PART III: CHALLENGES TO PROTESTANT AMERICA, 1870-1920
In the five and a half decades following the Civil War, the nation was swept by changes that challenged American Protestantism.
THE CHALLENGE OF DIVERSITY: A new wave of immigration brought much greater numbers of Roman Catholics and Jews, augmenting the growth of those religious traditions that had occurred in the 1840s and 1850s. They had to cope with an often hostile environment, battling for their place in American society as they adapted their traditions to American values and practices. At the same time Native Americans and African Americans, whether or not they were Protestants, faced racial discrimination and exclusion from the promise of American life, a moral challenge to dominant Protestantism.
INTELLECTUAL CHALLENGE & CULTURAL FRAGMENTATION: All traditional religions, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, faced controversies over new ideas coming from scholars in science and the humanities, posing disturbing questions about religious authority and polarizing people of faith into modernist and fundamentalists camps. New religions also presented alternative faiths within the always completive religious marketplace.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CHALLENGES: The transformation of American society by the rapid develop of an industrial economy and the movement of people from the countryside to cities created a new series of problems for Protestant churches as well as Catholic and Jewish institutions and communities. Indeed, the social and intellectual challenges were often connected, with critics of long established religious traditions arguing that modern life required a more modern faith, that religious beliefs and practices had to adapt to modern life.
The "old time religion" of revivalist evangelical Protestantism that was the dominant form of American religion by the time of the Civil War found itself under siege by the 1920s.
BE SURE TO CHECK THE CAUCUS ITEM FOR PART III TO ASK QUESTIONS AND DISCUSS ISSUES RAISED BY THE SOURCES AND LECTURES