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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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1 On the SVM, see Parker Michael, The Kingdom of Character: The Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, 1886–1926 (Lanham, MD, 1998).

2 As well as Parker, see Showalter Nathan D., The End of a Crusade: The Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions and the Great War (Lanham, MD, 1997).

3 For the importance of “self-criticism” and self-interrogation in ecumenical Protestantism I am indebted to David Hollinger's work. See, for example, Hollinger David, “After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Ecumenical Protestantism and the Modern American Encounter with Diversity”, Journal of American History, 98/1 (June 2011), 2148. Hollinger notes Martin Marty's earlier use of the term at 26.

4 G. Sherwood Eddy, “Present Day Social and Intellectual Unrest”, address to the Student Volunteer Movement, 1924, cited in Nutt Rick L., The Whole Gospel for the Whole World: Sherwood Eddy and the American Protestant Mission (Macon, GA, 1997), 189. For another, earlier example of Eddy using the phrase “white peril”, see “Look to America for Missionaries”, New York Times, Apr 10, 1916, 6.

5 Gulick Sidney L., The White Peril in the Far East: An Interpretation of the Significance of the Russo-Japanese War (New York, 1905).

6 Pamphlet, “University of North Carolina Y.M.C.A. Presents Sherwood Eddy in Six Public Addresses”, in Box 6, Folder 114, George Sherwood Eddy Papers (Record Group No 32) Special Collections, Yale Divinity School Library, from here on referred to as the “Eddy Papers”.

7 For example, see Gamble Richard M., The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation (Wilmington, DE, 2003). Fousek John, To Lead the Free World: American Nationalism and the Cultural Roots of the Cold War (Chapel Hill, NC, 2000). Kirby Dianne, Religion and the Cold War (Houndmills, Basingstoke, 2003). Inboden William, Religion and American Foreign Policy, 1945–1960: The Soul of Containment (Cambridge, 2008).

8 Preston Andrew, “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.

9 Rosenberg Emily S., Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890–1945 (New York, 1982), 2833. Compare Schlesinger Arthur Jr, “The Missionary Enterprise and Theories of Imperialism”, in Fairbank John K., ed., The Missionary Enterprise in China and America (Cambridge, MA, 1974), 336–73.

10 Ninkovitch Frank, The United States and Imperialism (Malden, 2001), 160–63, 222–7.

11 Stanley Brian, “Christianity and the End of Empire”, in Stanley Brian and Low Alaine M., eds., Missions, Nationalism, and the End of Empire (Grand Rapids, MI, 2003), 114.

12 Davidann Jon Thares, A World of Crisis and Progress: The American YMCA in Japan, 1890–1930 (Bethlehem, PA, 1998), 24–8.

13 Paul A. Varg, Missionaries, Chinese, and Diplomats; The American Protestant Missionary Movement in China, 1890–1952 (Princeton, NJ, 1958). Xi Lian, The Conversion of Missionaries: Liberalism in American Protestant Missions in China, 1907–1932. (University Park, PA, 1997). Wacker Grant, “Pearl S. Buck and the Waning of the Missionary Impulse”, Church History, 72/4 (2003), 852–74.

14 Similar critiques have been made by Lynch Cecelia in Beyond Appeasement: Interpreting Interwar Peace Movements in World Politics (Ithaca, NY, 1999); and by Hollinger David in “The Realist–Pacifist Summit Meeting of March 1942 and the Political Reorientation of Ecumenical Protestantism in the United States”, Church History, 79/3 (Sept. 2010), 654–77. Meyer Donald's The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919–1941, 2nd edn (Middletown, CT, 1988), is a classic example of a narration of interwar Christian internationalism that takes realism as a controlling category. See chap. 14, “Reinhold Niebuhr, Religion and Politics”, especially.

15 Sweeney E. B., “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. McKanan Dan, Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition (Boston, MA, 2011).

16 Ruotsila Markku, The Origins of Christian Anti-internationalism: Conservative Evangelicals and the League of Nations (Washington, DC, 2008).

17 As well as Ruotsila, see the early chapters of Weber Timothy P., On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend (Grand Rapids, MI, 2004) for a survey of early twentieth-century dispensationalist interpretations of world affairs. There are important exceptions to be noted, such as W. Cameron Townsend's friendship with Mexican president Cardenas and opposition to US oil interests. Svelmoe William L., “The Gringo and the General: W. Cameron Townsend as Lázaro Cárdenas's ‘Man in America,’” in Bays Daniel H. and Wacker Grant, eds., The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home: Explorations in North American Cultural History (Tuscaloosa, AL, 2003), 171–86.

18 For examples of the use of the term in the interwar period see Merrill William Pierson, Christian Internationalism (New York, 1919). Gulick Sidney L., “The Foreign Policies of the United States and the Success of Foreign Missions”, in Committee on the War and the Religious Outlook (Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America), ed., The Missionary Outlook in the Light of the War (New York, 1920), 280–91, 288. See also the “Message” of the Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work, Stockholm 1925, reprinted in Kinnamon Michael and Cope Brian E., eds., The Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1997), 265–7. For its use in recent scholarship see Jun Xing, “Christian Internationalism in the Crucible: 1931–1935”, chap. 5 of Xing, Baptized in the Fire of Revolution: The American Social Gospel and the YMCA in China, 1919–1937 (Bethlehem, PA, 1996), 125–51; and Warren Heather A., Theologians of a New World Order: Reinhold Niebuhr and the Christian Realists (New York, 1997), 71.

19 Hollinger David A., After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern American History (Princeton, NJ, 2013). Sehat David, The Myth of American Religious Freedom (Oxford, 2011). Coffman Elesha J., The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (New York, 2013). William Hutchison's earlier discussion of the Protestant establishment is indispensable. Hutchison William R., Between the Times: The Travail of the Protestant Establishment in America, 1900–1960 (Cambridge, 1989).

20 Hollinger, “After Cloven Tongues of Fire”, 23.

21 Sehat, The Myth of American Religious Freedom, 5.

22 For Eddy's account of the seminar see Eddy Sherwood, A Pilgrimage of Ideas: Or the Re-education of Sherwood Eddy (New York, 1934), 183–99; and Eddy, Eighty Adventurous Years: An Autobiography (New York, 1955), 128–51. See also Nutt, The Whole Gospel for the Whole World, 201–17.

23 Daniel H. Bays and Grant Wacker, “Introduction: the Many Faces of the Missionary Enterprise at Home”, in Bays and Wacker, The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home, 1–9, 2.

24 F. Ernest Johnson, untitled manuscript, in Eddy Papers, Box 21, 6.

25 Eddy, Eighty Adventurous Years, 128.

26 “An Announcement: Study Pilgrimage to Europe”, The World Tomorrow, Jan. 1927, 39.

27 “A Traveling Seminar”, Christian Century, 23 Sept. 1926, 1159.

28 See Eddy, Pilgrimage of Ideas, 184. “Seminars below the Rio Grande”, World Tomorrow, 19 April 1933, 384.

29 Ben Cherrington's name is in the guestbook for 1921, held in Box 23, Eddy Papers. On Cherrington see “Culture Division”, Time, 8 Aug. 1938, www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,931422,00.html, accessed 27 June 2013.

30 Later published in Niebuhr Reinhold, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (Cleveland, OH, 1964; first published 1929), 67–8.

31 See “For Russian Recognition”, The World Tomorrow, October 1926, 180.

32 “Eddy Talk in Russia Causes Chicago Protest”, Chicago Daily Tribune, 17 Aug. 1926, 10. Sherwood Eddy, “Russia Revisited: A Reply to Statements Appearing in The Chicago Tribune”, Association Men, Oct. 1926, 61, 74, copy held in Eddy Papers, Box 6, Folder 112.

33 Eddy, “What Are the Great Essentials?”, undated manuscript (c.1924), Eddy Papers, Box 6, Folder 135. The manuscript related closely to Eddy and Day William Horace, The Modernist–Fundamentalist Controversy, Christianity and Personal Problems Series, No 2 (Garden City, NY, 1924). See Nutt, The Whole Gospel for the Whole World, 178–9.

34 On Warfield see Eddy, Pilgrimage, 38; on Gandhi see ibid., 72.

35 Eddy Sherwood, Facing the Crisis: A Study in Present Day Social and Religious Problems (New York, 1922), 111–12, 128, 222.

36 Eddy, Eighty Adventurous Years, 117–18.

37 See for example, Eddy, Pilgrimage, 53 ff.

38 Eddy Sherwood, “Gospel Indispensable to the Students of North America”, in Burton St John, ed., North American Students and World Advance: Addresses Delivered at the Eighth International Convention of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, Des Moines, Iowa, December 31, 1919, to January 4, 1920 (New York, 1920), 191–6, 196. Compare newspaper coverage of Eddy's League arguments in “World Revulsion against America”, New York Times, 4 Jan. 1920, 3.

39 On Union see Nutt, The Whole Gospel for the Whole World, 16. Eddy acknowledged change in this regard, claiming that by the 1930s Union had “the strongest theological faculty in the world”. See Eddy, Pilgrimage, 37.

40 On Princeton see Eddy, Pilgrimage, 38; and Nutt, The Whole Gospel for the Whole World, 28.

41 This analysis draws on Hopkins C. Howard's old but excellent account of Christianity in the YMCA, in his History of the YMCA in North America (New York, 1951).

42 Ibid., 375–380.

43 Reinhold Niebuhr, “Introduction”, in Eddy, Eighty Adventurous Years, 9–12.

44 For Speer's observation see Piper John F., Robert E. Speer: Prophet of the American Church (Louisville, KY, 2000), 325. Smith Timothy L., Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War (Baltimore, 1980).

45 Ferguson Niall, ed., The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective (Cambridge, MA, 2010).

46 On Mott's offer from President Wilson see Matthews Basil, John R. Mott: World Citizen (New York, 1934), 436–8.

47 See, for example, Eddy Sherwood, The New Era in Asia (New York, 1913); and related newspaper coverage, such as “Amazing Renaissance Is Now Sweeping All Asia”, New York Times, 23 Nov. 1913, SM14; and “China Awakening on Broad Scale”, Chicago Daily Tribune, 12 Jan. 1914, 5. On the aspect of modernization under American tutelage see Varg, Missionaries, Chinese, and Diplomats, 76–7; and Davidann, A World of Crisis and Progress, 154–8. On simultaneously promoting Chinese nationalism and American cultural imperialism see Preston Andrew, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (New York, 2012), 195.

48 Manela Erez, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (Oxford, 2007).

49 Examples included Syngman Rhee of Korea, Premier Kato of Japan, President Chiang Kai-shek of China, President Thomas Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, Prime Ministers Ramsay McDonald and David Lloyd George in Britain, Georg Michaelis (politician, and Chancellor for a brief term) in Germany.

50 Sherwood Eddy, “The Social Message, The Need of the Hour”, undated manuscript (c.1919), Eddy Papers, Box 6, Folder 133. See Eddy, Facing the Crisis, and Eddy, Everybody's World, British edn, ed. Basil A. Yeaxlee (London, 1920).

51 Eddy, “The Social Message, The Need of the Hour”, 2.

52 Ibid., 4.

53 Ibid., 5, capitalization in original.

54 von Harnack Adolf, What Is Christianity?, trans. Saunders T. Bailey (New York, 1908), 55.

55 See, for example, Rauschenbusch Walter, Christianity and the Social Crisis (New York, 1907); and Rauschenbusch , Christianizing the Social Order (New York, 1912). See Dorrien Gary's discussion of Rauschenbusch in Social Ethics in the Making: Interpreting an American Tradition (Chichester, 2009), 83104.

56 Eddy, Pilgrimage, 65.

57 For Walter Rauschenbusch's treatment of sin as “solidaristic” see Rauschenbusch , A Theology for the Social Gospel (Nashville, 1978; first published 1917).

58 Tyrrell Ian R., Reforming the World: The Creation of America's Moral Empire (Princeton, NJ, 2010), 182.

59 Strong Josiah, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Present Crisis (New York, 1885), 174, 173.

60 Washington Gladden, The Nation and the Kingdom, repr. in Handy Robert T., ed., The Social Gospel in America, 1870–1920: Gladden, Ely, Rauschenbusch (New York, 1966), 145–6.

61 Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel, 4. “Seething yellow flocks” from a fundraising letter for the German Department at Rochester Seminary cited in Dorrien, Social Ethics, 93.

62 Eddy, Facing the Crisis, 169.

63 Forman, “A History of Foreign Mission Theory in America”. Hutchison William R., Errand to the World: American Protestant Thought and Foreign Missions (Chicago, 1987). Wacker Grant, “Second Thoughts on the Great Commission: Liberal Protestants and Foreign Missions, 1890–1940”, in Carpenter Joel A. and Shenk Wilbert R., eds., Earthen Vessels: American Evangelicals and Foreign Missions, 1880–1980 (Grand Rapids, MI, 1990), 281300.

64 Hocking William E., ed., Re-thinking Missions: A Laymen's Inquiry after One Hundred Years (New York, 1932). On Rockefeller and Hocking see Hutchison, Errand, 148–9, 158–64.

65 Wacker, “Pearl S. Buck and the Waning of the Missionary Impulse”.

66 On Machen's criticisms see Hutchison, Errand, 173–5.

67 Hutchison rightly points out that the most important debates occurred between the liberal Hocking end of the spectrum and the middle ground of Speer. Hutchison, Errand, 175. Speer Robert E., The Finality of Jesus Christ (New York, 1933), 372.

68 Forman, “A History of Foreign Mission Theory in America”, 98.

69 All quotations here are from the King James Version.

70 Mott John R., “The Race Problem: Address Given to the Australian Missionary Conference, Melbourne, April 12, 1926”, in Addresses and Papers of John R. Mott, vol. 5, The International Missionary Council (New York, NY, 1946), 608–20, 619. On the US and Australia fashioning themselves as “white man's countries” in the 1920s see Lake Marilyn and Reynolds Henry, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men's Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge, 2008).

71 Mott, “The Race Problem”, 620.

72 Oldham Joseph H., The World and the Gospel (London, 1916); and Oldham , Christianity and the Race Problem (London, 1924).

73 Oldham, Christianity and the Race Problem, 20. For Mark Edwards's observation on Boasian anthropology see Edwards Mark, “‘God Has Chosen Us’: Re-Membering Christian Realism, Rescuing Christendom, and the Contest of Responsibilities during the Cold War”, Diplomatic History, 33 (2009), 6794.

74 Speer Robert E., Of One Blood: A Short Study of the Race Problem (New York, 1924). On Lothrop Stoddard see Piper, Robert E. Speer, 339.

75 Cited in Potter Philip and Wieser Thomas, Seeking and Serving the Truth: The First Hundred Years of the World Student Christian Federation (Geneva, 1997), 70. On Japanese influence see Parker, The Kingdom of Character, 157. By way of contrast, on the rejection of a Japanese-authored racial equality clause in the treaty deliberations at Versailles, doubtless known to delegates at Peking, see Meaney N. K. A., History of Australian Defence and Foreign Policy 1901–23, vol. 2, Australia and World Crisis, 1914–1923 (Sydney, 2009), 376–8.

76 “Statement Adopted by the Council: Racial Relationships”, International Missionary Council, Report of the Jerusalem Meeting of the International Missionary Council, March 24th–April 8th, 1928, vol. 4, The Christian Mission in the Light of Race Conflict (London, 1928), 237–45, 237, 238.

77 For background on Nitobe see Iriye Akira, Cultural Internationalism and World Order (Baltimore and London, 1997), 44–5.

78 On the ashram see Eddy, Pilgrimage, 106–7.

79 All quotations above from Eddy, “The Present World Situation” (1925), unpublished manuscript, Box 6, Folder 110, Eddy Papers, 4–5. Manuscripts such as this and the “Social Message” discussed above functioned as working papers and central repositories of material for Eddy's myriad publishing; they thus provide a useful gauge of themes circulating more broadly in his work.

80 This was the implication of Eddy, The New Era in Asia, for example. See also Forman, “A History of Foreign Mission Theory in America”, 97.

81 Parker, The Kingdom of Character, 162. Rabe Valentin H., The Home Base of American China Missions, 1880–1920 (Cambridge, MA, 1978), 177.

82 Mott John R., “Expectations”, address delivered at the Meeting of the International Missionary Council, in Report of the Meeting of the International Missionary Council at Jerusalem, March 24th–April 8th, 1928, vol. 8, Addresses and Other Records, (London, 1928), 25.

83 Cited in Speer, The Finality of Jesus Christ, 315.

84 Fleming Daniel Johnson, Whither Bound in Missions (New York, 1925), 47. On Fleming's missionary internationalism see Robert Dana, “The First Globalization: The Internationalization of the Protestant Missionary Movement between the World Wars”, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 26 (2002), 5066.

85 Volf Miroslav, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville, 1996), 29.

86 Sherwood Eddy, “Why Missions?” The World Tomorrow, Jan. 1928, 18–20, 18.

87 Ibid., 18.

88 On the Fellowship for a Christian Social Order see Fey Harold E., ed., Kirby Page, Social Evangelist: The Autobiography of a 20th Century Prophet for Peace (Nyack, NY, 1975), 99. Eddy published the founding principles of the FCSO in Facing the Crisis, 233–4, including the quotation on “mutual counsel” etc.

89 Coffman, The Christian Century, 59–69.

90 Samson Gloria G., The American Fund for Public Service: Charles Garland and Radical Philanthropy, 1922–1941 (Westport, CT, 1996).

91 Works are too numerous to list here, but see Paul Elie, “A Man for All Reasons”, Atlantic Monthly, 300/4 (Nov. 2007), 82–96.

92 Fox Richard Wightman, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography, with a New Introduction and Afterword (Ithaca, NY, 1996), 105.

93 Page, Social Evangelist, 150. Eddy remained Page's primary financial support throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

94 Devere Allen, “The Irrepressible Pamphleteers”, The World Tomorrow, Dec. 1926, 272–3.

95 Eddy Sherwood and Page Kirby, The Abolition of War: The Case against War and Questions and Answers Concerning War, Christianity and World Problems Series, No 7 (New York, 1924). Eddy and Page, Danger Zones of the Social Order: Facts Concerning Economic, International, Racial, Political and Moral Problems, Christianity and World Problems Series, No 11 (New York, 1926).

96 On the re-publication of Moorefield Storey and Marcial P. Lichauco's The Philippines and the United States, see Page, Social Evangelist, 87.

97 David Shannon's history of the Socialist Party of America identified The World Tomorrow as the “leading journal of liberal Christianity and Christian-motivated political radicalism”. Shannon David, The Socialist Party of America (New York, 1936), 191. Peace movement historians Charles Chatfield and Charles DeBenedetti called it called it “the foremost exponent of the Social Gospel”. Charles Chatfield and Charles DeBenedetti, “Introduction”, in Chatfield and DeBenedetti, eds., Kirby Page and the Social Gospel: An Anthology (New York, 1976), 13–36, 14.

98 The incumbent president of the journal, John Nevin Sayre, deliberately courted Page and Eddy as a last hope for the journal. See John Nevin Sayre to Grace Hutchins, 19 May 1926, 1, in Devere Allen Papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, DG 53, Series C-4, Box 2.

99 See, for example, the Oct. 1926 edition on “Militarism in the U.S.A.”, the Feb. 1927 edition on “The Philippines and the United States” and the May 1927 edition on “The Caribbean”.

100 Reinhold Niebuhr, “Introduction”, in Eddy, Eighty Adventurous Years, 10.

101 Eddy Sherwood and Page Kirby, The Abolition of War (New York: George Doran edition, 1924), 1377.

102 Eddy, Eighty Adventurous Years, 104–6.

103 See Jon Thares Davidann, Cultural Diplomacy in U.S.–Japanese Relations, 1919–1941 (New York, 2007).

104 Kant Immanuel, “Toward Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch”, in Kant Immanuel, Kleingeld Pauline, Waldron Jeremy, Doyle Michael W. and Wood Allen W., Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History (New Haven, 2006), 67109.

105 Compare Du Bois W. E. B. on the global dimensions of the “problem of the color line” in The Souls of Black Folk (New York, 1903) and Knock's Thomas discussion of “conservative internationalists” in To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (New York, 1992).

106 Lynch, Beyond Appeasement. See the “Introduction” for discussion of criteria for success.

107 Hollinger David A., “Afterword and Commentary: Religious Liberalism and Ecumenical Self-Interrogation”, in Schmidt Leigh Eric and Promey Sally M., eds., American Religious Liberalism (Bloomington, 2012), 374–86, 385.

* 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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