestant unity in canada when the baptists -- not the baptists, the presbyterians, the congregationalists, and the methodists joined together to make one big denomination. and it was just this lovely historical coincidence that it happened at the very same time that american protestantism was so clearly polarizing and breaking apart. very handy. it gives you one date you have to memorize for the final. and it shows us this divergent set of paths that canadian and american protestantism were
headed down. we half to ask them -- we have to ask then what are the historical reasons for the different character of american protestant conflict and who are these fundamentalists? who are we really talking about when we use this label? first, we have got to be clear about what fundamentalism means. because this word is used to pretty carelessly i think in today's culture and media. in this class, we will use it in a very historically precise way. fundamentalists, i am giving you a definition now, fundamentalists are conservative protestants who militantly opposed, militantly opposed, the militant is important, new ideas about the bible, science, and
society. and often, although not always, broke away to found their own churches, schools, and religious organizations. these are militant protestants who really opposed in an aggressive way the new changes , and in many cases, they broke away and found their own groups. now, we can talk about an organized fundamentalist movement from roughly 1900 to, say, 1930, when the conservatives were fighting brutally to retain control of the old, established, northern denominations that we call mainline. now, this week, you are reading a famous sermon by a liberal baptist preacher.
i think that gives you some sense of the conflict. here he is. you see he appeared on the cover of "time" magazine. it gives you some sense of the cultural status of liberal princes of the pulpit back then. the first presbyterian church in manhattan is where he originally gave this sermon. "shall the fundamentalist win?" when you read it, i think you will see that his sermon was not a fight over doctrine, at least not explicitly. you might need to talk with your classmates about whether that is what is actually going on beneath it. i think at least on the surface his approach was very different from clarence darrow's. essentially, he says if a person is a true liberal, they should have no problem with other christians believing that god
created the universe in six days even if they themselves do not happen to believe that. he says the problem with these fundamentalists is not their theology. they can believe what they like. the problem is their beliefs about church. so it had much of wider reach by direct mail than just the people who happened to hear it preached. but i have been reading fosdick's autobiography and it is really interesting. he refers to this sermon and he called it a failure even though
it was really widely read. to him, it failed in his main hope which was to stop the fighting and restore harmony. maybe that is a bit naive, really, thinking about it. fundamentalism did not go away though. at this point, we can describe fundamentalism as maybe not an organized movement, but as a set of networks. a subculture. fundamentalists built their own
world of bible colleges, denominations, prophecy conferences, anti-communism crusades, a really powerful network of religious and political groups that for quite a long time, i mean maybe up until the 1960's and 1970's, was not really on the mainstream media's radar. it seems like after the scopes trial, fundamentalists had crawled into a hole somewhere and never appeared from the perspective of the average reporter at the new york times or something like that. in fact, fundamentalism was growing into a powerful subculture. one more point about terms. in these years, the first half of the 20th century, the terms
fundamentalist and evangelical were more or less interchangeable. people would use them both to talk about the same individuals, to talk about themselves. but in the 1940's, that starts to change. and the term evangelical comes instead to mean a conservative protestant who is still doctrinally awfully fundamentalist but is not so militant about it. i am talking about people like billy graham. an evangelical was someone that wanted to engage mainstream culture, maybe collaborate a bit more with other christians, rather than separating from the world in an extreme way or picking a lot of fights over doctrine. that is what evangelical comes to mean and it is still how it is used today.
this, then, is a big arc of the fundamentalist movement in our story. i want to turn now briefly to the matter of theology. and say a little bit more about what fundamentalists believed and what they believed today. fundamentalism looked slightly different in different church traditions. a baptist fundamentalist would believe slightly different things, worship differently than a mennonite fundament list but they are called fundamentalists because they did tend to share a set of fundamentals. we can make some broad comments about that. they tended to have a pietistic concern for personal holiness. for good behavior. many of them came in some way out of the puritan tradition. and retained that puritan
combination of interest in rigorous doctrine, systematic theology with pietism. that personal feeling of the spirit. lots and lots of fundamentalists, though by no means all of them, were also premillennialists in their view of the end times. you remember that means that they thought jesus was going to return, probably pretty soon, in the flesh to inaugurate the prophecies predicted in the book of revelation and eventually, after the battle of armageddon and all of that jazz, the kingdom of the saints. we can move down to a more basic level of fundamentals. you would have had some disagreements among fundamentalists on things like the end times. i struggled for a long time to come up with a good acronym to help students remember the
fundamentals until just a couple of years ago when i put this out as a challenge to some of your predecessors in this class and one lovely student, a woman named miranda rosser, who graduated last spring, came up with marvin. the fundamentals. this comes from a list drawn up by some conservative presbyterians in 1910 who wanted to figure out what are the most important things that we cannot compromise on. m -- miracles. belief that the miracles reported in the bible really did happen. a for atonement. a belief in the traditional doctrine of christ's substitutionary atonement on the cross. that is jesus was not just a nice guy. he was not just a handy moral example for us. he really did take our place on the cross and die for our sins.
r for resurrection. he was actually bodily resurrected. v, christ was born of a virgin. i n for inerrancy. the doctrine of biblical inerrancy meaning the bible is totally without error no matter what scientists and historians may say. now, i want to push back a bit against the scopes trial caricature of fundamentalists as country bumpkins by talking about, i guess you could call them, the thinking man's fundamentalists at princeton theological seminary. princeton, in the late 19th century was one of the intellectual powerhouses behind the conservative response to modernist theology.
and i want to focus on benjamin warfield who was a scholar at princeton. you are reading an excerpt from one of his sermons this week. he was born in 1851. he was the son of a well-to-do cattle breeder in kentucky. he came from pretty aristocratic stock. his great-grandfather was a u.s. senator, one of his uncles was a confederate general in the civil war. and his family was presbyterian. and warfield really threw himself into serving his family faith. he went to princeton as a student and he returned to the seminary about a decade later in 1887 to teach there and to spend his life fighting against modernism.
by defending this doctrine known as biblical inerrancy. and we need to spend a little time with the idea of inerrancy. this idea that everything in the bible is true, no matter what scholars might say, that scripture has no error in it. the basic idea is very old. christians have always been concerned to defend the bible as a perfect source of truth. but inerrancy, as warfield understood it, and as fundamentalists and evangelicals have come to understand it has a more recent history. and we need to unpack this a bit to really understand what is going on. to tell the story of the doctrine of inerrancy, i need to backtrack from where we are in this course back to the early, mid-17th century.
in these years, a couple of generations after the start of the protestant reformation, a group of protestant theologians found themselves in a bit of a bind, they found themselves surrounded on the intellectual battlefield. i am talking primarily about thinkers in the reformed tradition. theologians that followed john calvin and those guys. on the one hand, they had to deal with the scientists and the philosophers of the scientific revolution and the enlightenment who are using new scientific methods to raise awkward questions about the bible's accounts of the miraculous and the supernatural doctrines. on the other hand, they had to face the great theologians of the catholic counterreformation.
these scholastic thinkers who were annoyingly adept at logically, systematically picking apart protestant arguments about authority. these protestant thinkers were caught in the middle and they responded by essentially trying to turn their enemies' weapons back upon them by creating a highly rationalistic, highly logical method of defending the authority of scripture. these protestant thinkers took as their starting point the philosophical principle that god is perfect and unchanging. christians debate about whether that principle is actually explicit in scripture. it is not clear that it is.
but these conservatives said that if that is true, it follows logically that god's revelation is perfect and unchanging as well. not just in matters of salvation but in every scientific and historical matter, from the scope of the flood to the most granular details of ancient israel's politics. so, what this means is that religious truths and scientific truths are the same. the bible is equally reliable on both matters. benjamin warfield's mentor at princeton, a theologian named charles hodge, had a great way of putting this. he said the bible is a storehouse of facts. think about that phrase. a storehouse of facts. and a theologian's job is to arrange and harmonize these facts just as a scientist confirms the the laws of nature
by classifying data from the natural world. he is really saying that a theologian is a kind of scientist. this i think really drives home the point that the princeton thinkers followed that model of common sense realism that i told you about a couple of weeks ago and how they thought about science. science is about using your god-given common sense to make sense of the data in god's creation. very different view from the idea of science that we start to see emerge with charles darwin and the thinkers that come after him who develop more sophisticated methods for dealing with uncertainty in their scientific endeavors. now, warfield and his colleagues were not dummies. these guys were sophisticated thinkers who kept abreast of the latest scholarship coming out of european universities and they
were well aware of the discrepancies in the bible. the parts that seem to not quite line up and seem to contradict each other. but they argued that the appearance of these problems in scripture was simply the result of our mortal, imperfect, human misunderstandings. it is not a reflection of god's error. now, warfield, unlike his colleagues, was even open to some version of theistic evolution. evolution driven by god. when you think about his biography that makes sense. remember his dad was a cattle breeder so he spent a lot of time in kentucky working on the family ranch and he had observed firsthand how breeding works. how inherited traits can change over time.
he died a few years before the scopes trial but i am pretty sure he would have been very uncomfortable with the all or nothing debate about evolution that took place there. however, warfield and his colleagues at princeton were really worried about the presuppositions, the assumptions, beneath this modernist work. and that is really what he is getting at in the sermon you are reading this week. he and his colleagues believed that any scholar in any field has got to start with the assumption that the bible is free from all error. they said by definition, god's revelation is perfect. this is not something you should try to prove. you have to just accept this
assumption. and they worried that liberal scholars, who said, ok, maybe you can grant that perhaps the miracles in the gospels did not happen, maybe christ did not really raise anyone from the dead but you can still believe that christ is your savior. you can still have the core of the christian faith. warfield and his buddies said -- no way. not at all. it is a slippery slope. and if you give up these so-called details, eventually you give up the reliability of the whole bible. they were prepared to fight very hard for these details. they did not see them as details at all. there are a few reasons why warfield's approach became so dominant in the united states. the first is that america had always had many more churches of
warfield's tradition. the reformed protestant tradition. then you would have found in the united kingdom or canada. and reformed protestants historically have really been into fighting over doctrine, really systematic thinkers. you remember, i told you how john calvin was so systematic and how he reasoned out predestination. same with the puritans. these guys were often itching for intellectual fights. they were very sensitive to any intellectual challenge. that is different from other protestants who tended to put more emphasis on personal spiritual experience or church tradition or using the bible more as a guide for daily living rather than as a kind of textbook. the second major reason for the popularity of this rationalistic view of inerrancy, this
fundamentalist attitude towards compromise was revivals. revivals became more popular in america than anywhere else in the western world. and they encouraged a kind of black and white view of christianity. an attitude that uncertainty is bad. that you must either reject new science entirely and then you know you are saved or you can embrace it and be among the damned. and if you are not sure, then you're not really saved. a historian, george morrison, said these are among the reasons why fundamentalism became so prominent in america. warfield would not have entirely approved of how the
fundamentalist movement picked up the cause of inerrancy and ran with it. i think what we see is that when sophisticated scholarship filters down from the cloud land of theological treatises into church newspapers and radio broadcasts, it does not retain its complexity and nuances. that is what happened with the doctrine of inerrancy. it became a sort of banner to rally around. to proclaim belief in inerrancy was to proclaim i reject all of these awful things about modernity. i reject women wearing shorter skirts. i reject these weird looking, weird smelling, weird talking immigrants who are coming into our cities. i reject prideful arrogant scholars who are tearing down our holy books. i want to assert the authority of the bible over america.
that is what inerrancy came to stand for, i think. we gain some perspective on this when we think a little bit about canada. canada had a small fundamentalist movement of its own. especially baptists, who paid a lot of attention to what the baptists south of the border were up to. generally, fundamentalists were not as influential in canadian protestantism. i want to focus on one non-fundamentalist evangelical because i think his story tells us a lot more about what makes canadian evangelicalism different. and that is this guy. nathaniel. he was a contemporary of warfield's. he showed up in your textbook a couple of weeks ago, i believe. he was a methodist minister and educator.
he was born in 1839 in lower canada, what is now what quebec. he was the great-grandson of loyalists who fled from vermont during the revolution. his parents were devout methodist and he had his own conversion experience when he was a student at victoria college in ontario. later on, victoria asked him to come back and teach. not theology, but natural science. he had studied science that he -- he studied science, but he had also studied that philosophy that was so influential in princeton, commonsense realism. in a broad sense he drew from that worldview the same sort of conclusions that warfield did. he thought -- ok, evolution is simply a theory, just a theory.
it does not meet my standards of scientific proof so i do not have to take a position on it. but his approach to the big picture of culture and education was very different. very non-fundamentalist. he wanted to find a way to accommodate christian theology to new scientific discoveries. and he thought that church run colleges, protestant colleges, could continue to teach the humanities, theology. they would shape students' souls. he thought it would be fine for secular faculty to take over the sciences and professional education. when it came to scripture, he combined commonsense realism with methodist ideas about how
christians should read the bible. the view that john wesley had was that understanding god's will requires bringing scripture into conversations with church traditions, reason, and personal religious experience. it is known as the wesleyan quadrilateral. scripture, reason, experience, and tradition. it had the potential to be a more moderate guide for thinking about these things. britishlso part of a north american intellectual world that remained more connected with other countries, with the united kingdom. this is really important. canadian christian intellectuals had more personal relationships
in britain and more frequently studied there. they had more institutional links with british denominations. so, even though, geographically speaking, they are just as far from what was happening at the universities of the united kingdom and germany as american protestants were, canadians felt much closer. they experienced something like charles darwin's discoveries , less as a foreign invasion and more as a gradual development in their own intellectual culture. this is another reason why canadian protestantism did not fracture to the same degree and fundamentalists did not gain the same kind of authority.
he and warfield shared some of the same training and had the same fundamental goals, really. they both wanted to defend the authority of christianity and -- in the modern world, but they approach that goal very differently. in canada it was his type, the moderates, the more compromise minded christians willing to rethink their ideas about scripture perhaps to accommodate new science. it was these guys who retained control over mainstream evangelicalism, while in america the more aggressive stance that we see in warfield came to be more influential. now, i have been describing fundamentalism as this really intellectual thing so far. really obsessed with dogma and
scientific knowledge. and in some ways, it was that, but there is another movement in conservative protestantism at this time that overlapped somewhat with fundamentalism but is really its own thing and that is the holiness movement. here are a couple of images of the holiness camps back in the day and today. now, you may recall my talk of holiness christians dimly from the early parts of the semester. holiness beliefs emerged mainly in methodist circles among christians who got really interested in the holy spirit's work in a christian after conversion. what they called the second blessing.
this filling of spiritual power and the total suppression of sin by the holy spirit. john wesley had argued that since scripture demands that humans fulfill god's law, the state of what he called christian perfection must be obtainable even if it takes up our whole lives. you remember that from what you read about wesley. holiness christians really focused on this and they took wesley's idea and they kind of ran with it and they said -- sin must not be inevitable then. it must be possible to totally suppress it in the course of this second blessing. they came to really hold this experience of the second blessing as being as significant
as a christian's conversion because it could bring to you what they called entire sanctification. gods grace can free one, not just of a perversion of original sin, but the tendency to commit individual sins. they had a much higher view of what the holy spirit could do. the holiness movement is kind of a bridge to the last big group i want to talk about and that is the pentecostals. easy at thisn be point to lose track of where we are in the family tree of protestantism. let us refresh our memories. maybe you are maintaining a growing family tree in your notebook. that would be a great thing to do. let us go back and start with the church of england. remember, the church of england has a lot of influences. it has the reformed influence.
it has some lutheranism. and it retains a lot of catholicism. and down here, we have to think about wesley's background. let us remember the pietists and the moravians. remember how important the moravians were to wesley. so, the methodists came out of the church of england. wesley was himself a church of england minister. the holiness movement comes out of methodism, for the most part. there are some other varieties of holiness christianity, but for the most part, methodist. and this is where we are now. now, we are talking about pentecostals.
they are the radical left wing of holiness protestantism. this is what it looks like. it least in a general way. pentecostal revival first came to the attention of the mainstream press in 1906. newspapers started covering a major religious event known as the isuza street revival. here is an image of the mission in los angeles. the los angeles times reporting this weird babble of tongues. a new sect of fanatics was breaking loose. wild scene last night, a gurgle of words talked by a sister. what is this reporter -- this bewildered reporter, talking about? pentecostal leaders had been
traveling the country for a few years at this point when an african-american hotel waiter, a guy named william seymour, picked up this message of the radical power of the holy spirit to work in you and through you. he had gotten this from a revivalist he heard teaching in houston and he traveled to los angeles and brought it with him. now, he probably would not have been most people's pick for most likely evangelist to ignite a worldwide revival although that is what he would come to do. he was a son of former slaves. he was born in louisiana in pretty impoverished circumstances. he was raised as a roman catholic. as a young man, he had fallen in with the holiness movement and he felt called to preach. and like many early pentecostal
evangelists, it was a near death experience that did it. he almost died of smallpox and lost an eye. he believed that god yanked him back from the brink and wanted him to do this work. he is second from the right on the front row. this is where his revivals were based initially. he came to los angeles with no money or followers but he started holding prayer meetings at the house he was staying and he was soon drawing huge audiences to the front porch. so big that they had to move to this abandoned warehouse. and every day for weeks, there were revival meetings happening off and on at this mission house. people came to sing, to hear sermons and testimonies from those who said a had been baptized in the spirit. that is the phrase.
and if you had gone -- it would not look like any revival you have ever seen. people were losing control of their bodies. gyrating. dancing. falling to the floor. slaying in the spirit. laying on of hands, claiming to heal people of all kinds of illnesses, including states of paralysis and other extreme physical ailments. and you would have heard them speaking in tongues. weird babble of tongues. some early witnesses said they heard people actually speaking in foreign languages that they had never studied. although reports of this were very rare and never confirmed by scholars. most of the time you would have heard what theologians called
the spontaneous sound that does not resemble human speech. not a recognizable language. has anyone here witnessed people speaking in tongues? yes. what was the context? >> it was at a church event. prof. worthen: were they speaking really loudly and emotionally or was it a quieter kind of speech? >> i think they were quietly praying. prof. worthen: kind of a range. sometimes a public message for the congregation, but sometimes more private experience. has anyone else witnessed this or participated in it? >> at a church i used to go to, the pastor who is pretty loud
spoke in tongues. but he said that only he had the power to do so. prof. worthen: so he would do this as part of his sermon? >> not often but at times. prof. worthen: that is really interesting. as a kind of way to assert an extra kind of authority of the holy spirit working through him. pentecostal faith as evidence of the holy spirit dwells within them is an echo of the second chapter of acts in which the holy spirit descended on christ's apostles like a mighty wind. on the feast of pentecost because it is 50 days after the jewish holiday of passover. and according to scripture, this was to empower the apostles with the gift of speaking in foreign languages so they could go to
the ends of the earth and convert more people to christ's message. now, pretty much this was a thing that christians thought of as limited to the new testament. there were exceptions. there had been some reports of speaking in tongues before this . brigham young, the great mormon leader, claimed to have spoken in tongues. it might have happened during the second great awakening. hard to say. but it took on a new significance now. the beginning of the 20th century. pentecostals believed that the spiritual gifts mentioned in the new testament, not just tongues but the gift of healing for example as well, had been restored to earth because christ was about to return. they had a real sense of the imminence of the end times. and so this was god's one last
appeal to humans to convert before the terrible events of prophecy began to unfold. this revival coincided -- i have a slide but the date of the newspaper front-page was april 18, 1906 which was the date of the great san francisco earthquake. the totally devastating earthquake. that for believers really drove home the point that god wanted this revival to be taken very seriously. these early revivals too -- you may have noticed it in the picture, they were racially integrated. in their leadership and the people that came to worship. at these revivals, this is los angeles at the turn of the century. booming. full of migrants from all parts of the country as well as asia.
you had blacks, whites, latinos, and asians worshiping together at a time when the vast majority of religious events were segregated. you had women disproportionately represented. women were coming forward, testifying, preaching and participating in these healing services. breaking all kinds of social taboos. now, tell me, how do you think other christians reacted to reports of these revivals? what would be your guess when they read these newspaper reports? >> i'm sure they thought it was some false form of christianity and that the racial integration and the role of women was not the intention of the church. prof. worthen: absolutely. that was a dominant reaction.
in the breaking of the social taboos, these christians were defying god's rules in how humans should associate. and all of this new testament, miraculous stuff, they thought was not believable. this could not be. this is not something that respectable christians did. it had to be the work of charlatans or the devil. pentecostalism for much of its history was totally scandalous , even to fundamentalists. even a most fundamentalists. if we did a venn diagram of pentecostalism and fundamentalists there would have been some overlap. pentecostals were doctrinally conservative. they were founding their own churches. but a lot of self-described fundamentalists wanted nothing to do with this pentecostal, holy roller kind of stuff.
by 1920, pentecostal revival had spread to every inhabited continent. it remains today the biggest and most vibrant strain of protestant christianity in the world. although despite the early hopes for unity, for equality, by 1920, pentecostals had started breaking into different sects that disagreed about doctrine and they had begun to conform with racial segregation and rolling back opportunities for women. however, now i want to tell you about an amazing pentecostal woman. one of the most famous christian evangelists of the early 20th century in the decades after was a woman named amy semple mcpherson who was born in ontario. she was originally canadian.
she made most of her career in california. she had been converted at a revival as a young girl. she married young. she really tried to play the role of a dutiful housewife. she accompanied her husband, who was a missionary, to china. he became ill and died very soon after they arrived. she was increasingly feeling that god was speaking to her to preach. so she came back to north america and got remarried. there she is on the top left with her first husband. she was remarried and began to tour north america preaching at revivals. arriving in her gospel car which was emblazoned with slogans like jesus is coming soon. get ready.
her second husband was not crazy about this. he did not want to play second fiddle to her. he wrote letters demanding she take care of the house and act like other women. pretty soon, he got fed up and filed for a divorce. she was on her own for a time. she drove around with her mother. she was so determined that when her car got stuck in the mud, she got out and wrapped the clothes from her suitcase around the wheels to gain traction as they continued crisscrossing canada and the united states. she was a little bit like george whitfield because she had a genius to win an audience. there is a story that i love about her. she was preaching early in her career in a small town in ontario. she had been preaching for a couple of nights and no one was showing up. she was really discouraged. she went out to the town square
and put a chair in the middle of the square and then she stood silently in prayer. makes you feel kind of awkward when i'm doing that, right? it made onlookers feel kind of awkward also. they began to gather around her. and after watching her standing like a statue, someone reaches out and touches her arm and she sprang to life and she said -- come with me, people and she leads them back to church and they came. and she preached and it was the start of a great revival. she has a sense of how people would respond. and how to get them to overcome their skepticism. she had two children at this point. she brought her whole family and her mother came along and they settled in los angeles where she
decided to make her career. this was after she went up in an airplane to drop leaflets advertising her revival in san diego. she was on the cutting edge of technology and things that would wow people. she built the huge angeles temple which opened in 1923. this was one of the first mega-churches. it could seat 5300 people. she held three services a day, seven days a week. on sunday afternoons, there would be a line stretching for two blocks of people anxious to get in for the service. she had a huge radio ministry. her church evolved into its own protestant denomination. the international church of the foursquare gospel.
foursquare is a reference to the fourfold ministry of christ as savior, baptizer, healer, and coming king meaning the second coming. now, mcpherson is full of contradictions. in her theologies, she was pretty fundamentalist and she was all about condemning mainstream sinful culture. she condemned theater, movies, but she borrowed a lot of hollywood techniques and she would walk on stage carrying a bouquet of roses to great applause. and she was most famous for what she called her illustrated sermons which were like broadway productions. this is inside the angeles temple. this is one of her illustrated sermons with the cast of dozens,
choirs, costumes, where she and her colleagues would act out bible stories. often there were live animals. once she drove a motorcycle on stage. her critics dismissed it as religious vaudeville but it was incredibly effective. in her pentecostal theology there was room for healing. she held healing services frequently. it is interesting. there were reports of her own comments on this and they made it clear that she was pretty nervous about doing this. especially when she had a big audience in a los angeles stadium. she was worried that a person would not get up from their wheelchair. but often enough to sustain her credibility as a vehicle for the holy spirit, people did have
some sort of evidenced response to her healing. and there was a museum that she kept at her church of the canes and the crutches and the wheelchairs people had left behind. it is hard to know what to make of this from the perspective of a secular historian. it is important to take it seriously and to recognize that something real happened in that space and that encounter between mcpherson and the people she is healing. she had a deep awareness of the respectability problems that pentecostalism had and she wanted this powerful vision of the holy spirit but she wanted it reined in. as she tried to maximize her mainstream appeal, if someone got carried away speaking in tongues, she would have them removed because she wanted to appeal to a wider range of
people. she was also contradictory on the questions of social justice and human suffering. she always taught that spiritual healing comes first, that during -- but during the great depression her church opened up a food pantry that served all people at a time when most charities in los angeles did not serve any immigrants. on race, she was full of contradictions. she preached to mixed audiences but she also sometimes endorsed the klan and they endorsed her. it is hard to know what to make of her. here is one of her characteristic outfits. she kind of dressed as a florence nightingale figure, a particular expression of staged femininity. here is her mansion built like a moorish castle.
we could call her a fundamentalist, i suppose you could call her a feminist, it is hard to put her into boxes like modernist, anti-modernist because she crosses all of these lines. she is interesting to us because she reflects these broader patterns we've been studying. here is a woman claiming through divine inspiration a source of authority that lets her do an end run around the men in the media and the churches. she was a masterful self promoter who was rewarded by america's religious marketplace like all of the evangelical entrepreneurs we have met. she shows us the way in which fundamentalists and pentecostals could say they were rejecting modern learning and worldly sins, but they were not cordoned off from mainstream culture.
they were embedded in that culture. was mcpherson and insider or an outsider? she was a little of both. let's summarize all of this with three points about fundamentalists and pentecostals. first, between 1880 and 1920, fundamentalists started to draw on that framework of commonsense realism and biblical inerrancy to form a movement and many broke away and founded their own churches and their own subculture of organizations with this militant posture of resistance. second, the movement was stronger, the polarization was more severe in america than in canada because of the strength of
revivalism,rches, and the relative cultural isolation from europe. we can understand the holiness and pentecostal movement. like fundamentalism, it has reactions against modernity. it pushed aside the authority of directin favor of personal contact with the divine and proof of that contact in the form of tongue, healing, and other miracles. also see these as thoroughly modern movements and added in main street -- embedded in mainstream culture and very
savvy about using it. fundamentalists and and a costal's -- pentecostals were both insiders and outsiders. profits crying in the wilderness, as well as savvy hollywood entrepreneurs. that paradox is part of the lasting success of these movements. that's it for today. >> this is american history tv, 48 hours. all weekend every weekend only on c-span.