The Bible Class Teacher: Piety And Politics In The Age Of Fundamentalism
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This dissertation is a microhistory of a Bible class teacher from Chicago's West Side named Frank L. Wood. Though a Newspaper editor who never rose above the title of Sunday school teacher, Wood's self-identification as a fundamentalist in 1927 becomes the window through which I reinterpret the rise of Protestant fundamentalism in America. In contrast to the theological conflicts, denominational schisms, and Scopes Monkey Trial historians have traditionally mined, I situate fundamentalism's origins in the mass migration of rural, native born, lay evangelical women and men from the country to the city throughout the turn of the twentieth century. Drawing on an array of often igrnored primary sources such as church records, regional Sunday school association minutes, and the ephemera of lay evangelistic societies, I argue that Bible classes were a crucible in which America's evangelical subculture was forged. In their devotional and political lives, lay evangelicals like Wood drew upon the literalism fundamentalist theologians applied to scripture to sacralize the preindustrial, small-town social values, racial hierarchies, and gender roles they brought to the city, and utilized their Bible classes as the organizational network from which to launch a myriad of prohibition, nativist, and anti-evolution political campaigns. But in contrast to those historians who equate fundamentalism's emergence with the rise of the Religious Right, I uncover a diversity of fundamentalist electoral activity among the laity. Wood himself ran for office as a Socialist, while other Bible class activists similarly supported a number of Progressive reforms typically associated with more theologically "liberal" Social Gospel Protestants. The sacred timelessness lay fundamentalists attributed to their rural origins, I argue, not only informed their efforts to recreate its homogeneity through legislation like Prohibition, but also informed their support for policies intended to restore a preindustrtial moral economy. The conservative tipping point, I argue, lay in the evangelical encounter with the city's increasing diversity. Wood returned to the Republican Party in the 1930s, for example, not by fundamentalist critiques of the New Deal, but through his reactions to Prohibition's end, the Great Migration of black southerners to Chicago, and the ethnic control of City Hall.
Evangelicalism; Protestant Fundamentalism; Politics
Chang, Derek S.
Salvatore, Nick; Devault, Ileen A
Ph. D., History
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis