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The Quiet Crusade: Moody Bible Institute's Outreach to Public Schools and the Mainstrearning of Appalachia, 1921–66

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2009

Adam Laats
Affiliation:
a doctorial condidate in History atthe University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Extract

In 1921, William Norton of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago pushed, pulled, and dragged his Model T along the back roads of the southern Appalachians. He visited churches, schools, and private homes, talking with anyone and everyone he could find. His question was always the same: “Do you have enough Bibles?” The answers he received shocked him. As far as Norton could tell, many of the “mountaineers” were nominally Christian, but they had often never seen a Bible, much less read one of their own. As the head of the Moody Bible Institute's Bible Institute Colportage Association, he immediately put together a plan. “To reach these people quickly,” he wrote in his report, “I am convinced that it can be done most efficiently … through the public schools.… A great majority of the teachers are ready to cooperate.”

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © American Society of Church History 2006

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References

1. Quoted in Taylor, Kenneth, “Gold Behind the Ranges,” Christian Life (06 1948): 26Google Scholar, clipping in the Moody Literature Mission (hereafter MLM) File, Moody Bible Institute (hereafter MBI) Archive.

2. “Taylor-Gunther Southern Trip,” February 12–24, 1951, typewritten report, MLM File, MBI Archive.

3. Gunther, Peter F. and Abuhl, Bert, “MLM Southland Trip,” March, 1966Google Scholar, typewritten memo, MLM File, MBI Archive.

4. Gunther, Peter, “Evangelism in Depth for Appalachia,” Moody Literature Mission News (hereafter MLM News), no. 6, 1964Google Scholar, MLM File, MBI Archive.

5. Carpenter, Joel A., Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), xi.Google Scholar

6. Trollinger, William Vance, God's Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990)Google Scholar; Brereton, Virginia Lieson, Training God's Army: Protestant Fundamentalist Bible Schools, 1880–1940 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990)Google Scholar; Marsden, George M., Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987).Google Scholar

7. Marsden, George M., Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism: 1870–1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 6.Google Scholar

8. Quote is from Carpenter, Revive Us Again, 3.

9. Findlay, James F. Jr., Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 327Google Scholar; Getz, Gene A., MBI: The Story of Moody Bible Institute (Chicago: Moody, 1969), 37.Google Scholar

10. Runyan, William M., ed., Dr. Gray at Moody Bible Institute (New York: Oxford University Press, 1935), 131.Google Scholar

11. Brereton, Training God's Army, x. Even the historian Stewart Cole, usually a hostile critic of conservative evangelism, singled out the MBI as the leader of the Bible institute movement. Furthermore, he recognized that Bible institutes were the key to the promotion of conservative evangelical Protestantism: Cole, Stewart, The History of Fundamentalism (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1971), 249Google Scholar. The sympathetic historian Ernest Sandeen argued that the MBI was “certainly the most influential such school”: Sandeen, Ernest R., The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800–1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 242.Google Scholar

12. Getz, , MBI, 262, 276, 281, 314Google Scholar. For the Moody Institute of Science, see Gilbert, James, Redeeming Culture: American Religion in an Age of Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. As Gilbert argues, these technological achievements demonstrate the tension between the MBI's embrace of modern technology and its attack on theological modernism.

13. Getz, , MBI, 175.Google Scholar

14. Noah Porter quoted in Brown, Candy Gunther, The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789–1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 115Google Scholar. Comstock quoted in Denning, Michael, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America (New York: Verso, 1987), 51Google Scholar. For more on early pulp fiction, see Blackbeard, Bill, “Pulps and Dime Novels,” in Handbook of American Popular Literature, ed. Inge, M. Thomas (New York: Greenwood, 1988), 217–50.Google Scholar

15. Nord, David Paul, Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 8385CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gutjahr, Paul C., An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777–1880 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999), 3233Google Scholar; Nord, , The Evangelical Origins of Mass Media in America, 1815–1835 (Columbia, S.C.: Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, 1984), 18Google Scholar; and Wosh, Peter J., Spreading the Word: The Bible Business in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994).Google Scholar

16. Arline Harris, “Free Print for the Hungry,” typewritten document, 1949, BICA file, MBI Archive. See also Harris's “Moody's Silent Missionaries,” typewritten document, n.d., BICA file, MBI Archive. Harris worked for the publicity department of the MBI, so her story is obviously told from a sympathetic viewpoint. However, her source for this information was a series of interviews with the old guard of the MBI, some of who had worked directly with Moody. Many of them told Harris their memories of the foundation of the BICA. Some remnants of their correspondence are in the BICA file at the MBI Archive. The foundation story also appears repeatedly in BICA literature. See, for example, the version told in “These Forty-Two Years: Still Reaching the Multitudes,” BICA annual report, 1937, BICA file, MBI Archive.

17. “29th Annual Report of the D. L. Moody Missionary Book Funds,” 1924, BICA file, MBI Archive. These targeted groups varied with time, but some long-lasting categories included the “Hospital” fund, the “Prison” fund, the “Pioneer” fund, which delivered books to isolated westerners, the “Negro” fund, the “Lumbermen” fund, the “Spanish” fund, the “Alaskan” fund, and so on. With the advent of New Deal programs, the “CCC” fund was soon established, and when World War II broke out, the “Army and Navy” fund was established. Of all these funds, the “Mountain” fund, which targeted southern Appalachian and Ozark schoolchildren, was consistently one of the largest. The “Prison” and “Hospital” funds were the other two funds that consistently attracted the highest donations.

18. Findlay, , Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist, 1837–1899, 398.Google Scholar

19. Harris, “Free Print for the Hungry,” 1949, and “Moody's Silent Missionaries,” n.d., typewritten documents in the BICA file, MBI Archive. BICA also occasionally published a catalog, “Best Books for Bible Believers.” These catalogs contain full listings of Colportage Library books, and several are extant in the BICA file, MBI Archive. For more about evangelical libraries, see Brown, , The Word in the World, 8688.Google Scholar

20. McCauley, Deborah Vansau, Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 377 ffGoogle Scholar. (Pierson's story), 404 (Myers). McCauley suggests that the residents of the southern Appalachians had a much stronger tradition of religion than most missionaries gave them credit for. Historian Henry D. Shapiro argues that in roughly 1870–90, the home mission movement “discovered” the idea that the southern mountains constituted a distinct target region for missionary work, and that this work took off in the 1880s. See his Appalachia on Our Mind: The Southern Mountains and Mountaineers in the American Consciousness, 1870–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978).Google Scholar

21. Rutledge, Arthur B., Mission to America: A Century and a Quarter of Southern Baptist Home Missions (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman, 1969), 45, 111.Google Scholar

22. Quoted in McCauley, , Appalachian Mountain Religion, 434.Google Scholar

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24. McMillan, Homer, “Unfinished Tasks” of the Southern Presbyterian Church (Richmond, Va.: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1922), 17.Google Scholar

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26. This plan is described in “Free Print for the Hungry” by Arline Harris, ot the Publicity Department of the MBI, typewritten report, MLM File, MBI Archive, 1949, 9. It is also described as “The Plan of Working,” in “Where Hungry Souls Await the Bread of Life,” Colportage department fundraising brochure, MLM File, MBI Archive. The scheme is also described by Gene Getz, in MBI, 247.

27. My calculations are based on several sources. The most complete source was the monthly reports of Book Fund performance, published between 1921 and 1938 in the pages of the Moody Bible Institute Monthly. Even these reports, however, were incomplete, since the Book Fund reports were occasionally omitted from crowded issues of the magazine. Another useful source was the file of annual reports of the Book Funds. These contained yearly totals for cash donations and literature deliveries. The archival file of these reports, however, is incomplete.

One further problem with the computation of total numbers of books delivered to public schools is that there was no accurate record kept of school deliveries between 1921 and 1957. Although the vast majority of the “mountain” books went to public schools, not all of them did. The records contain occasional hints about the ratio between total book deliveries and those intended for schools, and I based my estimate on this ratio. For example, the August 1929 monthly report contained a note that 454 out of 479 deliveries were made to public school teachers.

In light of all these approximations and estimations, I always used the lowest possible number to calculate the totals of books received. By this reckoning, it seems very likely that public schools received at least 8, 396, 836 books between 1921 and 1966. This does not include the number of tracts delivered, but it does include all other categories of book.

28. Brown, , The Word in the World, 1.Google Scholar

29. Trollinger, William V., “Creating Fundamentalist Community: The Pilot and Its Readers, 1925–1945” (paper presented at the conference for Religion and the Culture of Print in America: Authors, Publishers, Readers and More since 1876,Madison, Wisconsin,September 10–11, 2004).Google Scholar

30. Horton, T. C., ed., The Gospel of John (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1922), 2Google Scholar; Weir, James H., “The Power of God unto Salvation,” Moody Bible Institute Monthly (05 1921): 423Google Scholar; Norton, William, “The Gospel in Print,” Moody Bible Institute Monthly (02 1921): 295.Google Scholar

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32. “The Bible Institute Colportage Association” (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1896)Google Scholar; “Preaching the Gospel in Print” (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1921).Google Scholar

33. Bible Institute Colportage Association's Annual Report, 1939, BICA File, MBI Archive. For a similar tension among earlier evangelicals, see Brown, , The Word in the World, 4878Google Scholar; see also Nord, , Faith in Reading, 145.Google Scholar

34. Nord, , The Evangelical Origins of Mass Media in America, 1815–1835, 22.Google Scholar

35. Brown, , The Word in the World, 55Google Scholar (“purity and presence”); MLM News, no. 2, 1968, MLM File, MBI Archive; “Share in the Spiritual Victory Too!,” 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive; “‘The Poor Have the Gospel Preached to Them’ —By Means of the Printed Page: Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the D. L. Moody Missionary Book Funds for the Fiscal Year Ended February 29, 1940,” MLM File, MBI Archive; “Arm Our Boys with the ‘Sword of the Spirit’ for their ‘Fight of Faith,’” 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive; Kenneth, Taylor, “Gold Behind the Ranges,” 27Google Scholar. For an analysis of the ways this conflation of conversion and marketing appeal functioned during the nineteenth-century formation of evangelical print culture, see Brown, , The Word in the World, 2733, 5178.Google Scholar

36. Brown, , The Word in the World, 3341, 141–53.Google Scholar

37. Horton, , ed., The Gospel of John, 69Google Scholar (five fundamental doctrines), 79 (“Royal Resolution”).

38. Wright, Anna Potter, Rosa's Quest or, The Way to the Beautiful Land (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1905)Google Scholar; Norton, William, “The Gospel in Print,” Moody Bible Institute Monthly (07 1921): 463.Google Scholar

39. Smith, Oswald J., The Man in the Well (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1934).Google Scholar

40. Unfortunately, the Book Funds kept no record of the titles of books distributed, except to single out the Gospels of John and the Pocket Treasuries. These other books were all lumped together into two categories: Evangel Booklets and the Colportage Library. The annual reports of the Missionary Book Funds indicate that Appalachian public schools received a mix of both tendentious fiction and hortatory nonfiction, but the ratio between the two was never made clear.

41. “Preaching the Gospel in Print,” BICA instructional pamphlet, 1921, BICA File, MBI Archive.

42. See, for example, “Preaching the Gospel in Print,” BICA instructional pamphlet, 1921, BICA File, MBI archive; “A Million Neglected Souls Given the Message of Life: The Annual Report for the D. L. Moody Missionary Book Funds from March 1, 1930, to February 28, 1931,” 1931, BICA File, MBI Archive; “These Forty-Two Years: Still Reaching the Multitudes,” BICA annual report, 1937, BICA File, MBI Archive.

43. “A Million Neglected Souls Given the Message of Life.”

44. “Where Hungry Souls Await the Bread of Life,” Colportage department fundraising brochure, n.d., MLM File, MBI Archive (emphasis in original). “‘Holding Forth The Word of Life …’ to THOUSANDS in Army Camps, Prisons, Hospitals, Mountain and Pioneer Districts … through the PRINTED PAGE,” Colportage department fundraising brochure, n.d., MLM File, MBI Archive.

45. For a good overview of the antimodernity campaigns of the 1920s, see Dumenil, Lynn, The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995)Google Scholar. For a look at the way this antimodernism formed a part of American intellectual culture, see Lears, T. J. Jackson, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880–1920 (New York: Pantheon, 1981)Google Scholar. For an in-depth look at the campaigns of the 1920s KKK in Indiana, see Moore, Leonard J., Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921–1928 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991).Google Scholar

46. Shapiro, , Appalachia on Our Mind, 134.Google Scholar

47. McMillan, , “Unfinished Tasks” of the Southern Presbyterian Church, 98Google Scholar; Hutchins is quoted in Shapiro, , Appalachia on Our Mind, 278, n. 14.Google Scholar

48. “‘Without God and Without Hope,’” BICA fundraising brochure, 193?, MLM File, MBI Archive.

49. “Arm Our Boys with the ‘Sword of the Spirit’ for their ‘Fight of Faith,’” Colportage department fundraising brochure, 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive.

50. “Unto All …,” Colportage department fundraising brochure, 1947, MLM File, MBI Archive.

51. “An Encouraging Report,” Colportage department fundraising brochure, 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive.

52. Taylor, , “Gold Behind the Ranges,” 2728.Google Scholar

53. MLM News, no. 1, 1968.

54. Lowell, Saunders, “D. L. Challenged, ‘It Can't Be Done,’” The Moody Student 16 (11 30, 1951): 1Google Scholar; MLM News, no. 1, 1965.Google Scholar

55. See, for example, “and many Believed: A Report from Colportage Department of Moody Bible Institute,” Colportage department fundraising brochure, 195?, MLM File, MBI Archive; MLM News, February 1960Google Scholar; MLM News, December 1961Google Scholar; MLM News, October, 1962Google Scholar; MLM News, no. 2, 1966.Google Scholar

56. “An Encouraging Report,” Colportage department fundraising brochure, 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive.

57. Boles, Donald E., The Bible, Religion, and the Public Schools (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1963), 131–44.Google Scholar

58. Boles, , The Bible, Religion, and the Public Schools, 53Google Scholar; Jorgenson, Lloyd P.. The State and the Non-Public School, 1825–1925 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 135.Google Scholar

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60. MLM News, no. 1, 1964.Google Scholar

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63. MLM News, no. 5, 1965.Google Scholar

64. “Supreme Court Rejects Hearing on School Prayers,” Chicago Sun-Times, 14 December 1965Google Scholar, clipping in MLM file, MBI Archive; MLM News, no. 1, 1966.

65. For the emigration from Appalachia, see Jones, Jacqueline, “Southern Diaspora: Origins of the Northern ‘Underclass’” in The “Underclass” Debate: Views from History, ed. Michael, Katz (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993)Google Scholar. Jones argues that up to one-third of the population of Kentucky migrated, white and African American, and about one-fourth of West Virginia. I am indebted to Bill Reese for this reference.

66. Shapiro, , Appalachia on Our Mind, 240Google Scholar; McCauley, , Appalachian Mountain Religion.Google Scholar

67. “Moody Bible Institute Quarterly Fellowship Letter,” March 1963, MLM File, MBI Archive; Gunther, Peter, “Evangelism in Depth for Appalachia.”Google Scholar

68. “Moody's Oldest Employee Dies,” typescript memorandum, BICA File, MBI Archive.

69. Norton's 1921 report quoted in Taylor, , “Gold Behind the Ranges,” 26.Google Scholar

70. Carpenter, , Revive Us Again, 187210, 217–29Google Scholar; Marsden, , Reforming Fundamentalism, 3.Google Scholar

71. Taylor, , “Gold Behind the Ranges,” 27Google Scholar; Carpenter, , Revive Us Again, 206–9.Google Scholar

72. “Moody Memo” 7 (January 2, 1953): 1Google Scholar, news release, MLM File, MBI Archive; News release, October 21, 1963, MLM File, MBI Archive.

73. Askew, Thomas A. Jr., The Liberal Arts College Encounters Intellectual Change: A Comparative Study of Education at Knox and Wheaton Colleges, 1837–1925 (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1969)Google Scholar; Williams, Robert, Chartered for His Glory: Biola University, 1908–1983 (La Mirada, Calif.: Associated Students of Biola University, 1983).Google Scholar

74. Shapiro, , Appalachia on Our Mind, 5, 39, 240.Google Scholar

75. Wosh, , Spreading the WordGoogle Scholar; Brown, , The Word in the World, 2733, 5178.Google Scholar

76. Marsden, , Reforming Fundamentalism, 10Google Scholar; Dalhouse, Mark Taylor, An Island in the Lake of Fire: Bob Jones University, Fundamentalism, and the Separatist Movement (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), 114.Google Scholar

77. See, for example, Taylor, , “Can We Win the War of Words?,” Moody Monthly 55 (03 1955): 13, 1618, 33.Google Scholar

78. Carpenter, , Revive Us Again, esp. chap. 11–12.Google Scholar

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