You are hereGreat Depression Christianity

Great Depression Christianity

  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/vaduva/planetpreterist.com/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/vaduva/planetpreterist.com/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/vaduva/planetpreterist.com/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 589.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/vaduva/planetpreterist.com/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 589.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/vaduva/planetpreterist.com/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 149.

By EWMI - Posted on 25 February 2009

by Albert Persohn
The depression had a devastating effect on the Churches as well as on the nation. In the optimistic flush of the ‘20’s many congregations had built new edifices far too large and expensive. When the depression hit, they found themselves unable to pay. Most carried their huge debts; a few rejected their obligation, thus bringing shame on the Christian Church. Colleges and publishing houses, missionary enterprises, and the social work of the Churches were all hard hit by the depression. Many an institution of the Church lost its endowment in the financial crash and had to close or had to drastically cut back its activities.The depression had a devastating effect on the Churches as well as on the nation. In the optimistic flush of the ‘20’s many congregations had built new edifices far too large and expensive. When the depression hit, they found themselves unable to pay. Most carried their huge debts; a few rejected their obligation, thus bringing shame on the Christian Church. Colleges and publishing houses, missionary enterprises, and the social work of the Churches were all hard hit by the depression. Many an institution of the Church lost its endowment in the financial crash and had to close or had to drastically cut back its activities.Below is an article found at: scassembly.blogspot.com. The author may be painting a picture of the coming church. He may also be addressing the end of the mega church.

Great Depression Christianity

Since there are many references in the air regarding the coming of a new Great Depression, I thought this posting (link is below) from Christianity Today (containing the analysis of the late University of Chicago theologian, Jerald Brauer) would be interesting, examining what happened to the American Church during the 1930s. The following is an excerpt and the bold type is my emphasis:

The depression had a devastating effect on the Churches as well as on the nation. In the optimistic flush of the ‘20’s many congregations had built new edifices far too large and expensive. When the depression hit, they found themselves unable to pay. Most carried their huge debts; a few rejected their obligation, thus bringing shame on the Christian Church. Colleges and publishing houses, missionary enterprises, and the social work of the Churches were all hard hit by the depression. Many an institution of the Church lost its endowment in the financial crash and had to close or had to drastically cut back its activities.

But the physical effects of the depression were only part of its devastation. It left deep spiritual and mental wounds. It destroyed the utter self-confidence of the ‘20’s, and it gave birth to a despair and lack of confidence. What an opportunity for the Churches to interpret the meaning of this event! Yet, the Churches profited little in terms of growth. There was no surge of a repentant people to the Churches. There was no appreciable increase in the numbers of churches. There was no great revival which swept the nation.

Perhaps that was good. The Churches did not lose members because of the catastrophe; neither did they make great gains. They did seem to grow in their depth of understanding the meaning of suffering and sacrifice in the Christian life. This was no time for an emotional outburst that would sweep millions into the Church. It was a time for sober reappraisal of the kind of message the Church had preached and of its relevance for modern life.

While the larger Protestant denominations were busy with their reappraisal and their ministering to the spiritual needs of the nation, there was one segment of Protestantism that profited greatly by the depression. This was the group of Churches usually called "sects." They stressed the radical, emotional conversion of the sinner and the new life lived in all holiness. They stressed the presence of the operation of God’s Holy Spirit and the rebirth through him; thus, they were called Pentecostals. Some of them spoke with strange, unintelligible utterances, most practiced faith healing, and all advocated a rigorous moral life. Among these were such groups as the Nazarenes, the Assemblies of God, and the Holiness or Pentecostal Churches.

Another type of Christianity that had wide appeal at this time of dire national distress was the adventists. It believed in the immediate return of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as William Miller had in the 1840’s. One of the most rapidly growing of such groups was that called Jehovah’s Witnesses. Founded by Charles Taze Russell at the beginning of the century, it professed to be no Church and had no ministers. The leadership was later in the hands of " Judge" Rutherford, who, like Russell, turned out thousands of pamphlets and tracts.

Witnesses were to be found on every street corner passing out their paper, The Watchtower. Nobody is certain how many members they have, for they will never release figures. However, their message of the immediate coming of God’s judgment met with great appeal in an age disillusioned with the disappointments of life. It gave many faith, courage, and hope. Their slogan, "Millions now living will never die," had great appeal. Even though life was very hard, it would soon be ended, the evil would be punished, and the saints would be blessed. They refused to fight in any wars or to salute any flags. Their only loyalty was to Christ, and for him alone they were prepared to fight. Because of this, they were always under suspicion in most communities. Nevertheless, they grew.

Though the Protestant Churches did not experience a large increase in membership, except for the extreme sectarian groups, they too went through a profound and invaluable experience as a result of the depression. For too long they had preached and taught a rather shallow message which was a watering down of the full insights of the gospel. No age perfectly comprehends God’s message of judgment and redemption, but some ages become so smug in their interpretation of that message that they fail to stand under it. They often pick that side of it which justifies their own wellbeing and earthly possessions.

Though liberal theology and the social gospel contained many valuable elements necessary for their age, they also played into the hands of the age by their emphasis. People of the ‘20’s were convinced that Christianity meant literally following the Golden Rule -- doing to others as one would wish to be treated; that it stood for the gradual building of the Kingdom on earth by men of good will if only men would exert enough good will; and that through friendliness and kindness that Kingdom was slowly being built in America.

Suddenly the Protestant Churches were confronted with the stark reality of the failure of their dreams. Under all the supposed goodness and friendliness of the prosperous ‘20’s were to be found greed and pride. Man suddenly was shown to be no higher on the moral scale, no less selfish than his medieval brethren. In place of a new stage in the Kingdom of God men had arrived at a shattered economy. The consequence was a new look at some old Protestant doctrines that had been largely ignored -- sin, faith, and justification were once more relevant.

References

Original Article: http://scassembly.blogspot.com/2008/10/great-depression-christianity.html

Link In First Paragraph: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2008/10/jesus_and_the_g.html

Islamaphobe's picture

I enjoyed reading this piece. However, while there are some interesting parallels between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the present world situation with respect to the impact of economic distress on faith, there are some very significant differences. In the late 1920s, with the impact of Darwinism and the Scopes trial, the growing influence of Marxist ideology, the rise of the Soviet Union, the vast disillusionment following World War I, and the spread of liberal theology, the Christian faith was very much on the defensive. IMO the opportunities for bringing people to a faith based on a sound understanding of the biblical message are much greater today when you consider the world as a whole. So while I am very pessimistic about the prospects for a quick economic recovery from the present debacle and am confident that the policy measures being laid out by the Obama administration will not prove successful, I expect to see a remarkable expansion of interest in Christianity during the next decade.

John S. Evans

EWMI's picture

Hi Folks,

Please note that I POSTED but did not write this. (wish i had!)

Recent comments

Poll

Should we allow Anonymous users to comment on Planet Preterist articles?
Yes absolutely
23%
No only registered users should comment
77%
What are you talking about?
0%
Total votes: 43