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SHERWOOD EDDY, THE MISSIONARY ENTERPRISE, AND THE RISE OF CHRISTIAN INTERNATIONALISM IN 1920S AMERICA*

  • MICHAEL G. THOMPSON (a1)
Abstract

By tracing the career of influential YMCA missionary Sherwood Eddy, this essay brings to light the origins of Christian internationalism in 1920s America. Far more than mere boosterism for Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations, and far more than mere “pacifism” or Social Gospel “idealism”(reductive categories with which activism in the period is often associated), Christian internationalism in the interwar period was a movement defined by three broad and far-reaching impulses. First, it was characterized by the proliferation of new enterprises such as travelling seminars, conferences and publications devoted to reflection on the ethics of international relations. Second, it comprised a holistic, oppositional and radical political orientation that went beyond legalist internationalism and encompassed agitation against imperialism and racism. Third, the movement was premised on a fundamental critique of the idea of America as a “Christian nation”. Eddy's career highlights the unique importance of the missionary enterprise in giving shape to these impulses in the 1920s and beyond.

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For their valuable comments, criticisms and suggestions throughout the process of researching and writing this essay, I would like to thank Nikki Thompson, Stephen Robertson, Clare Corbould, Glenda Sluga, Neville Meaney, Paul Kramer, Ian Tyrrell, David Hollinger, and the editors and anonymous readers at Modern Intellectual History. Support for this research was provided by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

David Hollinger , “After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Ecumenical Protestantism and the Modern American Encounter with Diversity”, Journal of American History, 98/1 (June 2011), 2148

Dianne Kirby , Religion and the Cold War (Houndmills, Basingstoke, 2003)

William Inboden , Religion and American Foreign Policy, 1945–1960: The Soul of Containment (Cambridge, 2008)

Andrew Preston , “Bridging the Gap between the Sacred and the Secular in the History of American Foreign Relations”, Diplomatic History, 30 (Nov. 2006), 783812, 803, 804 n

Lian Xi , The Conversion of Missionaries: Liberalism in American Protestant Missions in China, 1907–1932. (University Park, PA, 1997)

E. B. Sweeney , “Nationalism and Internationalism through the Churches: The Catholic Church and the Promotion of Peace Attitudes”, Journal of Educational Sociology, 10/6 (Feb. 1937), 338–42, 341–2

Elesha J. Coffman , The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (New York, 2013)

Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds , Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men's Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge, 2008)

Mark Edwards , “‘God Has Chosen Us’: Re-Membering Christian Realism, Rescuing Christendom, and the Contest of Responsibilities during the Cold War”, Diplomatic History, 33 (2009), 6794

Dana Robert , “The First Globalization: The Internationalization of the Protestant Missionary Movement between the World Wars”, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 26 (2002), 5066

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Modern Intellectual History
  • ISSN: 1479-2443
  • EISSN: 1479-2451
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-intellectual-history
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