Quote of the Day

The Resolutions of the National Association of Evangelicals’ Commission on Evangelical Action, organized early in the NAE’s history, give some measure of what “social action” meant to mainstream evangelical leaders in the early 1960s.  At the commission’s September 1960 meeting, members discussed the top challenges facing American evangelicals:  communism, “the Roman Catholic situation,” IRS pressure on ministers who preached politics from the pulpit, the provision of alcohol to passengers by airlines, and Hollywood’s recent “attacks on evangelical Christianity in such films as “Elmer Gantry” and “Inherit the Wind”

–Molly Worthen, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism, p. 178

I should add that my students got some good laughs yesterday when they read the line about alcohol and airlines.

6 thoughts on “Quote of the Day

  1. Unfortunately, bottom-feeding stuff* like


    contributes to why today's “sophisticated” audiences almost automatically sneer at the sensibilities of the Christian past, even the not so distant past.

    But were those who didn't want to see airlines turn into taverns-in-the-sky any more ridiculous than those perpetrating the current “rape culture” meme?


    *”…the kooks: A man who repackaged Bibles with porn-friendly covers in hopes of reaching new readers; a former Power Ranger who proudly hawks “the only Christian mixed-martial-arts clothes line”; the inevitable Pentecostal snake-handler. His tone isn't openly mocking, but then it doesn't need to be.”


  2. “The catholic situation.” Wow.
    Related to this: I recently watched American Jesus on Netflix. It details some of the major personalities and movements in evangelicalism that I was completely unaware of around the time I was growing up. I'm beginning to understand why my grandparents and to some extent my parents did not look or speak favorably upon Christianity outside of our St. Stanislaw.


  3. Appy-ologies, JF. I started to double-check my assertion on the relationship of the Brethren to Messiah, but was rudely interrupted by work here at my office. I hate when that happens.

    As for understanding the sensibilities of the past, although I'm not evangelical or Anabaptist, I don't find it impossible to penetrate their thinking, and I'm glad you took a shot at it. We take a lot for granted here in the 21st C, libertinism being foremost.

    [Except for cigarettes, of course.]

    I hope that a college such as Messiah and authors such as Ms. Worthen can make the sensibilities of the Christian past more understandable to today's “sophisticated” evangelicals–if only to be able to explain it to a hostile modern culture. Not all “progress” has been an unalloyed good.


  4. Tom: A couple things:

    1. The Brethren in Christ Church founded Messiah College but it does not “run” the college. In fact, it plays no role in the day to day functions of the college.

    2. I think your point about laughing at the past is a good one. Perhaps my students should be more respectful of the evangelical activists of the 1960s and try to understand WHY they thought banning alcohol on airplanes was a legitimate form of social concern. Fair enough.

    Although the laughter was more out of shock or strangeness than anything else. And I did push them to understand why evangelicals might invest so much time on this issue in the 1960s. So we did make an effort to understand such attempts at moral reform.


  5. In fact, Prof. Fea, perhaps this is a missed opportunity for a teachable moment.

    It seems to me that the evangelical concern was not so much the consumption of alcohol on airplanes, but the social normalization of its open use.

    Think tobacco, which is now banned in many public places such as parks for the “example” it gives to children, not for any possible harm from second-hand smoke.

    Think marijuana, that even when not aggressively prosecuted, was expected to be kept behind closed doors. Now we have “smoke-ins” and the legalization of pot has opened the door to its social normalization.

    The other side of your new truism is that the present is a foreign country, and it's we who do things differently here.

    Ibid. above, you may find this interesting. The Church of the Brethren runs your Messiah College, and

    Action of 1975 Annual Conference: The report was presented by A. Stauffer Curry with others on the committee present. The report was adopted, which granted the committee additional time for their study. In addition the scope of the committee was enlarged to include a study of and recommendations for actions which congregations can lake to cancel advertisements of alcoholic beverages, or at least minimize the use of mass media to promote the use and sale of alcoholic beverages. In 1972, a query was adopted which assigned to the General Board the task of studying ways of “bringing to an end” the use of advertisements of alcoholic beverages, drugs and tobacco (Minutes 1972. p. 97-98).

    Banning advertising is of the same fabric as not wanting one's children to watch adults drinking on a public airplane.

    That the sentiments of a mere 40 years ago seem so alien to your students may be the real comedy–or tragedy–here. Why study history? To laugh at it?


  6. I suppose it's funny, but not much different than today's secular attitudes toward tobacco.

    “One example of this is the persistent program
    of American distillers to convince the American
    public that the drinking of alcoholic beverages
    should be just as natural in the home as the
    drinking of water, milk or coffee. Many people
    today who a few years ago would have never
    thought of defiling their homes with beer or
    liquor, now seem to find it to be the perfectly
    natural thing to do. Often this has come about
    because of what they call “social pressure.” Their
    friends and business associates drink, so they
    must do it, too — so they say. The gravitational
    pull of orbiters who have no regard for the pur-
    ity of the home and of human life, seeks thus to
    pull all other orbiters into greater orbits of
    worldly pleasures, often with the results men-
    tioned above.”



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