Chapter 9 The Search for Renewal
I. The Roaring
The Postwar Church & The Twenties
Education and The Scopes Monkey Trial
The Modernist-Fundamentalist Debate
V. A Wealth of Ideas
The Mass Media & the Radio Preachers
American Catholic Church
VIII The Great
IX. New Old
X. World War Two
I. The Roaring
After The Great War America made a dramatic departure from her
historical code of conduct. World War One left the nation
disillusioned about world responsibility and making it safe for
democracy. The war destroyed the optimistic adage that mankind
was getting better and that good was triumphing over evil. Many
Americans preferred to look inward and away from Europe, and they
liked the sound of returning to normalcy. The biggest change was
the new morality as seen in the "Jazz Age" or "Roaring
Twenties." Frederick Lewis Allen in Only Yesterday called it
"The Revolution in Manners and Morals."
The doughboys experienced the European morality, and they
liked Freud's theories on inhibitions and sexual repressions. The
new freedoms or rather temptations on sex enticed many American
males. Cigarette smoking was considered "sheik." When
the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act were passed, prohibition
was looked at with disdain and was deliberately disobeyed. Men
flaunted the new freedoms by carrying gin-filled flasks on their
Even more drastic was the behavior of women. The flapper
became the model for womanhood. She bobbed her hair, raised her
skirtline above the knee, painted her lips, rouged her cheeks,
smoked, and drank. She even visited the speakeasies without a
male escort. One-piece bathing suits, low cut dresses, and semi-nudity
appeared. As modesty and "ladylike behavior" decreased,
"petting parties" became the rage among high school and
college age students. When it spread to the adults, marriage and
fidelity came under attack. The divorce rate increased five-fold
over the 60 years since the Civil War. The rate doubled during
the 1920's to the second highest in the world and the majority of
divorces were initiated by women.
Both sexes were wooed by the pleasure seeking lifestyle of the
era. The music and dancing changed, too. The syncopated rhythms
of jazz and the lively dances like the Charleston fastened on the
zesty theme "forget about tomorrow and live for the moment."
Edna St. Vincent Millay conveyed the attitude best, "My
candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; but ah, my
foes, and oh, my friends- It gives a lovely light."
Corresponding to that sensual lifestyle was the soaring scope
of materialism. Consumerism, advertising, and affluence all
appealed to the emotion that things might produce happiness.
Speculation on the Stock Market and Florida real estate were the
most prominent of the many get-rich-quick schemes of the times,
and doing it without working. Easy credit fed the greed that
everyone should enjoy the fruits of prosperity - a car, a radio,
a refrigerator, and anything electrical. The old values of saving
and frugality were abandoned, too.
The revolution in morals, also, saw an increase in corruption.
In government the Harding administration was exposed for several
scandals. The most notable was the Teapot Dome, and for the first
time a cabinet official Albert B. Fall was jailed. In baseball
the infamous Black Sox scandal almost ruined the national pastime.
The illegal liquor business and the gangland murders like the St.
Valentine's Day Massacre were brazen examples of the growth in
crime during the misnomer the Dry Decade. Gangsters like Al
Capone even bragged that they bribed judges, the police, and
public officials. By 1930 there were over 200,000 illegal
speakeasies in the nation.
Traditional ways were disappearing. The auto provided a new
freedom of travel. The population was moving to the cities, and
the prosperity was causing a distinct upward mobility to the
middle and upper classes. "Keeping up with the Jones"
was the popular social goal in many neighborhoods. Also, the
idealized people of the past: thinkers, inventors, politicians,
ministers, and the like were being replaced by new heroes from
the movies and sports. Tom Mix was better known than the
President, and Babe Ruth had a higher salary than the Chief
Executive. Charles Lindbergh became the most famous hero of the
decade. The public was so fascinated by the famous that tabloid
magazines became a booming source of gossip about these stars.
Hollywood, sex, and sports became obsessions in this decade.
Even far more reaching was the position that modern man
regarded himself in the light of science. Paul Johnson explained
that after Einstein's theories on relativity were publicized,
"At the beginning of the 1920's the belief began to
circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were
no longer any absolutes; of time and space, of good and evil, of
knowledge, above all of value." In Johnson's Modern Times he
judged that "the public response to relativity was one of
the principal formative influences on the course of twentieth-century
history. It formed a knife, inadvertently wielded by its author,
to help cut society adrift from its traditional moorings in the
faith and morals of Judeo-Christian culture." The new world
of Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Einstein produced a "moral
anarchy" where "all measurements of value were relative."
Francis Schaeffer in his brilliant analysis of Western thought
How Then Shall We Live explained the 20th Century dilemma of
modern man without a personal God. He theorized that with
Darwinism "all things, including man, are merely the product
of chance." Consequently a breakdown occurs when the concept
is accepted, and man becomes the starting point. Then, "Truth
is in one's own head." The "fragmentation" results
in "no more definitive answers" and "no way to
distinguish between right and wrong." He concluded that
Biblical Christianity was losing its consensus in Western Europe
particularly Germany after World War One, and the trend was
moving toward America throughout the 20th Century.
II. The Postwar Church and The Twenties:
When the Armistice stopped the fighting, the American churches
pursued the peace as fervently as they had supported the war.
American clergymen endorsed the League of Nations by an estimated
twenty to one ratio. In 1921 more than 20,000 clergymen
petitioned President Harding to call for an international
conference on disarmament. Before the nine nations met in
Washington American churches set November 6th as a day of prayer
for the delegates. When naval limitations were actually
negotiated, many were convinced that the churches had prayed,
preached, and lobbied until the Senate ratification was completed.
Most denominations rejoiced over the Kellogg-Briand pact, which
renounced war as "an instrument of national policy."
The pacifist sentiments grew within the Protestant churches and
not just from the Quakers and the peace churches.
The first great peacetime endeavor was the Interchurch World
Movement. John R. Mott called for "the Largest Voluntary
Offering in History." The grand plan would unite all the
benevolent and missionary agencies of American Protestantism into
a single campaign for money, men, and spiritual revival. The goal
was first 300 million dollars, then 500 million, and finally a
billion dollars. William Adams Brown, a professor at Union
Theological Seminary, called it "the religious counterpart
to the League of Nations."
However, the IWM fell apart when denominational cooperation
collapsed. The Northern Baptists and Northern Presbyterians
withdrew their support. Others feared a predominance of the
Social Gospel priorities. As idealism waned, the de-emphasis on
social issues and the institutional church undercut the movement.
The IWM failed to meet even 15 percent of their expenses.
Ahlstrom suggested that the hard sell and wartime crusade took a
toll on their dream and the peacetime churches.
The church was considered old fashion and restrictive. The
Puritan Sabbath was coming to an end. It appeared that a
spiritual vitality was missing, and the church was just
maintaining its position in America. Even more unsettling was the
loss in prestige of revival religion which in the past had been
the celebrity of American Christianity.
By the Twenties professional evangelism was under attack from
within and outside the church. Bishop Joseph F. Berry of the
Methodist-Episcopal Church (North) gave this critique in 1916. In
his article "Criticisms of Present Day Evangelism" he
listed six common objections: (1) the "two weeks of
vitriolic attack upon ministers and church members" by the
evangelist at the start of almost all such campaigns; (2) the
exaltation of the role of the revivalist and the recognition
given to supporting pastors; (3) "the present 'shake-my-hand'
method" of dealing with inquirers which was "superficial
and perilous"; (4) the overemphasis upon statistics and
their misleading character; (5) the "vulgar display" of
gifts presented to the revivalists by visiting delegations at
each service; (6) the high pressure methods used to obtain a
large free-will offering for the revivalist at the conclusion of
Most of the evangelists seemed guilty on certain points of the
analysis. Billy Sunday was the most obvious culprit, since it was
widely known that his free-will offerings in 1918 had totaled
over a million dollars. Although the Midwest and the South
continued the traditions of revivalism, the visitations were
obviously losing ground. McLoughlin even said that revivalism
became a "laughing stock." The loss of respect was
particularly true among the intellectuals outside the church.
Perhaps this shift transcended everything else for the church
in the decade. For the first time in the history of American
Christianity the intellectual and literary community held the
church in contempt. Writers ridiculed and belittled religious
people as hypocrites, yokels, Babbitts, and boobs. H.L. Mencken
of the Baltimore Sun and the American Mercury was the most
influential journalist of the decade. He criticized the
Methodists and Baptists, the Rotarians and reformers, and
marriage and patriotism. He claimed, "Protestantism is down
with a wasting disease." His dislike for religion was so
great that one biographer reported Mencken removed 58 Gideon
Bibles from hotel rooms in 1922.
Other sages on modern life rejected the Victorian and
Christian ways of the past. Disillusioned by war the "Lost
Generation" depicted the futility of life like the Hemingway
"noda" approach. Sinclair Lewis's interpretation
attacked the hypocrisies of the felonious clergyman Elmer Gantry
and the inadequacies of the common life in Main Street. In 1922
the U.S. Post Office destroyed 500 copies of James Joyce's
Ulysses because of obscenities. Their version of mankind promoted
a Bohemian lifestyle like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Margaret
Sanger, and it accepted a mind set of skepticism, cynicism, and
Frederick Lewis Allen is his informal history of the 1920's
said, "The prestige of science was colossal." and
"Of all the sciences it was the youngest and least
scientific which most captivated the general public and had the
most disintegrating effect upon religious faith. Psychology was
king...one had only to read the newspapers to be told with
complete assurance that psychology held the key to the problems
of waywardness, divorce, and crime."
He, also, pointed out that we are taught, "our behavior
depends largely upon chromosomes and ductless glands...that sex
is the most important thing in life, that inhibitions are not to
be tolerated, that sin is an out-of-date term, that most untoward
behavior is the result of some complexes acquired at an early
age, and that men and women are mere bundles of behavior-patterns,
Once again prophets foresaw the decline Christianity. This
time it was pitted against science, intellectualism, and the flow
of culture. Nevertheless, church statistics showed that church
membership and church wealth were just keeping pace with the
population growth. Although there were no reliable figures on
church attendance, it was widely accepted that the nominal
members found other things to do on Sunday with the automobile
and amusements. Regular attenders were on the decline, and
churches, especially Protestant, were closing.
The First World War and its consequences hindered world
missions for years afterward. The worldwide epidemic of Spanish
Flu resulted in a mistrust of immigrants throughout the globe.
Nations began restricting immigration like the Quota System in
the US. While Wilson's Fourteen Points called for self
determination of nations, colonialism still continued. An even
greater fear came from the Bolshevik goal of world communism. The
Red Scare in the US heightened the xenophobia of the Twenties. To
further complicate matters the violence of the mail bombings, the
Palmer raids, the radicals in the IWW, and the Sacco-Vanzetti
case added to the hysteria over foreigners and aliens.
Although the United States had over a hundred ethnic groups
and had historically boasted of being the great melting pot, race
prejudice increased with the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1915
Colonel William J. Simmons, a camp meeting convert and sometimes
preacher, restored the white supremacy, anti-Negro aim and added
to their intolerance cause the Catholics, Jews, radicals, and
foreigners. Unfortunately many of the almost five million members
came from the Protestant churches and some of the pastors joined
the cause. The Klan's political power was evidenced by their
intimidation at the 1924 Democratic Convention and their 1925
march in Washington DC in full regalia down Pennsylvania Avenue.
The most disheartening impact of the Klan's resurgence was the
hundreds of lynching and racial incidents, however the KKK
declined when the Grand Dragon was convicted of murder in 1925.
During this time there was a disturbing loss of interest in
foreign missions among students. Those, who expressed an
intention toward foreign missions service, declined from 2,700 in
1920 to a mere 252 in 1928. Kenneth Latourette pointed out,
"A generation ago ..foreign missions was considered the best
way of expressing the fullest commitment to the Christian life."
However, the prewar idealism of foreign missions was disappearing
and, "Now goes into the cause of world peace or social and
Mission's boards, also, reported a downward trend in offerings
for missions. Latourette reasoned that one factor for the lost in
contributions was rise in new taxes. He said that the expansion
of federal tax revenues was "making it increasingly
difficult for the budgets of philanthropic and religious
organizations." Another factor was new buildings.
The easy money of the twenties made possible the tremendous
building programs which William Sweet called "the most
beautiful and costly churches at any time in our history."
The value of these buildings doubled between 1916 and 1926 to a
worth of $1,676,600,582. Gothic was the most popular style of
architecture, and it was used in the great chapels at Princeton,
the University of Chicago, and Duke University. As a result,
church budgets faced higher mortgage and interest payments, and
additional staff and maintenance costs, and new promotional
"drives" to fund missions and local programs.
The stately new edifices made a direct impact on the conduct
of the worship. A more formal service occurred complete with
pastors in pulpit gowns and choirs in befitting robes, while the
processional and recessional returned to the modern Protestant
ceremony. Some of the past music like the hymns, responses, and
canticles were restored to make the services more worshipful. The
atmosphere in the sanctuary kindled the urge for the congregation
to dress up for the service. The Protestant church was inspired
to recover the traditional art and the ancient symbols of past
generations. Another change was the increase use of religious
drama which had a growing appeal with young people and the
American public. American Christianity was enhanced by these
III. Education and The Scopes Monkey Trial:
The American education system in the early part of the 20th
Century faced a prodigious increase in students. New pupils came
from the families of immigrants and from the labor force. When
child labor laws, in effect, mandated universal compulsory
schooling through the elementary grades, kids were in classrooms
rather than laboring in the mines and the sweatshops of earlier
times. Plus the parental hope was for a brighter future for their
children than they had. Thus the schools and the classrooms
The scope of education dramatically expanded with the advent
of psychology. New theories on the mind and how learning takes
place introduced new teaching methods and testing procedures.
John Dewey's progressive education was the most drastic change in
pedagogy. His theory centered on the child's needs and potentials
rather than the authoritarian classroom with a curriculum that
met the needs of society and the precepts of the church.
Dewey's philosophy dominated education by the 1920s. Dewey
called for a practical system that would stimulate the thinking
process and prepare the student for life in a democratic society.
His critics perceived different results. His experimental
philosophy was ever changing and never arriving at any truths.
Any recent fad or new found theory was given a trial.
Consequently, education was bombarded with every new idea. It was
what Dave Breese called a struggle for "whatever the world
thinks" recently or the "battle for the mind."
The single idea that posed the first great battleground was
the teaching of evolution. The issue was a double-edged
controversy between science and religion and between the
Modernists and the Fundamentalists. This generation was the first
one to embrace science, evolution, and Darwin as superior to the
Bible and the Genesis account of creation. To stem the tide 20
state legislatures introduced anti-evolutionary measures, but in
only Southern five states did approval win. The most famous the
Butler Act was passed in Tennessee in January of 1925. It made it
illegal "to teach any theory that denies the story of the
Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach
instead that man descended from a lower order of animals."
At Robinson's drugstore in Dayton, Tennessee over lemon
phosphates John T. Scopes, a 24-year biology teacher in his first
year at Central High School, was persuaded by George Rappelyea, a
mining engineer, to take part in a test case for the Butler Law.
Little did they realize the publicity that would be drawn to the
sleepy mountain town of 2,000. The 700-seat courtroom at the Rhea
County courthouse became the site of a media circus
It was dubbed the "Monkey Trial." It was the first
American trial to be nationally broadcast on radio. Over 100
reporters sent two million words through the Western Union office
that had to hire twenty-two operators for the event. H.L.
Mencken, the sardonic journalist for the Baltimore Sun, was the
most famous. To describe the region he coined the term the "Bible
Belt." From the outset the press slanted its reports against
religion and particularly the "narrow-minded"
The famous lawyers in the Scopes Trial attracted world-wide
attention. For the defense the ACLU retained Clarence Darrow, an
outspoken agnostic, who had just defended Leopold and Loeb. The
Prosecutor was William Jennings Bryan, who was a candidate for
the US Presidency three times. He was a well known Presbyterian
and the author of a syndicated weekly column on the Bible. Both
men were in their sixties and in the twilight of their careers.
The immediate issue of the trial was whether Mr. Scopes
violated the Butler Act by teaching evolution. He never denied it
and 14-year old Howard Morgan testified that Scopes did teach
Darwin's theory. For the Prosecutor Bryan he came to defend the
Bible which was the theological fortress of the faith. He said,
"My only purpose in coming to Dayton is to protect the word
of God against the greatest atheist and agnostic in the United
However, Darrow and the defense team argued for intellectual
freedom. They saw no conflict "between evolution and
Christianity." They approached evolution as scientifically
valid, and appealed for tolerance, open-mindedness, and a frank,
erudite discussion. The press hailed them as the heroes, and
portrayed the Christians particularly the Fundamentalists as
ignorant, narrow-minded, and intolerant. This biased view was
especially fostered by the movie version of the trial Inherit The
Wind which starred Spencer Tracy as Darrow.
The most significant confrontation during the trial was when
William Jennings Bryan took the stand for two-hours on the fifth
day. Darrow questioned him on the literal interpretations of
Jonah, Joshua, Eve, and Cain's wife. He, also, asked Bryan about
the dates of the Flood, creation, and other religions. The cross-examination
ended with the time issue of the 24-hour days of creation when
sun wasn't created until the 4th day. Bryan was humiliated with
his clumsy answers, and both men mocked each other's academic
position. In the eyes of the American public the fundamentalist
cause lost, and their image seemed that of intolerant bigots.
They were disparagingly defined as "little fun, much damn,
and absolutely no mentalism."
In the end the jury deliberated for eight minutes and found
Scopes guilty of a misdemeanor. He was fined $100. The Tennessee
State Supreme Court eventually reversed the decision on a
technicality, but the Butler Act remained on the books until 1967.
Five years later while working as a geologist in Venezuela, John
T. Scopes submitted to a Roman Catholic baptism and married a
In a post-trial discussion in the presence of the press Bryan
asked Darrow, "If he believed in the immortality of the
soul?" Darrow replied, " I have been searching for
proof of this all my life...and I have never found any evidence
of it." Five days after the trial was over William Jennings
Bryan died in his sleep in Dayton, Tennessee.
IV. Modernist-Fundamentalist Debate:
The Scopes Trial was also seen as the showdown between the
Fundamentalists and the Modernists. The debate over "inerrancy"
had unsettled many of the Protestant General Conferences after
1910 when the Fundamentalist's papers were printed. It was
estimated that five of every eight Protestant church members
belonged to one of the two camps. For both sides they saw the
other as "the enemy" within the camp or that is the
church. When the Monkey trial was over, the Modernists relished
the Fundamentalists demise at Dayton, but the whole affair did
little good for either side.
Edwin Gaustad made a friendly characterization of each side by
writing that fundamentalism was an honorable defense of Christian
revelation, the supernatural realm, and the faith "once
delivered unto the saints," while modernism was an honorable
offense relating Christianity to the newest discoveries of
science and the newest needs of society
The Modernists, also, suffered through the unwanted publicity
of the trial of Harry Emerson Fosdick. When he was called to the
First Presbyterian Church of New York City, he remained a
Baptist, and, he, also, stayed at Union Theological Seminary.
After his 1922 sermon "Shall The Fundamentalists Win?"
the Philadelphia Presbytery attempted to bring him up for heresy.
Rather than remaining a Presbyterian Dr. Fosdick accepted the
call of the Riverside Baptist Church of New York. When Fosdick's
most famous laymen John D. Rockefeller built a new church at
Morningside Heights, the Cross was noticeably absent in the
structure. Dr. Fosdick remained the most influential Protestant
preacher and spokesman for the Modernists in his generation.
The infallibility controversy was the central agenda at the
Baptist and Presbyterian conventions between 1916 to the mid-20s.
The Baptists lacked the policies for heresy trials so the extreme
Fundamentalist position was usually defeated. One Baptist Shailer
Mathews wrote The Faith of Modernism in 1924, which was the most
widely distributed book promoting modernism. But, another Baptist
John Roach Straton defended fundamentalism in a series of debates
in 1923-24. Straton was the pastor at NYC's Calvary Baptist
Church until his death in 1929. He was known for his fight for
the social reforms of the urban problems like prohibition,
prostitution, and poverty. Straton voiced his protests over the
radio, in the newspaper, and even on the streets from an
Meanwhile, the articulate Presbyterian leader John Gresham
Machen of Princeton Theological Seminary was the most notable
defender of the church's historical conservative theology. He
argued that liberalism was a different religion and that
modernists should be forced out of the churches. He left
Princeton with fifty students in 1929 and founded Westminster
Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. After he objected to the
foreign missions policies that emphasized medical and social work
rather than saving souls, he was suspended from the Presbyterian
ministry in 1935. He then founded the Presbyterian Church of
America a year before he died in 1937. As the modernist-fundamentalist
battle swirled around the issues of scholarship, science, and
social needs, the struggle collided at other centers of learning,
too. Unfortunately, many seminaries from the old line
denominations: Congregational, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian,
Disciples, Episcopal - succumbed to the religious liberalism of
the day. The Fundamentalists responded by founding alternative
Bible institutes and schools.
President James M. Gray of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago
regularly invited fundamentalists to speak at his school. He
trained his students with a steady diet of arguments against the
liberal theology. He was one of the first conservatives to
respond to Dr. Fosdick's 1922 sermon. Gray's dispensational
approach emphasized the times before the Second Coming of Christ.
Gray died in 1935 after serving the Chicago school for 31 years.
Meanwhile, the Methodists and Southern Baptists were not
caught up in the debate. They each had men who defended their
traditional faith. John Alfred Faulker was schooled in Germany by
the modern theologians, but he returned the influence of his
Wesleyan roots because of his personal experiences and personal
Bible studies. Edgar Youngs Mullins, President of the Southern
Baptist Seminary in Louisville, wrote Christianity at the
Crossroads in 1924. He, too, argued that personal experience was
a valid witness to faith and to God's grace in an individual's
As the defenders of traditional Christianity answered the
challenges to scripture and faith, they abandoned the term
fundamentalists and referred to themselves as "Evangelicals."
They still held to scriptural infallibility, but improved in
their apologetics. They placed an increased emphasis on the need
for a conversion experience, but they maintained the importance
of the blood payment on the Cross for redemption. Also, their
compassion increased for those with social needs.
Eventually the term modernism gave way to "Liberalism."
They continued to stress the importance of modern science and
human reason. They, also, labored to improve society and to make
contemporary life compatible with Christianity. Their message
increasingly emphasized the love of God and the goodness of man.
But, H. Richard Niebuhr defined their version of Christianity by
saying, "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a
kingdom without judgment through the ministration of Christ
without a cross."
The polarization between the two thoughts modernism and
fundamentalism, also, widen over the issue of social concerns.
The liberal lineage placed an increasing emphasis on the Social
Gospel and saving society with good moral ethics. Their opinion
on poverty was that it was a failure of society and not a
personal downfall from the individual. On the other hand the
fundamentalists or conservative line began to withdraw from
activism in social concerns. Their pietistic and holiness
persuasion called for a separation from evil. So consequently
they avoided social concerns unless it meant the saving of souls
which would result in changing society. Evangelical historian
Timothy Smith called the switch "The Great Reversal."
Sydney Ahlstrom called the tension, "the most fundamental
controversy to wrack the churches since the time of the
V. A Wealth of Ideas:
The Twenties had a plethora of ideas especially when the
preface used terms like modern, scientific, psychological,
inhibition, freedom, culture, the arts, and business. Their
hyperbole was described by such designations as a fad, the craze,
ballyhoo, and the like. Frederick Allen assessed the
overstatements by writing, there was a "contagious
excitement...and ..emotional interest upon tremendous trifles."
In 1923 Frenchman Emile Cour drew nationwide attention on his
tour for positive thinking. His audiences were assured of better
mental health by repeating daily the phrase "Day by day in
every way I am getting better and better."
Frederick Allen pointed out that "the association of
business with religion was one of the most significant phenomena
of the day." National conventions of businessmen scheduled
times for prayer at prominent churches. Spiritual principles and
Bible stories were woven in their methods and their
advertisements. The Metropolitan Insurance Company circulated a
pamphlet on Moses, Persuader of Men. It declared that "Moses
was one of the greatest salesmen and real-estate promoters that
While it is the opinion of some historians that the material
success creates an indifference to spiritual life, business and
the Bible were so compatible that the most popular book of the
decade was The Man Nobody Knows. Bruce Barton, an advertising
executive, portrayed Jesus as the a superior businessman and
salesman. He wrote that Jesus "picked up twelve men from the
bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization
that conquered the world." He called Jesus "the founder
of modern business." In 1925-26 Barton's book was the best
selling non-fiction book in the country.
In 1925 Dr. Russell H. Conwell died after giving his sermon
"Acres of Diamonds" over six thousand times. Millions
had heard his philosophy that "being rich and being good"
were synonymous. His theme was clear that people had a moral
responsibility to become rich, and that people were poor because
of their own shortcomings and sins.
In previous generations philanthropy was the exclusive status
of the rich. However, the prosperity of the 20s enabled the
middle-class to use their time and money for the good of mankind.
Every city and town witnessed a tremendous increase in booster
clubs and service organizations. The Rotary was the most famous,
and it served in 44 countries by 1930. The Kiwanis club grew from
205 in 1920 to 1,800 clubs by 1929. The Lions club reached 1200
by the end of the decade. At their weekly meetings business and
professional people spoke on building, dreaming, and doing great
things to serve humanity.
Henry Ford, whose company produced half of the cars in the
world, pursued a different approach. He promoted his ideas in the
Dearborn Independent, a paper which was distributed to every Ford
dealer in the nation. His anti-Semitic attacks accused the Jews
of plotting to control the world, and he blamed them for almost
every American affliction, including low farm prices, high rents,
jazz, gambling, drunkenness, loose morals, and even short skirts.
Prejudice against the Jews spread across the country in a series
of anti-Semitic incidents. In Germany Hitler was photographed
displaying reprints of the Independent.
In a decade of ballyhoo the biggest hullabaloo was the lone
New York-to-Paris flyer Charles A. Lindbergh. The entire nation
knew he was over the Atlantic and they were united in their hope
for his success. Perhaps nothing demonstrated the emotions in
America more than Yankee Stadium on the night of May 20th. Forty
thousand hardy spectators at a boxing match were asked to stand,
bow their heads, and pray for Lindbergh over the Atlantic. It was
said that the silence was "impressive." Even Lindbergh
petitioned the divine the next night with his landing prayer at
Le Bourget field, when he cried out, "Oh God, help me!"
VI. The Mass Media and The Radio Preachers:
The mass media increased in immense influence and authority
during the 20s. The newspapers centralized more power and
standardized more news. The chains had a central office in New
York that supplied syndicated columns and featured articles on
every topic for a national audience. The Hearst and Scripps-Howard
system alone controlled 230 daily papers with a circulation of
thirteen million. In other areas of publishing Readers Digest
appeared in 1922, Time magazine began in 1923, and Book-of-the-Month
Club was founded in 1926.
The motion picture industry passed through the golden age of
silent pictures. The release of the Biblical classics The Ten
Commandments (1923) and The King of Kings (1927) won approval
from church groups. However, the sensational use of sex led to
widespread criticism of the moral themes from the films and
Hollywood. The film producers hired Will H. Hays to satisfy the
demand for censorship. When the Catholic League of Decency began
to condemn films in 1934, public pressure increased to restrict
the sex and violence in films as "objectionable"
The technology that made the biggest change in American's
daily habits was radio broadcasting. The first broadcast was the
Presidential election returns in November, 1920 from KDKA in
Pittsburgh. The radio became a national craze by 1922. Within
five years there were 600 stations in the nation and by the end
of the decade every third home in America had a radio. Programs
included the news, music, sports, church services, dramatic
serials, and the most popular was the soap-opera for housewives.
Immediately the churches saw the power of the new medium for
influencing and shaping public opinion. Within a month Calvary
Episcopal Church broadcast their worship service over KDKA. The
Federal Council of Churches of Christ which represented 25
denominations urged the local churches to cooperate in
interdenominational broadcasts. By 1923 Frank C. Goodman
developed three weekly religious programs for the New York City
area. The next year the FCCC began "The National Radio
Pulpit" with Dr. S. Parkes Cadman preaching over station
WEAF from New York City. In 1926 the station became NBC and the
program became the first network Protestant program. Harry E.
Fosdick, Ralph Sockman, and David H.C. Read, also, preached from
"The Pulpit." The sermon was the overwhelming format
for most religious programs until 1950.
The first successful radio preacher from a denomination was Dr.
Walter A. Maier for the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. He
began preaching from his attic in St. Louis in 1924. In 1930 his
program went on CBS and became known as "The Lutheran Hour."
He was coached by Brace Beemer, the radio voice of the Lone
Ranger. He proclaimed the strictness of God's law and the
tenderness of His grace. Eventually Dr. Maier preached over 1,200
stations to 20 million people in 36 languages. When he died in
1950, it was said, "more people had heard him preach than
any other person in history."
Perhaps, the most memorable of all the media preachers was
Bishop Fulton John Sheen. From 1930 to 1952 Bishop Sheen was on
radio with the "Catholic Hour." During the same period
he preached at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. His
television program "Life is Worth Living" was seen by
an estimated 30 million people weekly from 1951 to 1957. He wrote
over 70 books and numerous newspaper columns. His style was
lecturing without notes, but with tremendous self-confidence. He
was a worldwide hero. His popularity was considered the equal of
Edward R. Murrow on radio and Ed Sullivan on television.
The radio evangelist, who had the most fame and awe of the
1920s, was Aimee Semple McPherson. Her Pentecostal ministry
proclaimed many spectacular "acts of God" including
conversions, healings, and other miracles. Her preaching was
referred to as "living sermons" because she expected
souls to be saved and bodies to be healed.
She born in Canada and converted under ministry of Robert
Semple, whom she married in 1908. They went to Hong Kong as
missionaries where he died of malaria in 1910. She returned to
the US and married Harold McPherson in 1912. She left him and
devoted her life to preaching and faith healing at camp meetings
up and down the eastern seaboard. In every community she rented
the largest hall and filled it every night. After the Denver
campaign with nightly crowds of 12,000, she moved to California.
In Los Angeles her fame and her wealth increased, and she
built the $1.5 Angelus Temple in 1923. It was the largest
unsupported dome in the US and seated 5,300. Aimee preached every
night and three times on Sunday. The attendance reached 50,000
per week and offerings averaged $10,000 per service. Within a
year she was broadcasting nationwide from the twin 250-foot
towers that symbolized hands outstretched toward God. In 1925 she
entered a float of the Angelus Temple in the Rose Bowl Parade.
The crowds were thrilled as the gospel message was broadcast from
the float. The float even won the Sweepstakes Trophy.
For over twenty years her radio messages soothed the listeners
with the splashing waters of the newly baptized, and the joyful
cries of the miraculously healed. Aimee coaxed the radio
listeners to kneel at home before the Cross and trust Jesus for
their sins. She preached that the gospel was Christ's four-fold
ministry as Savior, Baptizer, Healer, and Coming King,
consequently, it was called "foursquare." In 1927 she
founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
She was not without controversy. In 1921 she divorced
McPherson, and married her third husband David Hutton in 1931. In
1926 she was presumed dead by drowning at a bathing beach, but
five weeks later she reappeared with a story of kidnapping and
ransom. A charge of perjury resulted in a trial, however, she was
acquitted. Nevertheless, her reputation survived the storms, and
the crowds never ceased. It was said that only World War Two took
her off the front page. Aimee Semple Pherson died in 1944 and her
writings were published posthumously in 1951.
A Washington syndicated newspaper columnist said, "In a
day of war..crime..greed ..violence, it is restful to hear an old-fashioned
preacher preach old-time religion in the good old-fashioned way."
He was talking about Charles E. Fuller of the "The Old
Fashioned Revival Hour" which aired every Sunday night on
the Mutual Broadcasting System until 1937 when it switched to CBS.
Charles Fuller was a graduate of BIOLA and a Baptist preacher
when he began a modest radio career. In 1928 he started the first
of two broadcasts "The Pilgrim Hour" and "Heart to
Heart Talks." In 1933 the "Old Fashioned Revival Hour"
was born. His first broadcast came from Hollywood, California.
Fuller's down-home, folksy style was very pleasing to
conservative church people and the common man. He was the
antithesis of Hollywood, and his theme song was "Jesus Saves."
His wife Grace introduced the innovation of reading excerpts from
listeners' letters on the air. By the 1940's the "Revival
Hour" had a worldwide audience.
Overall, the purpose of the radio preachers was to reach the
shut-ins, the isolated, and the unchurched, but their main
audience came from the church people. A partial indicator of
their success was the number of letters received from a broadcast.
Their main request was always for prayer support, but financial
contributions became a necessity. In 1926 NBC connected their
stations coast-to-coast, and religious programs were given free
public service time. However, as other broadcasting companies
came into existence and as some denominations requested equal
time, broadcasters were forced to purchase air time. The "Revival
Hour" handled their budget requirements by broadcasting
Pastor Fuller's Sunday evening sermon live before several
thousand worshippers with their church choir at the Municipal
Auditorium in Long Beach.
VII. American Catholic Church:
From their earliest days the Catholics from Europe like the
Protestants saw America as a land of opportunity and liberty. In
Maryland they found a haven from religious persecution. In other
colonies they found the chance for work and for land. In the new
land the Catholics like the Protestants experienced a search and
a struggle to find their identity as Americans, too.
However, the Catholics regardless of their European roots,
faced an immediate prejudice from the days of the Reformations,
the monarchies, and the revolutions. The mainstream of America
was Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. While anti-Catholicism was
America's oldest prejudice, the memories of the Puritans, the
Huguenots, the Quakers, and the Anabaptists could easily be
jogged by Foxe's Book of Martyr's. But, the biggest threat in the
Protestant mind was the Pope, who ruled Catholics everywhere. Was
this "foreign prince" going to tell Protestant,
democratic Americans what to do, too?
In the first census of 1790 only one-percent of the four
million Americans were Catholics. Only one Catholic had signed
the Declaration of Independence Charles Carroll, the richest man
in the colonies. The church had only one Catholic bishop John
Carroll, and Georgetown, the first Catholic university, would be
founded the next year in 1791.
By 1815 there were 100 parishes with priests in America, but
they existed primarily with European assistance. While many of
the churches lacked a resident priest, their services and
properties were controlled by lay trustees. The circumstance
created the conclusion that the lay trustees had the power to
appoint and even remove priests. A nationalistic controversy
ensued particularly when French priests were appointed in German
or Irish parishes. Stormy ecclesiastic-trustee struggles occurred
in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, and Charlestown.
When the First Provincial Council met in Baltimore, in 1829, the
hierarchy began to develop uniform procedures and policies of
cooperation to solve their common problems. The bishops met seven
times in Baltimore, America's oldest See, between 1829 to 1849,
and they made some wise plans. Great leaders, also, helped the
Catholic church adapt to the American society. One of the most
outstanding was Bishop John England of Charleston, who
articulated a balance of the Catholic way of government and the
American democracy. He started the first Catholic newspaper in
1822, and was the editor until he died twenty years later.
Elizabeth Seton, the first America-born canonized saint, founded
a school for girls at Emmitsburg, Maryland. Roger B. Taney, a
Supreme Court Chief Justice and a Catholic layman, attended the
1829 Baltimore meeting. He, also, served the church as a attorney.
When the 1848 European revolutions for democracy and the potato
famine in Ireland occurred, millions of Catholic immigrants
flocked to America and swelled their population to over 3 million
by 1860. Anti-Catholicism increased, too. The native-born
Americans resisted with the "Know Nothings" and the
signs "No Irish Need Apply." However, the new
Americans, especially the Irish, took the lowest and the most
dangerous jobs building canals, railroads, clearing swamps, and
digging the mines.
These sojourners in a strange land moved near their own
nationality or even those from the same village. Many of the
first generation had just a subsistent existence. For all
Catholics the parish church was the center of the community. The
Mass and Vespers were neighborhood gatherings. The Priest was an
encourager and, in some cases, the enforcer of proper behavior.
The immigrant was told to be a respectable citizen which meant
work hard, care for their family, and give to the church. The
local pub or grog shop was another popular meeting place.
In 1852 over eighty Catholic prelates met in Baltimore for the
First Plenary Council. Although the Catholic population was
mostly Irish and German, the session was attended by only eight
Irish-born and two German delegates. Over 50 delegates were of
French-Belgium ancestry. They were striving for uniformity and
unity. The bishops gave these directions to the American
Catholics, "Obey the public authorities...Show your
attachment to the institutions of our beloved country."
One of the chief spokesman for American Catholicism was the
Irish-born Archbishop John Hughes. He served New York City as the
first Archbishop (1850-64) and started the construction of St.
Patrick's Cathedral (1858-79). He was so widely respected that
President Polk asked him to go on a diplomatic mission to Mexico
during the war in 1847. He declined. When President Lincoln asked
him to go to France as a diplomat during the Civil War, he
accepted and urged France, Ireland, and Italy to remain neutral.
He, also, helped quell the New York City draft riots in 1863. The
Lincoln government in an unprecedented petition implored Pope
Pius IX to make the Archbishop the first American Cardinal. Rome
did not consider it the proper time to for such an appointment.
Archbishop Hughes lived a life of love for his country and love
of his faith until he died in 1864.
Meanwhile a misunderstanding developed between the Roman
Catholic Church and the American Catholic Church. Pope Pius IX,
the longest reigning Pontiff (1846-78), twice experienced
revolutions, which disrupted his papal power. From first hand
encounters he developed his 1864 "Syllabus of Errors."
It condemned modern life and political liberalism. He concluded
that "democracy and Catholicism could not be reconciled."
In the US several responses occurred. The term "Americanism"
blossomed to define the pride that Catholics felt for their new
homeland and their culture rather than the traditions of the old
country in Europe. However, the American Protestants did not
welcome their "brothers in Christ." The rift between
the two churches was not only stretched, but it was ruptured
further because the doctrine of a sinless Mary was issued (1854),
and the infallibility of the Pope was decreed (1870). The
Calvinists wagged their heads.
Two converts to Catholicism Orestes Brownson and Isaac Hecker
expressed how they rectified the Church and the American culture.
Brownson professed Transcendentalism, Unitarianism, and a god of
nature before his spiritual journey came to faith in Christ and
the Catholic Church. He was an out-spoken defender of religion
and politics. He wrote over twenty volumes on Catholic
apologetics even defending Papal Infallibility.
Isaac Hecker was their leading spokesman for Americanism. The
Pope and some French priests wanted US parochial schools to
preserve the native language and the culture of the immigrants.
"Heckerism" proclaimed that Catholicism and the
democratic ideals of personal liberty were compatible. He
defended the Bill of Rights and the issue of separation of church
and state, as an ideal environment for the growth of American
Catholicism. He, also, founded the Paulist Fathers and
established social services for the German speaking immigrants.
The Vatican did reward the American Catholic Church in 1875 by
appointing the well-liked, Archbishop of New York John McCloskey
as the first American Cardinal. But for the immigrant and the
second generation Irishman or German, Rome's chief expectation
for an ordinary Catholic was an unquestioning faith and obedience
to the church. The training of the young was left up to the
parish priest because the parents were very busy earning a living
in the new country.
In 1884 the Vatican called the American hierarchy to the Third
Plenary Council in Baltimore. Father McAvoy called it the "watershed
or dividing line in the history of the Church in the United
States." Archbishop James Gibbons, one of the most dramatic
personalities in US Catholic history, presided over 12 committees
and around 220 delegates. They represented the nearly eight
million US Catholics, and they worked to write a uniform decree
for all US Catholic Churches. The final document had 310
A great impetus was given to American religious education. The
6th Committee (Education) required every church to establish an
elementary school within two years and all parents would be
required to send their kids to the parochial school. If any
church failed to comply, the pastor would be removed and the
Bishop would reprimand the parish.
Since so many priests were foreign-born and foreign-educated,
a high priority was placed on a Catholic University for a
graduate education. Bishops John L. Spalding of Baltimore and
Bernard McQuaid of Rochester pleaded with the Council to start an
American "University Education." In 1888 the
cornerstone was laid for the Catholic University in Washington,
The Council, also, heard a memorable and patriotic sermon by
Bishop John Ireland from St. Paul on liberty and a "just
government." He was a naturalized US citizen, and he said,
"I speak ..no less as an American citizen than as a Catholic
Bishop." He continued, "America is my country..I could
not utter one syllable that would belie, however remotely, either
Church or republic." He, also, said, "Republic of
America, receive from me the tribute of my love and my loyalty...Thou
bearest in thy hands the hopes of the human race, thy mission
from God is to show to nations that men are capable of highest
civil and political liberty." Eventually, he repeated the
contents of the sermon in France and Rome.
The optimism at the Council in Baltimore in 1884 continued as
the Catholic Church and the immigrants assimilated into the US
society and government. In 1886 James Gibbons, American-born and
American-educated, became the second America Cardinal. When Leo
XIII received a delegation of Gibbons, Spalding, Ireland, and
Bishop John Keane from Richmond, he was persuaded to approved a
Catholic University for the US. Bishop Keane was made the first
rector. And finally, when the 1890 US census was taken, the
Catholic Church had 6,231,417 members, which now was the largest
in America and surpassed the Methodists for the first time.
Although Rome had differences with America, the America
Catholic Church continued to work out their own unique problems.
In their parochial schools the Germans fought to keep their
native language, while the Irish used English. The two, also,
differed on the temperance controversy. The Germans opposed
temperance, while the Irish saw drinking as a problem and they
favored prohibition. Secret societies had historically been
another problem. While the Masons had been anti-Catholic, the
Church, also, had problems with their laity in the Molly
Maguires, the violent, secret Irish labor group. In 1875 the
Church threatened excommunication if any Catholic joined the
notorious group. They wrote that the Mollies were "a
disgrace to our religion, our country, and to Christ." In
the growth of American labor unions the Irish Catholics played a
major role and made up the largest portion of their membership.
Terrance Powderly, a Catholic layman, was head of the Knights of
Labor (1879-93). When President Teddy Roosevelt used arbitration
to settle the 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike, he selected Bishop
Spalding as a member of the negotiating commission. Nonetheless,
the reputation for violence during the strikes plagued the unions
and the Church laity during the 19th Century.
The Catholic hierarchy in America welcomed the opportunity to
participate in US events. Bishop Keane spoke to the National
Education Association in 1889, and he was invited to lecture at
Harvard the next year. Both were milestone for respect and
ecumenism. The 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage presented a
At the Chicago World's Fair a Parliament of Religions was held
in 1893, and Bishop Keane and Cardinal Gibbons were leaders. The
Cardinal opened the session with a recitation of The Lord's
Prayer in the Protestant version. Bishop Keane organized the
Catholic Bishops, priests, professors, and laymen to speak during
the Colombian Exposition (Sept. 11-18). Some leaders in the
Church criticized them because Asian religions had been invited
to participate at the Parliament, but the Catholic delegation was
A series of final events between 1893 and 1908 closed the
tension between Rome and the United States over the issue of
"Americanism." After Isaac Hecker's death in 1888,
Father Walter Elliott wrote a much praised biography of the
spiritual leader for the Americanists. Father Hecker was unique
in that he was a convert to Catholicism, he had a vision to make
America Catholic. He was, also, a social activist group, and his
Paulists tried to carry it out. While most American Catholics
came to the Church as immigrants, or by birth, and a few by
marriage, Father Hecker hoped to persuade people about the
attractions of Catholicism through the ideals of the American
democracy. When his biography was translated into French, Father
Hecker became internationally known, and a group of bishops
including John Ireland made an appeal for "sainthood,"
but it failed.
When Pope Leo XIII sent an Apostolic Delegate (Satolli) to the
World's Fair, he was seen in the company with the Americanist's
leaders Cardinal Gibbons, Bishops Ireland and Keane. When he
spoke in the main hall, the delegate held the Book of Christian
Truth in one hand and the US Constitution in the other, and he
said, "Go forward." It appeared that the Vatican
favored the American Catholic Church.
In 1895 Pope Leo published the first and long awaited letter
to the American Church. The encyclical, "Longinqua Oceani"
praised the American bishops and the American Church. However, he
warned that "it would be very erroneous to draw the
conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most
desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally
lawful or expedient for the State and the Church to be, as in
America." However, later that year Monsignor Denis
O'Connell, the Americanist's voice in Rome, was removed from his
post at the American College in Rome. Then in 1896 Bishop Keane
was replaced as rector of Catholic University.
The issue was muted when the Maine was blown up in Havana
harbor in 1898. Archbishop Ireland conferred with President
McKinley, and urged the Pope to persuade Spain to accept an
armistice. But the Spanish delayed and the US Congress declared
war. Ireland's intervention was unsuccessful, and in the "Splendid
Little War" the US quickly defeated Catholic Spain. Then in
1899, The Pope wrote another encyclical condemning the
Americanists and labeling them as "modernists," who
would have the Church join the ideals and morality of the
The Americanist leaders continued to influence the
conservative wing of the American Catholic Church for another two
decades until their deaths between 1916-1927. Later in the 20th
Century, Bishop John L. Spalding (1846-1916), Bishop of St. Paul
John Ireland (1838-1918), Bishop of Richmond and rector of
Catholic University John Keane (1839-1918), Cardinal James
Gibbons (1834-1921), Bishop of Pittsburgh Michael O'Connell (1849-1927),
and of course Isaac Hecker would be praised for their foresight
and contributions to the Americanist movement.
Probably, the biggest bearing on the American Catholic Church
over these two decades was the demographic change made by the
immigrants from Eastern Europe. In the 1890's the Irish had the
most power, and the large German contingency wanted to be heard.
But, the large influx of Italians, Hungarians, and Poles changed
the makeup and the diversity of the Church. The only lasting
schism in the American Catholic Church happened in 1907, when the
Polish National Catholic Church was organized. It is estimated
that of the 12,041,000 American Catholics at the turn of the
Century a large percentage of them were first generation
Finally, in 1908 Pope Pius X ended the mission status of the
American Church. The American Catholic Church, which had shown
little interest in preaching the Gospel in foreign lands, held
their First Missionary Congress that year. Three years later they
set up their headquarters in Maryknoll, NY. After W.W.I the
National Catholic War Conference became the National Catholic
Welfare Council. The NCWC led the social policies and the
progressive ideas for the Catholic Bishops. The director was
Father John A. Ryan, a professor at Catholic University. It was
organized into five departments: Education, Lay activities, the
Press, Social Action, and Missions. Eventually, some of Father
Ryan's ideas were adopted in FDR's New Deal.
The story of the Catholic assimilation into the American
society must, also, include the rise of the layman in politics.
Their experiences in the labor unions and the tenement districts
created a natural affinity for social justice within the
democratic system. By the second generation the Irish and the
German descendants held positions in the unions and the local
However, they, also, ran into opposition. In the election of
1884 the Irish Democrat voters in New York were berated in the
"rum, Romanism, and rebellion" speech. In 1887 the
American Protective Association grew out the rivalry between
rural Protestants and urban Catholics. The antagonism increased
with Democratic victories of Grover Cleveland in the elections of
1884 and 1892. The A.P.A. grew into a grassroots anti-Catholic
movement. They even hatched a "bogus Popish plot" with
a fraudulent letter, when the Apostolic Delegate went to the
Chicago World's Fair.
Some Catholic politicians lost respect in the eastern big
cities because of the corruption of the political machines like
Tammany Hall in New York City. Others had become mayors in
Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago by the 1920's.
However, the pinnacle was achieved by the much respected Alfred
Emmanuel Smith, who was selected as the Democratic candidate for
President in the 1928 election.
Although he was opposed by the KKK and some anti-Catholic
sentiment, the issue many Protestants wanted Al Smith to address
was the Catholic subservience to that "foreign potentate."
He summarized his creed in the Atlantic Monthly, "I believe
and worship God according to the faith and practice of the Roman
Catholic Church. I recognize no power in the institution of my
Church to interfere with the operations of the Constitution of
the United States or the enforcement of the law of the land. I
believe in the absolute freedom of conscience for all men and in
equality of all churches...I believe in the absolute separation
of Church and State."
The Happy Warrior lost the election, and he didn't even carry
his own state, New York. Some say he lost because of his stand
against prohibition and his ties with the eastern, urban
political machine, Tammany Hall. Other say he lost to bigotry
because he was a Catholic. More than anything else he clearly
lost to the era of prosperity while the Republicans had the
When the stock market crashed and the Great Depression
occurred, the prejudice against Catholics declined. The Catholics
were glad that the depression hadn't happen under a Catholic
President, but unemployment, economic problems, and misery seemed
equal for all groups. The interest of the Church and the laity in
solving their social problems was only intensified by the great
economic crisis. It was now apparent that the American Catholic
Church was a part of the mainstream of American society.
VIII. The Great Depression
The Wall Street Stock Market crash of October 1929 initiated
the worst economic decline in American history. An avalanche of
selling ended the speculation with margin buying and call loans,
but, it also began a shift from the gaudy attitude of the
twenties to the despair of the thirties. The "emergency"
also substantiated the growing opinion that laissez-faire
capitalism should be replaced by government action to accomplish
Meanwhile, the Hoover administration argued that "people
will work harder and live a more moral life." The
Republicans contended that relief should happen at the local
level and that prosperity was "just around the corner."
But, the "Crisis" worsened. The breadlines grew. The
shantytowns or "Hoovervilles" expanded. As unemployment
increased, the homeless, the drifters, the jobless sat on the
street corners and park benches or they hitch-hiked or rode the
rails; and they were unduly dubbed "bums" and "hoboes"
Even the veteran's Bonus Army was herded out of Anacosta Flats
for walking on the grass by MacArthur's US Army cavalry. By 1932
unemployment reached 25 percent and five thousand banks had
failed. It was the "rock bottom" of the Depression.
While some sang "Brother Can You Spare a Dime,"
others sang "Happy Days Are Here Again," when a
Democrat FDR was elected the 32nd President. He pledged a "New
Deal." He pushed through an unprecedented number of
government programs. His informal, weekly radio reports called
"fireside chats" instilled a new hope and optimism.
Nevertheless, critics said that he was ending self-reliance and
creating a dependence on the government. In the end they would
denounce the deficit spending and discredit the progress, since
full employment would not be achieved until World War Two.
Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell in their America's
Providencial History saw another change in the flow of history
that was made by FDR's election in 1932. They felt in the midst
of the Great Depression...with the propagation of socialism
"people were ready for the "New Deal" of Franklin
Roosevelt. Programs such as Social Security, and other welfare
agencies, set up the State as the provider rather than God."
Perhaps the most discernible result of the 1932 election for
the church was the repeal of prohibition. While the church had
successfully led the crusade, the practical application of the 18th
Amendment had resulted in scorn, rebellion, racketeering, and non-enforcement.
Sydney Ahlstrom called The Repeal, "the greatest blow to
their pride and self-confidence that the Protestants as a
collective body had ever experienced."
Be that as it may, fault and blame for the Depression were
lodged from every corner. Immediately the finger was pointed at
President Hoover. The banks, the corporations, and the rich were
named as culprits, too. The economists blamed low wages, over
production, interest rates, installment buying, and other
economic factors. Of course every historian castigated the Smoot-Hawley
tariff for slowing the world market, but the church thought a
higher power was behind the events.
Churchmen and scholars hinted that the greed and avarice,
morality and mores, and the controversies and contempt of the
twenties may have resulted in the misfortunes of the thirties.
More than one clergyman felt that the cause of America's economic
disaster was "Sin" by the members within the church and
the "evil and unrepentant" mainstream of the society.
They, also, expected some kind of revival like the panics in the
1720's and 1857.
Billy Sunday flat out believed that the economic depression
was ordained by God to shake America out of its doldrums. In the
March 2, 1931 Boston Herald he said, "Sometimes I'm glad God
knocked over the heavens to put America on her knees before she
became too chesty ...Our great depression is not economic, it is
spiritual and there won't be a particle of change in the economic
depression until there is a wholesale revival of the old-time
As the Depression deepened church attendance declined,
offerings fell, mission budgets were cut, and churches closed
their doors. Frederick Allen in Since Yesterday said, "One
might have expected..in such a crisis..people would have turned
to the consolations and inspirations of religion. Yet this did
Even the Lynd's on their return to "Middletown" in
1935 observed, "scattered through the pews..the same serious
and numerically sparse Gideon's band - two-thirds or more women
and few under thirty - with the same stark ring of empty pews
"down front." They did conceded that it was June, a bad
time for church attendance. The congregation seemed older. A
college boy gave this opinion on Christianity, "I believe
these things but they don't take a large place in my life."
It seemed to be representative of young people's opinions.
The Lynd's, also, wrote, "the secularization of the
Sabbath continues." They noted that the new municipal
swimming pool was open on Sunday, and horseback riding and golf
were more popular than in 1925. They said, "The automobile
continues to lead among the secularization factors...with 10,000
leaving every Sunday for resorts and other towns." They saw
a decline in religious programs on the local radio station, and
the largest church in town had abandoned their Sunday-evening
service. They concluded that "the Depression has brought a
resurgence of religious fundamentalism among the weak working-class
sects...but the uptown churches have seen little similar revival
In 1936 the Federal Council of Churches sponsored the National
Preaching Mission. It failed miserably. Samuel C. Kinchloe of
Chicago Theological Seminary reported the results in his Research
on Religion in the Depression. He said, "secularization was
so far advanced in America that no pervasive revival of religious
interest was possible. Instead of turning to God for help, even
churchgoing people turned to the New Deal "brain trust"
Willard L. Sperry, dean of Harvard's Divinity School, wrote to
a British audience, "We are tired of religious revivals as
we have known them in the last half century." He called
Billy Sunday, the last of that tradition, which he (Billy Sunday)
William G. McLoughlin wrote, "What Kinchloe missed, as
Sperry did, was the fact that there was a revival of religion."
McLoughlin pointed out that in the mid-1930's America had two
religions: Liberal Protestantism and a second wing which was a
blend of fundamentalism, pietist, conservative, evangelical,
holiness, and Pentecostal. These emotional and "ecstatic"
types were referred to as "Holy Rollers" by the older
Dr. A. T. Boisen studied the Pentecostal and Holiness sects,
and he showed their surge in his Religion and Hard Times. The
Assemblies of God, formed in 1914, had 48,000 members in 1926,
and they reported 3,470 churches with 175,000 members in 1937.
The Church of God grew from 23,000 members to 80,000 during the
same time. The Church of the Nazarene grew 100 percent since 1926
to 127,647 members. A large increase, also, occurred among the
Negro churches of Pentecostal, premillennial, and holiness
emphasis. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, whose founder A.B.
Simpson rejected the tongues-only as evidence of spirit baptism,
attracted many followers of the fundamentalist persuasion.
On the opposite side of the economic coin a movement that
touched college students, intellectuals, and the prosperous was
founded by Frank Buchman, a Lutheran minister from Philadelphia.
He reached people through lavish "houseparties" on the
premise that "good food and good Christianity go together."
His meetings took place in hotels, college campuses, private
homes, and on ships, but never during the church hours. He was
popular in eastern universities, Great Britain, and China. He was
criticized for the sentimentality and an overemphasis on sex.
However, his program of the "Five C's" (confidence,
conviction, confession, conversion, continuance) produced "changed
lives" among the successful "up and outers." By
1938 his program became known as "Moral Rearmament."
Buchanism declined when W.W.II began and their headquarters moved
Nevertheless, the Great Depression was unrelenting on the
"forgotten man" and on those just above him. Some
families survived by "doubling up." Neighbors shared
the produce of their gardens and fruit from their backyard trees.
Farmers, who lost their homes, became tenants. In other
generations the frontier provided an escape, but the depression
was everywhere. While the railroads put on extra "vagabond"
cars, the ones without jobs were still called a tramp, a hobo, a
The National Debt was moving into the mindboggling category of
30 Billion Dollars, but there were still over ten million
unemployed workers. The government destroyed livestock and plowed
under corn, while people were still hungry. Even the New Deal
jobs were called "boondoggles." Agencies were given
disparaging cliques such as the WPA: "We Poke Around,"
and the NRA: the "National Run Around." If the social
and economic calamity wasn't enough, weather disasters compounded
On Armistice Day, 1933 the "Black Blizzards"
darkened the skies over Chicago. For the next two years top soil
from a severe drought on the Great Plains blew eastward. The
disaster that became known as the "Dust Bowl." The
conservationists blamed the homesteaders for years of plowing and
exposing the land to wind erosion. In John Steinbeck's Grapes of
Wrath the elderly farm woman said, "the Lord taken a hand."
Frederick Allen made this assumption in Since Yesterday,
"To many others it must have seemed as if the Lord had taken
a hand in bringing the dust storms; as if, not content with
visiting upon the country a man-made crisis - a Depression caused
by men's inability to manage their economic affairs farsightedly
- an omnipotent power had followed it with a visitation of nature:
the very land itself had risen in revolt. To some other people,
the omnipotent may have seemed to be enjoying a sardonic joke at
the expense of the New Deal's Agricultural Adjustment program:
"So it's crop-reduction you want, is it? Well, I'll show you."
Hardly had the Black Blizzards ended when the eastern rivers
went on a rampage because of an unseasonably warm and rainy
January of 1937. The Merrimac, Connecticut, Hudson, Delaware,
Susquehanna, Potomac, Allegheny, and Ohio all went wild. Floods
left hundreds of thousands without homes. Hundreds of people were
drown. Cities were left without food, power, and electricity. Mud
ruined business districts. Along the Ohio River Valley it was
called the worst flood in American history.
In the fall of 1938 another quirk of nature occurred in New
England. Far from the usual path of hurricanes one sweep through
this "diverse" area swamping towns, ripping up trees,
and taking almost seven hundred lives. Frederick Allen felt,
"the Lord drove the lesson home" because of the "human
misuse of land."
Weather was not the only opposition to FDR's recovery. A
number of people and ideas professed to have the "social
salvation" for the Depression. Huey Long's "Share Our
Wealth" gained the most fame. Francis Townsend (Our Age
Pension), Upton Sinclair (EPIC), Howard Scott (Technocracy), and
Charles Coughlin were all social activists, whose efforts
bordered on demagoguery. Father Coughlin "the Radio Priest"
of Royal Oak, Michigan had 10 million listeners every Sunday
afternoon, and he had contributions of $500,000 annually. His
attacks were aimed at the bankers, the Jews, the unions, and the
Communists. His popularity declined after he opposed Roosevelt's
re-election in 1936. He was criticized by leaders inside the
Catholic Church for his anti-Semitism and his theories on money.
Even though the public-opinion polls of the Literary Digest
predicted a Landon, Republican victory in the election of 1936,
President Roosevelt still won every state except Maine and
Vermont. With a new confidence FDR attempted to pack the Supreme
Court, since they had struck down his New Deal measures of NRA
and AAA. However, when the Roosevelt "depression"
followed, the one-third "ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished"
still remained. Domestic affairs took a back seat to foreign
policy, when the totalitarian governments in Japan and Europe
threatened world peace.
IX. New Old-Time Religion:
After the apparent Fundamentalist's defeat by science in the
twenties and the obvious failure of the Protestant work ethic and
capitalism to produce a materialistic haven from want during the
Depression of the thirties, American Christianity looked
elsewhere for renewal. As in other times, the influence of Europe
beguiled the American churches. Many of the theologians,
professors, and ministers with advanced degrees had received
their training in Germany because of the high prestige given to
their scholarship. Consequently some trusted the Continental
philosophers and secular prophet's view of man, God, and the
As the European intellectuals sought to grasp the meaning of
life, they adopted the humanistic position which began with man.
They, also, followed the existentialist rationale that man was
totally free and totally responsible for his acts. However, they
found no final way to say what was right and what was wrong, and
they were at a loss to explain why evil exists. Furthermore as
they tried to make humanistic man self-sufficient, they reached
the philosophic position that he was only a machine.
When theologians adopted the concept of man beginning with
himself, they implemented the 19th Century liberal view of
Biblical criticism, too. They had been particularly embarrassed
by science to explain the supernatural events in the Bible. So
they denied the miracles and the claims of inspiration and
revelation in the Scriptures. They said that the stories were
myths and legends to teach ethical lessons and values. They
looked for what Albert Schweitzer called the historical Jesus.
The liberal version of the history in the Bible separated the
Old Testament into a record of the Jews and the New Testament as
the life and religion of Jesus. They surmised that the human
authors developed the creeds and dogmas through an evolutionary
process. Of course the writer's highest ideals and hopes led them
to the divinity of their Messiah Jesus. However, the liberal's
explanations had great difficulty with the post-resurrection
church in Acts and the detailed instructions in the Apostle Paul
While no single group agreed with all these points of view
about the Scriptures, many thinkers used parts of these
principles for their convictions. The groups, that included these
notions, were called New Theology, Progressive Orthodoxy,
Modernism, Liberalism, and Neo-Orthodoxy.
Neo-Orthodoxy was the intellectual phenomenon of the 1930s. It
rose out of European Liberalism and Existentialism. Neo-Orthodoxy
is usually associated with the teachings of Karl Barth, a little
known, country parson in Switzerland. While only a few American
ministers understood the logic, Emil Brunner of Zurich became the
mediator of Barth's view. A third name linked with Neo-Orthodoxy
to America was Paul Tillich of Harvard Divinity School.
Barth and Brunner agreed with the liberal theologians that the
Bible had errors. The neo-orthodox theologians did not see the
Bible as giving truth or having have moral absolutes either. Thus
they did not accept God's revelation in the book. To them the
Bible could only be a human witness to God's revelation when the
Holy Spirit reveals God to the human heart in a moment of crisis.
So it follows that Neo-Orthodoxy was known as the theology of
In 1919 Karl Barth unloaded a blockbuster on liberalism and
the 19th Century idealism of man's religious independent apart
from God, when he wrote his Commentary on the Epistle to the
Romans. Barth analyzed man's sin as man's continual attempt to
twist truth in religion to suit his own private ends. Albert
Schweitzer in his The Quest for the Historical Jesus had come to
the conclusion that his generation looked for a man of the 19th
Century, and instead of finding Jesus it found its own image.
Barth challenged Protestant theology that it confused man with
God. He demanded that, "God be allowed to be God, and man
learn again to be man."
Barth became one of the giant theologians of the 20th Century
with his perspective that returned God to His divine pedestal. To
him God was holy, sovereign, eternal, and absolute, and that
sinful man was unable to help himself in the matter of salvation.
Therefore salvation could only come through the miraculous
piercing of history by God Himself in the person of His Son,
Jesus Christ, the Word of God. It is in the crucified and
resurrected Christ alone that man can find salvation. Grace
mediated by the Holy Spirit through the Word can relate man to
God. Only when the soul is confronted by God in Christ can there
be salvation from the world. Barth's theology became known as a
theology of the Word.
Barth's contrasts between a Holy God and sinful man, the
Creator and the creature, grace and judgment attempted to prod
the humanism out of Christianity. He insisted that it was not
important what man thought of God, but what God thinks about man.
His theology grew in stature and understanding in America, and
became more prominent in the 1950s and 60s as evangelical
Karl Barth, also, gained admiration in 1934 while teaching in
Germany. When he took a public stand against Hitler and Nazism,
he was forced to leave for refusing to take an oath demanded by
Hitler. He taught in Basel, Switzerland the rest of his life.
Another theologian blacklisted by Hitler was Paul Tillich, who
took refuge in the United States in 1934. His American friend
Reinhold Niebuhr persuaded him to become an American citizen, and
he accepted a professorship at Union Theological Seminary in New
Paul Tillich, who already had an illustrious career at
respected German universities, was lauded for his ability to
mingle modern philosophy and theology. He coined new religious
terms to answer the existentialist's meaninglessness of modern
life. Tillich called God the "Ground of Being" and
Jesus Christ the "New Being." In the sacrifice of Jesus
upon the cross he became transparent to the "Ground of Being."
Tillich called man's faith or understanding of God the "ultimate
concern." Tillich became a leading advocate of symbols and
myths as man's way of grasping the reality of God. However, his
critics said that he psychologized the meaning of God, and his
idealism was only a form of pantheism. Nevertheless, he was a
prominent writer for the neo-orthodox theologians, and a notable
communicator with the secular philosophers.
According to Sydney Ahlstrom American Neo-Orthodoxy was best
revealed in the lives and works of Reinhold Niebuhr and H.
Richard Niebuhr, a pair of Missouri-born brothers. Both were
Evangelical pastors, who were learned historians. They were
concerned with Western thought about the direction of man's
morality and the social accommodations of the church. Both were
seminary professors for over thirty year Reinhold at Union
Theological Seminary and Richard at Yale University Divinity
School. A whole generation was influenced by their Christian
views on the dilemmas of their times.
Reinhold examined the social ethics of mankind and the nation.
He probed the question "how shall man think of himself?"
Above all, he sought to make men fully aware of the depths of
human sinfulness. He attacked the idea of man's progress, but he
saw man as "at once saint and sinner." He, also,
tenderly saw man as "not damned nor perfectible." He
wrote seventeen major books and hundreds of articles for
magazines and journals. His most famous book was Moral Man and
Immoral Society which was published in 1932.
Reinhold was not just a scholar or a theorists, but he got
involved in practical solutions to the problems of the church and
the nation. He was credited with transforming and renewing the
old Social Gospel dream. He even ran for Congress as a Socialist
during the New Deal era. He was involved in the pacifist movement
until Pearl Harbor. Then he founded "Christianity and Crisis"
to bring realism to American Christianity's view of world ills.
He was an active leader in the formation of the National Council
of Churches, New York's Liberal Party, and Americans for
Democratic Action, an anti-Communist organization. He called for
a theology that accepted God sovereignty, but encouraged men to
reform their institutions. He was a major figure in evangelical,
Protestant Christianity like his more scholarly younger brother
H. Richard Niebuhr, who was called a theologian's theologian,
examined the traditional theological matters in the light of
sociology, history, and psychology. His first major work Social
Sources of Denominationalism (1929) used the insights of Marx,
Weber, and Troeltsch to show how class, race, nationality, and
economic factors had divided the churches. He, also, pointed out
how deeply middle-class presuppositions were a part of mainstream
In 1935 he co-authored with Wilhelm Pauck and Francis P.
Miller The Church Against the World. It was considered the Neo-orthodox
manifesto to the churches. He called the churches not to march
out to battle, but to withdraw from the world's embrace, to
rediscover the Gospel, and to fulfill its mission as a confessing
In 1937 his classic The Kingdom of God in America was a call
for the restoration of Reformation roots in American Christianity.
He traced the men and the movements from Puritanism and Jonathan
Edwards to the Liberalism and Evangelicalism of his day. He
refuted the Liberalism that had ensnared him in his younger days.
He showed how movements were institutionalized and secularized,
then they declined and gave birth to new movements.
Neo-orthodoxy was mainly an intellectual movement involving
the academic community. It did refresh the ideals of the
supernatural and the sovereignty of God's intervention in human
affairs. Social issues gained a new urgency, but their hope did
not rest ultimately on human arrangements. They succeeded in
attracting disenchanted liberals and modernists. However, the
conservative followers were never satisfied with the issue of
Biblical inerrancy or the exact nature of salvation, but they did
favor the attacks on liberalism. The new theology did restore
credibility to Protestant scholarship, insight, and modern
X. World War Two:
After the First World War many religious leaders vowed never
would they have any part in any war again. Harry Fosdick in his
great sermon "My Account with the Unknown Soldier"
expressed the pacifist conviction of countless Protestant
preachers like Ernest Tittle and Ralph Sockman. The religious
pacifists allied themselves with political isolationists, who
hoped for a return to the days of the Monroe Doctrine in dealing
Gradually, the revisionists saw the Versailles reparations as
unfair, the munitions makers as merchants of death, and
especially the British colonial empire as the condemnation for
the world's problems. The American pacifists whitewashed Germany
and made Britain the scapegoat. A major sounding board for the
pacifists was the Christian Century, a socially oriented journal
founded in 1908 by Charles Clayton Morrison, and a chief organ of
interdenominational liberalism. Contemporaries wondered if the
secular Chicago Tribune and the Christian Century had the same
editors because of their similar positions on the threat of war.
Eventually the premise, that wars were preventable if leaders
made the proper decisions, became widespread in the American
churches and universities. However, the retreat from intervention
and even opposition for Congress' Neutrality Acts continued in
Throughout the decade as the totalitarian dictators marched
into Manchuria, China, Ethiopia, the Rhineland, Austria, and
Czechoslovakia, there was a rise in demagogues. Gerald Winrod,
William Dudley Pelley, Guy and Edna Ballard, and Father Charles
Coughlin were among those referred to as the "apostles of
discord." They were strongly anti-Semitic and fervently
opposed to FDR and the New Deal, but they did favor involvement
against the aggressor nations.
When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, a wide
divergence of opinions splintered the religious community. The
debate ranged from pacifism, neutrality, and nonbelligerency to
earmarked aid and even open combat. However, it was becoming
increasingly clear that a world run by the Axis powers would make
it impossible to achieve any Christian advancements. When
President Roosevelt spoke to Congress (Jan, 1941), he called for
"a world founded on four essential freedoms." They were:
freedom of speech, worship of God, from want, and from fear. It
was, also, becoming clear that Allied goals and American hopes
for the future were similar. When Winston Churchill and FDR
signed The Atlantic Charter in August, 1941, the US moved a step
closer to war.
Probably no single day in United States history dramatically
crystallized the American people as Sunday December 7th, 1941.
The "sneak" attack on Pearl Harbor ended the dissension
about war. As Ray Abrams expressed it, "this "treachery"
united the people of this country as probably nothing else could
have done." After the "day of infamy" President
Roosevelt promised that "the American people in their
righteous might will win through to absolute victory so help us
The historians continue to review the "how's" and
"ifs" of the surprise attack that took 33 ships 13 days
to travel 3150 nautical miles unnoticed through the "vacant"
sea. Gordon Prange called his great book At Dawn We Slept. The
revisionists have claimed that FDR lured the Japanese into
attacking the US Pacific Navy. The John Birch Society alleged
that Communist agents maneuvered Japan into a war with the US.
Goldstein and Dillon flat out credit the Japanese with a
brilliant, daring, successful plan. Everyone finds diplomatic
blunders, mistakes with messages, bizarre weather patterns, and
Nevertheless the most famous Japanese code words of the attack
were exclaimed by Mitsuo Fuchida, "Tora! Tora! Tora!"
He would eventually survive the war, and as Prange said, "he
(Fuchida) had enough adventures for ten men." He missed
Midway because of acute appendicitis and providentially left
Hiroshima the day before the Atomic Bomb, but he returned the day
after with a 13 member inspection team. Shortly the other 12 died
of strange symptoms and only Mutsuo survived. After the war he
made the front page of the Tokyo Times when he converted to
Christianity. For the next 30 years Mitsuo Fuchida was a
Christian evangelist, who befriended Billy Graham and even spoke
in churches along the US Pacific coast. His posters proclaimed
"I led the attack on Pearl Harbor," then he proclaimed
When the two-hour attack on Pearl Harbor ended, over two
thousand servicemen were dead, a total of 3581 Americans were
casualties, Battleship Row was an inferno of fire and smoke, and
crewmen were trapped inside the Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma. In
all nineteen vessels were either damaged, capsized, or sunk. One
hundred and eighty-eight airplanes were destroyed. However, the
aircraft carriers Saratoga, Enterprize, and Lexington were safely
at sea, and the Japanese did not return to attack the fuel
storage. Tales of heroism abounded on every ship and around the
naval base. Within the month Admiral Kimmel and Lt. General Short
would be investigated by the Roberts Commission.
While the naval attack on December 7th brought the US and
others into a global war, a second worldwide impact came from a
group known as The Navigators. In 1933 Dawson Trotman started one
of the most successful discipleship programs in the history of
the Christian Church. He used Bible studies and Scripture memory
as a follow up for new converts. He began with five sailors on
the USS West Virginia. Daws began his famous one-on-one
discipleship challenge, "Where is your man?" Afterwards
four of the original five ended up as foreign missionaries.
Dawson said, "We started on the battleships of the United
States Navy, getting men to spend time in the Bible. By the time
the war was over, we had fellows on a thousand ships and on
scores of bases throughout the world, faithfully serving and
witnessing for the Lord."
The wartime clearly stimulated a renewal of interest in
religion. Again, as in the First World War, the government showed
no proclivity toward the separation of church and state. Congress
had announcement in 1940 as a part of the Selective Service Act
that a requirement of one chaplain for every twelve hundred men
would be carried out. The office of Chief of Chaplains was
established, and the Most Reverend William R. Arnold, a widely
respected Roman Catholic, was selected to handle all chaplain's
affairs through his office. While each denomination set their
requirements for chaplains, all had to conform to the Chief of
Chaplain's office. Eventually eight thousand chaplains served
throughout the war.
The government, also, barred all groups and agencies from
using their funds to erect special buildings for their spiritual
work. Instead Congress appropriated $12,816,880 in the spring of
1941 to build 604 chapels on Army posts, camps, and bases for
American troops. Each chapel was to cost $21,220 and to seat 400
worshippers for all faiths. No one objected to spending
government funds on these buildings.
In other wars the government assigned different volunteer
groups to oversee the welfare and activities of the servicemen.
However in World War Two, the United Service Organization better
know as the USO was suggested by President Roosevelt. A Board of
Directors was made up of six representatives from the Salvation
Army, the YMCA, the YWCA, the Jewish Welfare Board, the National
Catholic Community Service, and the National Travelers Aid
Societies. The government provided a budget of $12,000,000 in
1942. By 1944 3,000 centers were the GI's "home away from
home." Over 1.5 million volunteers staffed the centers.
Everything went on there like the American way of life from
dances, movies, a place to talk, coffee and donuts, and even
church services by the chaplains. The clubs were open to all
regardless of their race, color, or creed.
The Army and Navy provided the servicemen with Bibles,
hymnbooks, and aids to worship. The Chaplains' Association
published A Song and Service Book, Army and Navy for Field and
Ship. The book contained hymns, selections of Scripture, and
prayers, in three sections, for Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.
The American Bible Society was the most active agency for
providing Bibles and Testaments. A pocket testament had the
following Foreword by President Roosevelt: "As Commander-in-Chief,
I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who
serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the
centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in
the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel, and inspiration."
Rabbis, ministers, and priests served as chaplains during the
war. They lived in foxholes, pup tents, open fields, and Quonset
huts. They prayed, heard confessions, gave sermons, and served
communion and last rites. Sometimes they just listened. On too
many occasions they read scriptures over unmarked and even watery
graves that, as it written at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier,
were "Known only to God." Their trust, comfort,
encouragement, and service was beyond measure, but it was not
forgotten by God or man.
The first famous chaplain of the war was Howell Forgy in the
US Navy at Pearl Harbor. He wrote the words and Frank Loesser of
Broadway fame wrote the music to the song Praise the Lord and
Pass the Ammunition. Within a month it was a popular song around
The most famous incident of the war involved the four
chaplains on the USS Dorchester. Shortly after midnight of
February 3,1943 while 902 GI's were being transported to
Greenland, a torpedo from a German U-boat blew up the
Dorchester's engine room. The explosion killed some outright,
others were trapped below deck, and bedlam reigned on the ship's
deck. Some over-crowded lifeboats capsized, while others floated
away nearly empty. The ship was prohibited from firing distress
flares because of security, so the Dorchester unbeknown to their
escorts began sinking alone in the dark, foggy, snowy night.
On the deck the four chaplains of the ship aided the frantic
escape to safety. They were: George L. Fox and Clark V. Poling,
both Protestants; Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; and John P.
Washington, Roman Catholic. When they were out of lifeboats,
lifejackets, and flotation devices, the four chaplains removed
their own life jackets and forced them on four terrified
servicemen. The four chaplain linked their arms together and
bowed their heads in prayer as the ship sank into the Atlantic.
Only 230 men survived, while 672 died in the third greatest
ship disaster of the war. Some of the survivors viewed the
unselfish act of the four chaplains. One eyewitness John Ladd
said, "It was the finest thing I have ever seen or hope to
see this side of heaven." The altruistic episode was painted
by Dudley Summers with the four chaplains and the Dorchester
being drawn into the raging ocean. Portraits of the four
chaplains frame the four corners.
The event is remembered annually by the "Four Chaplain's
Sunday" in February. In 1951 the "Chapel of the Four
Chaplains" was dedicated, and President Harry Truman spoke
these words, "That day they preached the most powerful
sermon of their lives." In 1960 Congress commemorated their
heroism with a "Medal of Valor." National Chaplain of
the American Legion Rev. Henry E. Eisenhart said, "The saga
of the Four Chaplains testifies to the bright side of the human
Nazi Germany set the tone for World War II with the saying
"Today Germany, Tomorrow the World." The war was global
in commitment and fighting. A total of six-one nations were drawn
into the conflict, and it involved three-fourths of the world's
population. An estimated 110 million people were mobilized and
about 15 percent actually faced the enemy in combat. For America
over 15 million men volunteered or were drafted and over 200,000
women entered the Army and Navy services. It was the most
devastating war in human history, and it would cost over a
trillion dollars and a guesstimated fifty-five million lives.
Historians have referred to it as the "People's War."
It was waged by citizens against the citizens. For possibly the
first time in history more civilians died than soldiers. Thirty
million civilians died while twenty-five million military
personal died. But for those who survived and those who lived
through it, the war changed their lives completely.
For those who served in the armed services their lives were
disrupted forever. Most had never been very far from home. The
three months basic training meant regimentation and physical
exhaustion. They became known as GI's slang for "government
issue." At the front the fighting cause not only fear and
dread, but they were exposed to sights that they did not want to
talk about for the rest of their lives. So many left home joyful,
carefree kids only to return as hushed, reticent veterans.
Their tour distanced them from home and family. They did not
receive a furlough for the birth of their children or a funeral
of a parent. They anguished over the dreaded "Dear John"
letters. They hoped the songs were true like "Don't Sit
under the Apple Tree with anyone else, but me" and "You'll
Never Know (how much I love you)." Even the great postwar
movie The Best Years of Our Lives could only simulate the turmoil
etched on their hearts
However, the war did have a spiritual impact at home and at
the front. Sydney Ahlstrom wrote this excellent appraisal, "the
anxieties of scattered families and the social disruption of the
"war effort" did stimulate an unmistakable rise of
interest in religion. "There are no atheists in the
foxholes," was the word from the theater of military action.
In millions of blue-star and gold-star households and in
thousands of home churches the same could be said. In this sense,
the "postwar revival" began long before the fighting
One of the truly great stories of intercessory prayer took
place in Seadrift, Texas. The members of the First Assembly of
God Church made a collage of their fifty-two servicemen, who were
serving in World War Two. The church faithfully prayed for these
men throughout the war. When the war ended, all 52 returned alive
from the war.
On the other hand, the greatest single blow to one family that
shocked the nation was to the Sullivans of Waterloo, Iowa. On
Friday the 13th of November, 1942 during the battle for
Guadalcanal a Japanese torpedo sunk the USS Juneau, a light
cruiser with 500 men on broad. Only ten men survived, but the
nation was grieved for the five Sullivan brothers, who were lost.
The family of Thomas and Aleta Sullivan on Adams Street was
known for their patriotic and religious fervor. These first
generation Irish-Americans had five boys George, Francis, Eugene,
Madison, and Alberta, who enlisted because a friend was killed at
Pearl Harbor. The five ranged in ages from 20 to 29 and only the
youngest Albert was married. They pressed the armed services for
the chance to serve in the same branch with the same assignment.
They have been remembered by the motto "We Stick Together."
They were glorified in the 1944 movie "The Fighting
Sullivans" and memorialized by two US Navy ships (1943 &
1995) bearing their name. Waterloo, Iowa has celebrates their
memory with Sullivan Park, a convention center, and the annual
ceremony at the St. Patrick's Day Mass in Sullivan Park.
Regardless, World War Two was different from other wars in
it's brutality and respect for human life. Early reports on the
Axis treatment of their enemies and their own people alarmed the
Allies. In the pre-war days German immigrant carried stories
about the Nazi violence toward the Jews. In 1942 the New York
Times wrote that one million Polish Jews had been exterminated
mainly by electrocution. From the first days of the fighting the
fanatical effort by the Japanese soldiers made it clear that they
would died for their Emperor and their country.
As the hatred grew during the war, both sides were accused of
shooting at soldiers with white flags and committing heartless
acts against POW's. Short of death, being a prisoner was
considered the worst fate of the war. The rumor around the
homefront was that the treatment worse by the Japanese than the
America's first experience with what was considered war crimes
was the Bataan Death March. Thousands died in the six-day march
and accounts were told that the Japanese denied water, food, and
medicine to the POW's. Hundreds died daily in their camps because
of starvation, disease, and brutality. The full story was not
revealed until after the war was over.
The most enduring POW story was that of Louis Zamperini. He
became famous in the 1936 Berlin Olympics for pulling down a flag
bearing the Nazi swastika at the Reichstag, while he was a member
of the US track team. During the Second World War he was shot
down in the Pacific and floated on a life-raft for forty-seven
days. Although he was strafed by Japanese pilots, he survived
only to spend the next two years in a Japanese POW camp.
Although Louie Zamperini was an Olympic star and a war hero,
his return to civilian life was difficult and he turned to
drinking. In 1949 at the Billy Graham's Los Angeles tent
meetings, Louie responded to the alter call and gave his life to
Christ. On the final day of the crusade at the breakfast for
pastors and workers, Louie Zamperini was one of the four
transformed lives to give their testimony. He went into full-time
Christian work as director of a Christian camp for boys.
He spent the next four decades serving The Lord and leading a
quiet life. On the final night of the 1998 Winter Olympics in
Nagano, Japan, Jim Nantz of CBS Sports devoted the first hour
rehearsing Louie Zamperini's life story. The consuming issue was:
would Louie meet with his brutal prison guards, particularly the
notorious Matsushiro Watanabe - code name "The Bird",
and would he try to win them to Christianity?
The shocking aspect of WW Two for 20th Century people was the
level of evil that existed in "modern" human beings.
Allied leaders were appalled at the Axis mindset of world
conquest without regard for the cost in lives. Their early
successes and their apparent godless attitude led Winston
Churchill to say, "Upon this battle (for Britain) depends
the survival of Christian civilization..(or)..the whole world,
including the United States...will sink into the abyss of a new
While it is easier for historians to leave "the acts of
God" unsaid or treat the coincidences as "luck,"
some surmised that God was not in control or that He even had
anything to do with the events of World War Two. However, one
postwar writer postulated that there were a number of events with
a "definite divine partiality" toward the Allies.
Others have simply ascribed the term "miracle" to
Allied successes. Mostly it is easier to give the esteem to the
people involved in the action.
The first major "miracle" of the war was the
evacuation at Dunkirk. The rescue across the English Channel
clearly deserves a tremendous praise for the "Mosquito
Armada" that used every kind of naval vessel to ferry the
troops to Britain. However, almost forgotten is the extremely
calm waters that enabled "Operation Dynamo" to take
place. Also, while the RAF deserves credit for the victory
against Goering's airmen, little is mentioned about the
protective cloud cover that aided the deliverance.
In the Pacific Japanese leaders proclaimed that their
successful surprise at Pearl Harbor was a divine blessing from
the gods. Vice Admiral Kusaka, a devout Zen Buddhist, said about
the fine weather and sea conditions, "Truly, it is with
God's help." His Commander-in-Chief Nagumo agreed. Rear
Admiral Tomioka recalled, "I prayed fervently to our
ancestral gods that all would go well."
Only four months after Pearl Harbor the United States
retaliated by bombing Tokyo, and the Americans experienced some
similar strokes of fate. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle's raid was
planned for after dark on April 19, 1942. However, they crossed
the International Date Line and they had made a 24-hour error. (Japan,
also, expected the attack the next day). When it seemed that the
Task Force's position had been discovered by a Japanese patrol,
Admiral Bull Halsey ordered Doolittle to launch his sixteen B-25's
early from the ACC Hornet.
In March the Japanese government had announced plans for the
first ever air-raid drill in Tokyo, while they assured their
people that they had a safe homeland. The three-hour alert was
complete with military planes forming a protective umbrella over
the city. It was scheduled to last from 9 AM until noon on April
While Tokyo was practicing their air-raid, a strong tail wind
was speeding Doolittle's raiders toward the city. Doolittle's
plane dropped the first bombs at 12:15 PM as the mock exercise
was ending. The Japanese military assumed that the raiders were a
part of the friendly air show. In an amazing coincidence the
alert and the attack had over lapped each other.
A second happenstance on Doolittle's bombing run involved
Hirohito's Imperial Palace. As Doolittle was closing in on the
Emperor's home, a Japanese antiaircraft battery fired on his B-25,
and he was distracted from the target. The Palace remained
unharmed and no one else fired on Doolittle's plane.
Altogether the sixteen planes survived the bombing run and 75
of the eighty air men made it through. Sergeant David J.
Thatcher, a gunner on Plane No. 7, was asked in Chungking to
account for the success, and he said, "It was only by the
hand of God that any of us came out alive.
The raid shocked the Japanese people, and it caused the
government to draw back Zeros and AA batteries from the war
offensive to protect the homeland. The raid, also, had a huge
psychological effect on American morale. It was the one bright
light while the Japanese seized an empire in the Western Pacific
during the first six months of the war.
The battle of Midway is called the greatest American naval
victory in history and the turning point of the Pacific war.
Gordon Prange said of his title, "Miracle at Midway is not
so much alliterative as exactly fact." A number of "providential
pairs" convinces one of America's destiny throughout the two
days (June 4-5, 1942) of intense fighting.
While the US command debated whether Japan would attack Pearl
or Midway, Yamamoto devised a dual ruse to attack Midway and the
Aleutian Islands in hopes of dividing the US forces. However, the
US cryptographers led by Joseph Rochefort and Thomas Dyer had
broken the Japanese naval code. Hypo (Rochefort) knew that the
main Japanese attack on "AF" was Midway. Nevertheless,
the Americans were overwhelming underdogs. Nagumo's armada of 88
surface warships would be opposed by 28 US vessels. Another
handicap occurred when America's best-known carrier admiral
William "Bull" Halsey was hospitalized with a skin
disorder. Even Admiral Chester Nimitz confessed their hope was
either "by luck or God's mercy."
Admiral Nimitz deployed his fleet into two groups: Force 16
under Ray Spruance (the carriers: Hornet and Enterprize, 6
cruisers, and 9 destroyers) and Force 17 under Jack Fletcher (the
carrier Yorktown, 2 cruisers, and 5 destroyers). The Yorktown was
the miracle salvage ship from the battle of Coral Sea, and the
surprise American carrier to the Japanese at the battle of Midway.
They erroneously anticipated two carriers in the South Pacific,
and they believed that the Yorktown was too damaged to fight at
Midway. Appropriately, Admiral Nimitz named the rendezvous of
Forces 16 and 17 "Point Luck."
In the meantime another double destiny favored the US. Two key
Japanese pilots, heroes of Pearl Harbor, Fuchida and Genda could
not participate at Midway. Mitsuo Fuchida was recovering from
appendicitis, and Minoru Genda was suffering from pneumonia. Both
were in hospital beds abroad the Akagi.
A second break came during the reconnaissance flights on the
morning of June 4th. While the Japanese main goal was to bomb and
invade Midway Island, the American objective was to attack the
four Japanese aircraft carriers. By 0530 American scout pilot
Howard Ady had sighted the first wave of bombers heading for
Midway and part of Nagumo's Force. However, if one Jap scout
pilot had flown on his search route a little longer, he would
have discovered the US fleet. Another Japanese scout from the
Soryu, who found the Yorktown, was unable to send a message
because his radio transmitter was broken. His radio was only able
to receive messages. Consequently, during the entire morning of
the battle neither the Japanese command center or their scout
pilots ever clearly understood the American deployment. However,
the US had not located the four Jap carriers either.
By 0700 the Japanese had completed their first assault on
Midway. They made plans to recover, refuel, and rearm all
aircraft by 1030 for a second attack on Midway or on any US
carrier that had been located. In the meantime, American
fighters, torpedo planes, and dive bombers attacked the Kaga and
the Akagi. (They had not located the Sorya or the Hiryu). During
the three-hour assault over 100 US planes failed to make a single
hit on the enemy carriers. Of the forty-one torpedo planes in the
offensive 35 were shot down by the faster Zeros and anti-aircraft
fire. All or most of some squadrons were wiped out. However, the
Japanese still did not know the location or the number of US
At 1022 the miracle happened at Midway. A pair of venturesome
pilots guessed at the location of the Jap carriers. Clarence Wade
McClusky with 33 Dauntless dive bombers from the Enterprise, and
Max Leslie with 17 Dauntlesses from the Yorktown discovered three
enemy flattops at just right moment in time. The Kaga, Akagi, and
Soryu had planes fueled, armed, and ready for takeoff on the
decks. Also, the nominal Japanese air cover was concerned with
the low flying torpedo planes not the dive bombers. In an
uncoordinated attack McClusky's squadron divided to dive on the
Akaga and the Soryu, and Leslie's planes attacked the Kaga. In
three minutes the three carriers were ablaze with fires and
suffering explosions from their bombs and their gasoline. The
deck of the Kaga blew up and fire and smoke shot 1000 feet into
the air. In less than 24 hours all three carriers were at the
bottom of the Pacific.
In the afternoon of June 4th Admiral Fletcher ordered 24
Dauntlesses from the Enterprise and the Hornet to bomb the fourth
carrier, the Hiryu. As luck would have it, the Hiryu took a
course directly at the attack force. Also, a junior officer named
Shumway made a quick thinking decision follow up the first
bombing run on the Hiryu and four bombs were dropped on the deck.
The Japanese had now lost four carriers and three-fourths of
their best pilots.
Misfortune continued when Yamamoto canceled the invasion of
Midway. Two cruisers ran into each other at three o'clock in the
morning, when Capt. Akira Soji of the Mogami failed to make an
emergency turn. The tide in the Pacific had clearly swung to the
It was the first Japanese naval defeat in 350 years. Japanese
naval officers Kusaka and Miwa said that it was, "God's
punishment for this sin of hubris (pride, arrogance)."
Fuchida said the root cause was "victory disease."
For Americans the victory at Midway was a combination of
factors. Every observer agrees that it was in part luck,
fortunate fate, or some divine providence. The miracle was, also,
clearly due to some bold command decisions by Nimitz, Spruance,
and Fletcher. Their gambles paid off at the right time. Credit,
also, goes to pilots like McClusky and Leslie, who were accused
of sometimes flying by the seat of their pants. Their hunches put
them at the right place. In the final analysis it was that dual
factor ...in part God and ...in part man.
D-Day June 6th, 1944 was the greatest amphibious invasion in
history. It required the most detailed and complicated plan ever
made for a single event in a war. Operation Overlord would be
launched at five beaches over 60 miles of the Normandy shoreline.
The preparation involved over a million troops, 10,000 planes, 5,000
naval vessels, and dozens of airfields and ports. The elaborate
strategy included a dummy army assembled for an assault on the
narrowest crossing of the Channel at Calais, the massive buildup
for the beachhead on Normandy, a breakout to Cherbourg, and
finally, the logistics for thirty-seven divisions that would
storm Fortress Europe.
The invasion was set for Monday June 5th because of the low
tides and the moonlit conditions. However, after all the diligent
plans and for every contingency the one uncontrollable factor
that was the crux of their success was the weather. Over the
weekend postponement seemed inevitable because of a series of low-pressure
areas in the North Atlantic that would bring highs winds, rough
seas, and low clouds to the English Channel. With the gloomy
forecast Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower deferred to
Tuesday. It proved to be a wise decision. The weather over the
Channel was called the worst in twenty years. An invasion on
Monday would have been a disaster.
Nevertheless, on Monday the weathermen were surprised when the
stationary high-pressure area near Spain began moving
northeastward. It could possibly result in clearing skies and
moderating winds over the Channel for Tuesday morning. Meanwhile,
the German meteorologists predicted continued foul weather which
convinced Field Marshall Erwin Rommel to leave on June 4th spend
a few days' leave at home for his wife's birthday. Besides the
German staff expected the later date for an invasion which would
coincide with a Russian spring offensive from the East, and the
next favorable tidal conditions on June 19th.
The final decision needed to be made an once and by General
Eisenhower alone. The over 200,000 troops had been bottled up
onboard for almost two weeks, and the ships would need to be
refueled. Although the window of weather was small, Eisenhower
said, "I am quite positive we must give the order...I don't
like it...I don't see how we can do anything else." The
Supreme Commander concluded, "We'll go!"
On The Longest Day as Cornelius Ryan called it, the Allies
caught several breaks. First, there had been a disagreement on
how to defense an invasion. Von Rundstedt's strategy was to
counterattack with reserves after the Allies landed on the
beaches. However, Rommel felt that the key was to stopped them on
the beaches. He said, "The first twenty-hours of the
invasion will be decisive." Hitler allowed him to employ
that defense on Omaha beach. Fortunately, The Fuehrer preferred
Von Rundstedt's tactics.
The second stroke of luck occurred on the westernmost beach,
Utah. The landing force accidentally landed a mile south of the
site aimed for - a site that was later learned had strong German
defenses. Consequently, the US soldiers and paratroopers ended up
on the easiest and least costly of the five beaches.
Perhaps the best break was the decision on when to call up of
the reserves. Von Rundstedt had to wait for Hitler's orders. The
German staff left Hitler and Von Rundstedt sleep until late
morning which was a common practice for both men. When Hitler was
told, he did not believe it was the invasion. Precious hours were
wasted waiting for Hitler's permission to use the reserves. By
the afternoon the Allies were moving inland on all five beaches.
Also, Rommel was unable to make it back to his headquarters in
Rheims until six that evening.
By nightfall Allied troops had penetrated four to six miles on
four of the five beaches. Only on "Bloody Omaha" was
the beachhead a precarious mile to a mile and a half deep. The
Allies had placed 156,000 men on eighty square miles of Normandy,
and the losses were estimated at 10,000 casualties. What had
started with the 82d paratroopers at St.-Mere-Eglise at 12:15 AM
was now beginning of the end.
Over the next eleven months to VE Day the war was a continuous
story of liberation. By the end of August Paris was liberated and
Charles de Gaulle led a parade to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. In
September Antwerp, Belgium, Luxembourg, Rheims, and most of
France had been freed by Allied armies. In November Patch's
American Army was at the Rhine. Then came Hitler's last desperate
offensive in the West - The Battle of the Bulge and the Malmedy
massacre of 80 American captives.
While the Ardennes counterattack disrupted any Holiday
liberation on the Western Front, the Allied defense of key roads
through St. Vith and Bastogne stalled the surprise German
offensive. On Christmas Eve a German U-boat sank the transport
Leopoldville killing 802 GI's, who were re-enforcement's for the
Battle of the Bulge. At the Flossenburg POW camp SS guards held a
sadistic Christmas party by hanging 15 recaptured US
paratroopers, while their fellow inmates were forced to stand in
ranks and watch. And on Christmas Day the Germans launched an all-out
attack on Bastogne, however the gallant 101st and the now famous
Anthony McAuliffe clung to the transportation hub. By then
Patton's relief force was a day away and the skies were clear for
the Allied air attacks. Hitler's surprise maneuver had failed.
Consequently, Stephen Ambrose called the Christmas of 1944 "a
Christmas best forgotten."
By March the Allied armies were on the borders of Germany the
Russians from the East and the Americans and British from the
West. German soldiers were rushing with white flags to the
Western Front. An estimated six million Germans, including the
famous rocket expert Wehner Von Braun, fled westward to avoid the
"rape and pillage" of the Red Army. However, the worst
disclosure was yet to come as the Allies marched through Germany
in April, and they came to Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau,
Ravensbruck, Auschwitz, Treblinka, and the other camps.
The reports and rumors of atrocities had not prepared the
world for what the eyewitnesses and the lens of the cameras and
the newsreels viewed in the concentration camps. The world was
aghast at what Hitler called his "Final Solution." The
human misery from brutality, cruelty, and neglect could not be
told by the hollow eyes, bony faces, and shriveled skeletons of
the prisoners. Even the ovens, the piles of bones in mass graves,
and the stench of death could not tell the story as the witnesses
both military and civilian were shocked. The liberators responded
with tears, and screams, and even vomiting.
History refers to it as "The Holocaust." Six million
Jews "vanished," and totally around ten million were
exterminated by Hitler's racial cleansing plan. A stunned world
wondered where is God and what is He doing. In retrospect the
Catholic Church was asked, "Why didn't you excommunicate
Hitler, a baptized member, and why was Pope Pius XII silent?"
Some are remembered for their stand. A Catholic Colonel Klaus
von Stauffenberg planted the bomb to assassinate Hitler in 1944.
The leader of the "Confessing Church" Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran clergyman, was hanged by the Nazis on
April 9, 1945. Raoul Wallenberg, Oskar Shindler, and numerous
"righteous ones" in Holland, Denmark, and Norway helped
Jews to escape.
Nevertheless, the era will always be remembered as The
Nightmare (William Shirer) or The Night (Elie Wiesel). The death
camps exposed the total depravity of what human beings are
capable of. Still, the prevailing philosophy about human beings
was ironically expressed by Anne Frank in her Dairy, "In
spite of everything I still believe that people are really good
at heart." The reality and the truth about mankind changed
as Nazi Germany came to an end with V-E Day on May 8, 1945.
In the Pacific the United States ran an island hopping
campaign toward the Japanese mainland. General Douglas MacArthur
returned to the Philippines along the southern route, and Admiral
Chester Nimitz moved through the Central Pacific toward Iwo Jima
and Okinawa. The Japanese proved to be a tenacious enemy fighting
stubbornly, refusing to surrender, and even committing suicide
rather than being taken captive. The nadir of their horrible
madness was the suicide squadrons of kamikazes referred to as
Okinawa, the last invasion of the Pacific war, was the
bloodiest battle because of the kamikazes. Hundred of pilots, who
dressed in hara-kiri robes and were sworn to death, killed 12,000
seaman and Marines in the final battle of the war. Estimates for
the defense of the mainland ran as high as 5,000 kamikazes were
willing to die to defend against an invasion.
However, President Harry Truman was given an alternative
choice. In December of 1944 Leslie R. Groves, the overseer of the
Manhattan Project, announced that they could have an Atomic Bomb
ready by August 1st. The United States had spent two billion
dollars on the secret enterprise. J. Robert Oppenheimer was the
scientific director, and 539,000 people worked on this new "ultimate"
weapon. The first atomic bomb was exploded near Los Alamos, New
Mexico on July 16, 1945.
There were several factors surrounding the decision to use the
bomb. First, it would avoid an invasion which would cost an
estimated million American lives. Secondly, the war would end
sooner. It was General MacArthur's opinion that the ground war
would last until the end of 1947. Finally, and perhaps most
importantly, it would result in an unconditional surrender and
prevent Stalin from sharing in the postwar occupation of Japan.
Another consideration was the general attitude that the Japs
were savages, ruthless, merciless, and fanatics, who never
surrendered. They had used treachery in bombing Pearl Harbor.
They had bombed Manila when it was surrendered as an open city.
They had committed atrocities at Palawan, Bataan, and other POW
camps. Perhaps no clearer picture was in the minds of Americans
than the one carried in most May newspapers. It was a photograph
of an American flyer, who was on his knees with his hands tied
behind his back, blindfolded, and about to be beheaded by a Jap
officer with a sword.
President Truman, who had been in combat in W.W.I, said,
"think of the kids who won't be killed. That's the important
thing." He further concluded, "If we can save even a
handful of American lives, then let us use this weapon - now!"
The President's only reservations where to not bomb the old
Capitol at Kyoto or the new Capital at Tokyo with the Imperial
Palace of the Emperor Hirohito.
President Truman was at the Potsdam Conference when the test
bomb Trinity was exploded. He shared the results with Churchill
and later Stalin. He issued the Potsdam Ultimatum to Japan for an
unconditional surrender or "the alternative is prompt and
utter destruction." Also, he gave approval to drop the bomb,
if Japan did not respond to the ultimatum. The list of possible
military sites to bomb included Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and
In the meantime on July 29th the USS Indianapolis, the cruiser
that had delivered the core for the Atomic bomb at Tinian, was
torpedoed a thousand miles from its base at Leyte. The star-crossed
mission was unable to send an SOS because their electrical system
was damaged in the explosion. About 700 men in life jackets
floated in the midst of sharks for 82 hours because the mission
was secret and no one checked on them. Only 316 of the 1196 men
survived the disaster.
On August 6th 1945 when the 9,000 pound uranium bomb "Little
Boy" was detonated on Hiroshima, a new age was inaugurated.
The mushroom shaped cloud called to mind the horrors of
destruction in The Bible. Armageddon and the description in the
book of Revelation (6:14) "the heavens departed as a scroll
when it is rolled together" was now a reality. Also, when
the victims were seen at Hiroshima, it looked like the plague of
Zechariah: "their flesh shall consume away while they stand
upon their feet, their eyes shall consume away in their holes,
and their tongue shall consume in their mouth." (Zech. 14:12)
On August 9th the plutonium bomb known as "Fat Man"
was dropped on the second choice city Nagasaki. Kokura was the
target city, however it was socked in with bad weather. Paul
Harvey gave his famous commentary on the "God sent Cloud."
Several thousand Allied POW's, who had been delivered that
morning, survived because clouds covered Kokura during the three
bombing runs. Other things went wrong on the ill-fated mission
under Charles Sweeney. The bomb exploded three miles off the
target, and finally when the plane landed it ran out of gas at
the end of the runway.
The death tolls were around 70,000 plus at Hiroshima and over
40,000 at Nagasaki. The devastation was shocking - one plane, one
bomb, one city. Emperor Hirohito said, "I cannot bear to see
my innocent people suffer any longer." Japan agreed to the
Potsdam terms and requested that the Emperor be retained.
For years critics have voiced their opinions over the use of
the Atomic Bomb on Japan. Some have felt that it should have been
dropped in an open field away from populated areas as a
demonstration its power. Others have said that one bomb was
enough, and that the second bomb was "barbaric." A
larger body of speculators say that it was totally unnecessary to
drop the bombs at all.
The revisionists argue that Japan was already defeated, and
they were on the verge of collapse. They say that the naval
blockade had a stranglehold because ninety percent of Japan's
shipping was destroyed. Japan could have been starved into
surrender. They, also, maintain that the Allies had complete air
superiority. The B-29 Superfortresses were untouchable, and the
Air Force could have bombed Japan into submission. Besides Japan
was alone and a declaration of war by the Soviet Union would have
made them surrender before any possible November Kyushu invasion.
Finally, it is pointed out that the Japanese were sending out
secret peace feelers via Switzerland and Sweden.
Gar Alperovitz alleges a "near cover-up" of
information to President Truman by James Byrnes, Secretary of
State; Henry Stimson, Secretary of War; and Leslie Groves, head
of the Manhattan Project. In his 1995 book he says that secrecy,
silence, and censorship created a myth about the need to drop the
bomb. He declares that the military leaders Admiral William D.
Leahy, Bull Halsey, Hap Arnold, and General Eisenhower were
opposed to dropping the bomb.
Notwithstanding, the other side has defended its use, and
contended that the action has been a deterrent to the future use
of the Bomb. They feel that the arms race, the brinkmanship, and
the limited regional wars over the past fifty years have all been
tempered because of the fears from destruction at Hiroshima and
Regardless of their speculations World War Two ended on the
battleship USS Missouri September 2, 1945. The surrender document
was signed six years and one day after the invasion of Poland.
General MacArthur, who ran the ceremonies, closed with these
words, "Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world,
and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are
The veterans returned to a nation with full employment, money
in the bank, and savings bonds in their lock boxes. They were
welcomed home with parades, cheers, and a promise called the
"G.I. Bill of Rights." A college education and a loan
for a home or a business seemed to offer a bright future and a
Be that as it may, civilian life did not bring the best years
of their lives. Industry could not produce enough homes, or cars,
or appliances. The demands on the economy only resulted in
inflation. The government controls still remained after the war.
In the meantime the brides from the war produced a baby boom of
30 million kids. But, the pursuit of prosperity and the flight to
the suburbs could not satisfy the demands of the American dream.
No one anticipated a future with the unprecedented affluence
that blessed the American Republic. Few wanted the continual
threat to peace that the Cold War brought to everyone's attention.
While some hoped for a spiritual renewal, many were pleased with
the latest awakening, even though it happened outside the church.
For the rest of the century American Christianity would strive to
bring unity to the body of Christ both outside and inside the
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