Protestantism in America: A Narrative History by Jerald C. Brauer
Jerald C. Brauer is Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor and Professor of History of Christianity, formerly Dean of the Divinity School, University of Chicago. He is also Editor of The Westminster Dictionary of Church History. Published by The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1965. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Chapter 12: War and Reconstruction
A tall, gaunt man stood before a convention of Republican delegates at Springfield, Illinois, in June, 1858. As Abraham Lincoln spoke, he uttered words of prophecy which few people understood. Everyone recognized the seriousness of the slavery crisis, and many talked of the disaster it would bring, but few seriously considered the possibility of outright war. The Republican Party was new, dedicated to the principle of keeping slavery out of all the new territories of the United States.
Ever since the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the nation had been agitated by the slavery controversy. Time after time solutions were sought. In 1850 a compromise on the new territory won from Mexico was worked out. But each time a territory presented itself for statehood both sides wanted to claim it. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Hill was passed allowing the sovereign citizens to vote on the matter. This set aside all previous compromises, and the two sides rushed settlers into the Kansas Territory in order to get a favorable vote.
So Lincoln stood before the Springfield convention and pointed to the necessity of understanding the past in order to comprehend the gravity of the present when he said: "If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. ĎA house divided against itself cannot stand.í I believe the government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South."
In 1860, Lincoln was nominated to carry the Presidential banner for the youngest of the American political parties, the Republican. He campaigned on the principle of no immediate interference with slavery in the states where it already existed and absolutely no extension of slavery into any territories. As he put it: "Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the national territories, and to overrun us here in these free states? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty fearlessly and effectively."
When the November election was over Lincoln had won, but he could not take office until March, 1861. Throughout the campaign, Southerners had boasted that they would not accept a "black Republican" as President, and four days after the election, South Carolina called for a convention to consider withdrawing from the Union. In December it took the fateful step, and by February of 1861 five states followed in secession from the Union.
All attempts to reach a peaceful settlement were smashed by the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April of 1861. The Civil War was on! The Confederate States of America rallied under the leadership of Jefferson Davis. Lincoln shrewdly played to hold the border states on the Union side. Of one thing he was absolutely convinced -- the Union must be preserved.
Not only had slavery split the Churches, it had split the entire nation. Yet there was a good deal more than slavery involved. There was the fight between state rights and the preservation of the Federal Union. There was the competition between the cotton-growing agricultural South and the rapidly growing industrial might of the North. There was the constant agitation over the status of new territories. Little wonder there was civil war!
All the Churches, North and South, sprang to the defense of their respective causes. Both prayed for the blessing of God for their side, and both were certain that divine favor would bring them victory. Chaplains were provided in large numbers to accompany the blue and the gray. Services were held on battlefield, in hospital and camp. Even while men fought they were reminded of Godís judgment and his mercy.
For some time the final outcome of the struggle was in grave doubt, but as the Union armies won victories in the west, particularly in Missouri and Louisiana, the Northern Churches were confronted with two problems. What was to happen to the Negro? What was to be done about the disloyal Southern pastors who held their pulpits or who fled and left no religious services?
The answer given to both of these questions during the war set the pattern that prevailed during the period of reconstruction. With regard to their attitude toward the Southern Christian, many Northern churchmen looked upon the whole South as a mission field to be won from the slaveholders. As the Union armies moved into Southern territory, the Union chaplains wrote home telling of the religious needs of the South. A number of Methodists and others responded to these letters by saying that it was the duty of missionary boards to handle the problem.
In 1862 the Methodist Bishop Ames got permission from Secretary of War Stanton to take over and use the churches of the Methodist Episcopal Church South for Christian services. The American Baptist Home Missions Society and the Presbyterians received similar privileges. Large numbers of Northern missionaries were sent south to occupy Southern pulpits. The Southern churchmen rightly resented the highhanded attempt to seize their churches and people under the protection of the Union armies.
Lincoln had better sense than Stanton or the Church leaders. He clearly saw that the Government had no right to interfere with church life by giving Southern churches to the Northern "missionaries." He also saw that this would lead only to bad results for the nation and the Churches. Many churchmen could not see it this way, and so the Churches became the forerunners of the "carpetbaggers" that descended on the postwar South.
Again with regard to the slaves Lincoln showed better sense and truer Christian insight than many of the ministers of his day. As soon as the Union forces proved victorious anywhere the Churches demanded the immediate emancipation of all slaves. In 1862, General Fremont went directly against Lincolnís will and declared all slaves in Missouri free. Lincoln overrode his order because he saw the harm it would do to the Union cause in the border regions.
So clergymen began to attack Lincoln and to uphold Fremont. Many wrote to Lincoln or visited him with advice as to when to free the Negroes. Almost every minister who came thought he knew the will of God for the situation. Only Lincoln was sufficiently humble to realize that he didnít fully know or understand Godís will.
He replied to a committee representing various Protestant denominations asking for immediate emancipation in 1862 by saying: "I am approached with the most opposite opinion and advice, and that by religious men who are equally certain that they represent the divine will. I am sure that either the one or the other class is mistaken in that belief, and perhaps in some respects both. I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal his will to others on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me; for I desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is, I will do it."
Thus Lincoln, a Christian who did not feel fully at home in any of the Churches of his day, had a fuller grasp of the will of God than the churchmen who were so positive that they knew Godís will. Lincoln was willing to say that it was possible that he did not fully know Godís will, that he always had to weigh carefully each situation to discern Godís hand in history; thus, he was more apt to find it than the clergyman who bluntly stated that he was positive at all times what the will of God really was.
In a short meditation Lincoln revealed a deep insight into the Christian notion of the will of God, an understanding that enabled him to act with a breadth of wisdom in political matters unparalleled in American history. He said: "The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that Godís purpose is something different from the purpose of either party; and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect his purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true; that, God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power on the minds of the now contestants, he could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun, he could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds."
Here was a man who understood that God works in mysterious ways to bring his will to pass. There was no attempt to hide the stark tragedy of life, no tendency to stand up and shout, "I know the will of God." There was only a humble, sincere effort of faith to discern Godís presence in every act of history and so to open himself fully to all the possible means God might be using to work out his purpose. This did not paralyze Lincoln from acting; it enabled him to act with wisdom and discernment not possible to a fanatic or a bigot.
So he watched as the war slowly dragged on. At the proper time he pronounced the emancipation of the slaves, and the Union was not weakened by it. He attempted to work out a peaceful settlement with the South, but he recognized that the time had not yet come -- it did not yet seem to be Godís time.
It was in his second inaugural address, in 1865, that Lincoln clearly laid out the policy he hoped to follow when peace came to the nation. With his profound insight into the ways of Providence in history, he could not take a vengeful attitude toward the South. Lincoln knew that both sides read the same Bible, that both appealed to the same God, that both were under Godís judgment, and that "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
Thus he appealed to the people of the victorious North to set aside their hatred and triumph in order to face the herculean task of rebuilding the nation. "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nationís wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
In that same year the most bloody war in the nationís history ended and the life of its great leader, Abraham Lincoln, was taken by an assassinís bullet. If only more of the Northern Churches would have breathed the same spirit of charity and mercy and would have sought to bind up the nationís wounds! Rather, many of them pronounced blessings on those statesmen who wished the vengeance of the victors on the vanquished. The war was over but the peace was not won. Slavery had been stamped out, but the slave was not yet really free.
During the war far-reaching changes were taking place in the nation, changes that were vitally to affect the task of the Churches. The North was composed of a combination of agricultural states in the west and industrial states in the east, and in both radical shifts occurred. The threat to the Union and the necessity of financing a huge war tended to center more attention and power in the hands of the Federal Government. This was absolutely necessary that the Union might be preserved.
No sooner had the war ended than a swift stream of immigration again poured into the nation. Between 1860 and 1900, 14,000,000 people came to America. They fled from terrible living conditions, from persecution, from military service, and they sought freedom and plenty. The northern European people flocked to the midwest to the rural areas and farms. The Irish and later southern European peoples stayed in the big cities. How would the Churches reach these people?
After the war America was a nation of terrible contrasts. The rich grew richer, and the poor grew poorer. The South was prostrate, struggling to recover and attempting to relate itself to the recently freed Negro. The west was booming with excitement and expansion. Great ribbons of steel stretched across the nation tying one section to the other. Financiers fought pitched battles for possession of the railroads. The cities were teeming with life and activity. Sprawling factories belched forth smoke and soot as they ground out a never-ending stream of products and machines.
It was a raw, raucous age which was low on morals and high on enthusiasm. Corruption and scandals were widespread. In 1872 a terrible scandal rocked the Grant Administration. Some Congressmen had gone into partnership with some financiers to milk the profit out of the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad Shares and profits were distributed among Republican Congressmen to assure co-operation. Later one of Grantís cabinet members was involved in a corrupt deal. In New York City the infamous Tweed Ring had fleeced the city of twenty million dollars through control of city politics. In 1869, Jay Gould and his financial associates almost got a corner on the gold in the nation and forced the closing of the banks. So the nation came through the war and entered the period of reconstruction.
During the war itself the Churches faced a problem that accompanied them until the present day -- what were they to do with the Negroes who had been so unjustly treated for almost two centuries? Before Lincolnís emancipation act many generals had simply turned Negroes over to the Army chaplain to take care of them. Some were placed on land to till; others were employed as cooks or orderlies. The problem became so acute that a department of Negro affairs was created in the Army.
Soon the various missionary agencies of the Church heard of the Negroesí plight, and they responded by forming private agencies to care for the freedmen. In March of 1865, Lincoln saw to the establishment of the Freedmenís Bureau to assist the Negroes in making the transition from the slave to the free state. It was under the direction of General Oliver S. Howard, a Presbyterian. Churchmen were instrumental in getting it started and in urging its support on the Federal Government.
One of the most helpful things for the Negro people was the establishment of large numbers of schools and colleges in their behalf. Almost all the Protestant Churches, both North and South, participated in this, but the Congregationalists did the lionís share of the work. They were the primary group in the American Missionary Society, which started such famous Negro schools as Hampton Institute, Fisk University, Tougaloo, and Atlanta University in Georgia. Also Howard University, in Washington, D.C., was the result of Congregationalist inspiration.
The Negro people made remarkable progress from a condition of slavery to responsibility, and this against great odds. Many white folks still insisted that Negroes were inferior people doomed to second-class citizenship. The South tried to keep them under control by denying them the vote. Constitutional amendments prevented this, so they sought ways to escape the requirements of law. Northern politicians and businessmen went South and sought to use the Negro to their own advantage. But slowly and steadily the Negro people moved forward.
One of the greatest boons to them was the growth of Christianity among Negroes. Within the Churches they found freedom and responsibility, though they found this most fully within their own Churches. A huge Negro Baptist Church was developed as well as a fairly large Negro Methodist Church.
The regular denominations began to lose large numbers to the Negro Churches because within them the Negro found greater freedom. Often those most anxious to free the Negro from slavery were more reluctant to accept them as fully free members within the Church. They were willing to give money for them, willing to pray for them, but not willing to sit next to them in church. This shows the depth of the social evil produced by the slave system -- it could not be eradicated by war, sermon, or prayer. But the Churches did not surrender entirely; they kept working at the problem.
Another proof of the energy of the Church immediately after the war was to be seen in its work among the Indians. By 1870 there were only 278,000 Indians left in the entire nation, yet they presented a problem for both nation and Churches. The curse of the white man applied here as with the Negro problem -- he felt his color so superior and his civilization so much better that he could not share it in fellowship. The land-hungry white men constantly encroached on Indian territory and pushed the Indians from place to place.
Originally the Federal Government paid for missionary societies to educate the Indian children, but this questionable practice was abandoned during the 1880ís. Nevertheless, the Churches did not give up their work among the Indians. It was difficult to Christianize a pagan people, unsettled, always on the move, exploited by the white man, open to his vices and diseases.
But the Churches carried on bravely. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions undertook Indian missions as did most of the major Protestant denominations. It was exceedingly slow and painful work. How could the Indian trust the white man, who brought disease and destruction? Yet he did, and before the First World War one third to one half of the Indians belonged to Christian groups.
As more and more people swept westward, pushing the Indians before them, the Church was one of the few forces trying to prevent their exploitation. This indicated a real vitality in the life of the Churches. The Quakers had the responsibility, for a time, of nominating Federal Indian agents and other supervisors. But in spite of their fine work, the Churches never persuaded the nation to accept Indians as full brothers in Christ with all the rights of free people in a free land.
While Indian and Negro work was carried on as an aspect of the Churchís home mission task, the regular home mission work did not slacken a whit. The Northern Churches, especially Baptist and Methodist, invaded the South as a mission field. All Churches expanded their home missions throughout the nation. But nationwide work was sporadic until the railroad had spanned the nation; then the Churches spread everywhere.
New Protestant agencies were developed to cover the west with Churches. Railroads often gave free land for churches in order to encourage the building up of the prosperous communities. Again the circuit system of the Methodists and their use of lay leaders stood them in good stead. Their Church Extension Society was one of the most active agencies in the west. The Lutherans were also active in forming midwestern rural congregations among the more recent German immigrants.
Meanwhile the reform activity of the Church was not dead The golden age of reform, the 1830ís and 1840ís, was long past, but there was still much benevolent activity. In face of the urban needs too great for any single denomination, thirty-some Protestant mission societies sprang up after the war to work exclusively in the cities.
The city was a new challenge for the predominantly rural Protestant Churches. But they drew on their zeal and experience from the earlier part of the century to develop the activities of their tract societies into something of a wider interest. This marked the beginning of the care for the bodily needs of the down-trodden. It was but a short step from passing tracts to destitutes to passing clothing and food. Buildings for the work were provided by the vacant churches left by wealthier people who were moving out of the disintegrating sections of the city.
Something of that type had to come if the Churches were to work effectively in the big cities. Before the Christian message could reach the dispossessed and destitute, they had to be fed and clothed, they had to be shown that somebody cared for them. That is what the newly organized city mission groups and brotherhood organizations provided They served both the body and the soul of the needy.
In the autumn of 1865, a group of almost 120 outstanding Protestant ministers and laymen met in Cleveland, Ohio, to consider joint efforts for city mission work. They established a permanent committee for action called the American Christian Commission and appointed two secretaries to make a survey of the situation. They found deplorable conditions in the cities. Church attendance was falling; corruption, vice, and greed were rampant; housing conditions were terrible; and pauperism and crime were on the increase. The cities were real mission fields.
One of the consequences of the new emphasis on city work and works of mercy was the fuller use of womenís talents. Many of that day thought it highly improper for women to engage in religious work, but the outstanding service of nurses during the war helped to change things. An additional factor in Protestantism was the introduction of deaconesses patterned after the German Lutheran program. It was only a matter of time until women took their place in doing full-time Christian work.
Another institution that greatly aided in doing city mission work was the Y.M.C.A. and later the Y.W.C.A. The first American Association was founded in Boston in 1851, but the movements mushroomed during the war, and the Yís became one of the leading social institutions after the war. They originated with the purpose of providing young people in the cities with Christian fellowship and of keeping them away from evil temptation. Part of their program was evangelism and part was educational. They led in the establishment of Sunday schools, missions, and stations of mercy. Without their outstanding work, the Protestant ministry to the cities would have been greatly impoverished.
While the Churches were busy creating new agencies and institutions to handle the new problems of the city, they were not overlooking their regular activities in reform and publication. The religious press became one of the most important institutions in American public life. In 1850 there were 191 religious papers and in 1870 there were 407. A religious weekly such as the Independent became, under the editorship of Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most influential journals in America. In it, all the pressing moral issues of the nation were discussed. Also, the various publication houses of the denominations grew in this period.
Home missions, reform, city missions, and religious publications all pointed to the vitality pulsating through the Churches. But if one really wishes to note the life of the Churches, he has to see the fruits of the foreign mission program. Two things were important about it. First, through the creation of womenís missionary societies the women were able to find one more area through which they could work. Secondly, this period marks the beginning of the modern mission movement, when America began to supply a large proportion of the worldís missionaries and money for the spread of the gospel. Christianity was very lively and strong in America.
However, not all was peace, plenty, and growth in American Protestantism at this time. It was also a period of disagreement and theological argument. One of the first groups to reveal the theological tension was the Lutheran. As America passed beyond the Civil War, large numbers of German and Scandinavian peoples came over. The Lutherans in America did a magnificent job of collecting them into their native churches, but they brought not only opportunity for growth but also dissension.
In face of the trend away from the German language and the theological confessions of the historic Lutheran Church, a large group of men protested. They did not want to dissolve Lutheranism into a general revivalism interested only in moral action They insisted that how one believed was vitally important and affected what one did. As a consequence of this argument, one group of Lutherans advocated a strict adherence to the historic Lutheran confessions of faith and the other group advocated the modification and playing down of these confessions. The result was a split in the Lutheran General Synod in 1867. The newer Lutheran groups, such as the Missouri Synod, still speaking European languages, sided largely with the more conservative General Council, but they would not join it. Thus the basis for Lutheran disunity in the twentieth century was laid.
While theological battles were being waged in Lutheranism, the general unrest over theology was evident in the reception of the two greatest mid-nineteenth century American preachers and theologians. Henry Ward Beecher and Horace Bushnell were both greatly admired and respected, yet both were under attack for preaching strange doctrines.
In 1831 at a revival in Yale College, a young tutor, Horace Bushnell, was converted. Yet this conversion was not simply the result of the revival. For quite some time the brilliant young student had intellectual doubts about the Christian faith. How could one believe doctrines that reason said were impossible? Teachers at Yale gave him little comfort.
While reading the English writer and theologian Samuel T. Coleridge, one of the most influential Christians in England and America, Bushnell was persuaded that religious truth was not grasped primarily by the mind but by the response of the whole person centering in the heart and moral nature. Religious truth cannot be proved like a mathematical demonstration; it has to be deeply felt in the heart. When Bushnell had trouble with the doctrine of the Trinity he said, "My heart says the Bible has a Trinity for me, and I mean to hold by my heart."
He did not feel that manís reason was to be ignored. On the contrary, he had the highest respect for intellectual training and the reasonable formulation of Christian truth. He argued that religion was open to reason with a plus. The plus was the sum total of manís deepest aspirations and apprehensions.
In 1833 he took a parish in Hartford, Connecticut. There he early distinguished himself as a mediator between opposing points of view. He upheld reason but only in conjunction with the emotions. He was suspicious of revivals, but admired the conviction they inspired. He was against slavery, but feared the excess of abolitionism.
In 1846 there appeared his first work to get him in serious difficulty with his Congregational brethren. Christian Nurture was an attack on the evils of the prevalent revivalism. The trouble with revivalism, he argued, was that it encouraged Christians to act as if there were no such things as Christian homes and churches, or growth in the Christian life. Though a child was raised in supposedly Christian surroundings, the assumption was made that he remained completely a "child of wrath" until under the pressures and promptings of revivals he suddenly found himself converted to be a Christian.
Against revivalismís taking "every man as if he had existed alone," Bushnell argued that "the child is to grow up a Christian, and never know himself as being otherwise." No longer should the Churches urge that "the child is to grow up in sin, to be converted after he comes to a mature age; but that he is to open on the world as one that is spiritually renewed, not remembering the time when he went through a technical experience, but seeming rather to have loved what is good from his earliest years."
Though Bushnell did not ignore the fact that all men are naturally self-seeking or sinful and though he felt revivalism had a place, especially among those never exposed to Christian training, he was bitterly attacked by his Christian brethren. It was not until the twentieth century that the movement of religious education championed his ideals over against revivalism. Meanwhile the Lutheran, Anglican, and some Reformed groups carried on church life under the practice of Christian nurture rather than revivalism
But his attack on revivalism was not his greatest or most important contribution to American religious life. Bushnell became one of the leading controversial figures in nineteenth century American Protestantism because of his upholding a new method for theology. Both revivalism and strict nonrevivalistic orthodoxy upheld their beliefs by a rigid adherence to the words of the Bible. What the Bible said was literally true!
The trouble was that the Bible said many things in many different ways. Which was right? Each group insisted that its interpretation alone was correct and that all others were wrong. The Roman Catholic Church finally solved the problem by saying that what the pope said was true was that which was right, for he could never make an error in pronouncements on faith and morals.
Over against all attempts to prove truth by a literal quotation from Scripture or by an appeal to an infallible leader, Bushnell argued that the difficulty arises from language itself. Words never convey the exact spiritual truth they are meant to convey. Both through actual use and through an inability to carry the full meaning of a truth, words always convey a meaning that is partly false and partly true.
Therefore, Bushnell argued that "all formulas of doctrine should be held in a certain spirit of accommodation. They cannot be pressed to the letter, for . . . the letter is never true. They can be regarded only . . . as badges of consent and good understanding."
The response was a violent attack on Bushnell and though his health was broken he applied his theories to the doctrine of the Trinity and to the atonement on the cross. His sermons and writings during the 1860ís set the pattern for large segments of educated Christians. Here was an attempt to hold honestly to the beliefs of the Christian Church and yet to be open to modern advances in science and in the rest of the world.
Another great figure of postwar American Protestantism was Henry Ward Beecher, the son of Lyman Beecher. Not primarily a theologian, Henry Ward Beecher was first and foremost a preacher and writer. His Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn was built to suit his gifts. It was a plain auditorium with perfect acoustics, and it provided a speaking ramp that jutted out into the congregation. No pulpit for Beecher! He wanted to stand face to face with his 2,500 listeners so he could get his full message across.
Early in his ministry in Indiana, Beecher learned that in order to get results from the pulpit the preacher had to speak the language of the people in a clear, simple, and direct way. The purpose of the sermon was to elevate manís moral life. This Beecher did as no other preacher of his generation. Though he passed for an orthodox preacher, he was interested not so much in correct doctrine as in correct living. So he was a child of the revival.
Yet Beecher had one side that revivalism lacked. Not only was he interested in all the reform movements, he was one of the greatest antislavery preachers. He was also interested in the intellectual life of his day. He read widely in the literature and politics of his day, and all was grist for his mill -- all was to be used to show forth the love of God to man and the regenerative presence of the everliving Christ. He was the first outstanding American minister to be receptive to the idea of evolution.
Beecherís name was common in the war-era household. His magazine and newspaper articles were read throughout the nation. Large secular papers in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia reprinted in full many of his sermons each Monday. Under attack from his Congregational brethren for supporting strange views, he was without definite connections with that Church the last five years of his life.
Perhaps the greatest post-Civil-War preacher was the towering Anglican Phillips Brooks. This was an age of truly great Protestant preachers in America, but none overshadowed Brooks, and his influence was keenly felt in college and university circles as well as in other denominations. Against the opposition of the High-Church party, the Episcopal Church selected him as bishop of Massachusetts. Beecher and Brooks were household names in nineteenth century America, and their fame was eloquent testimony to the influence of Protestantism in contemporary American life.
So American Protestantism emerged from the Civil War. Split between North and South but still vigorous and alive, it turned its attention to the new problems arising from the cities, from industrialism, and from changing intellectual life. Christianity constantly sought more light yet in Godís Word, and great preachers such as Bushnell, Beecher, and Brooks felt that they had found new light that enabled them to remain faithful to the Christian message and at the same time honestly to face up to the new findings of science. They performed a great task for their age, but in their day they were in the minority. The real strength of the Church was still in revivalism, and this was not something new cast up to face the postwar challenge. It had been the very heartbeat of a large proportion of American Protestantism since 1800.