Primary Documents

  1. Jarena Lee
    • "Life and Religious Experience"
    • 1836

    African American evangelical, first woman ordained to preach in AME (Methodist) Church, baptized in 1807, called to preach and persisted against denials, experienced many visions, attributes negative events to satan.

    "I seemed to hear the howling of the damned, to see the smoke of the bottomless pit, and to hear the rattling of those chains, which hold the impenitent under clouds of darkness to the judgement of the great day." (201)
  2. Frederick Douglas
    • "Narrative"
    • 1845

    • escaped slavery
    • slaverholder's religion was one of hypocrisy
  3. Angelina Grimke
    • "Appeal to Xtian Women of the South"
    • 1836
    • Abolitionist Xtian, proponent of women's rights

    Appeal to southern Xtian women to rise together against the injustice and inhumanity of slave system; uses biblical citations to appeal.

    "My object has been to arouse you, as the wives and mothers, the daughters and sisters, of the south, to a sense of your duty as women, and as Xtian women, on that great subject, which has already shaken our country...and will continue mightily to shake it, until the polluted temple of slavery fall and crumble into ruin." (233)
  4. Catharine E. Beecher
    • "Essay on Slavery and Abolition"
    • (response to Angelina Grimke, 1836)

    Her response to Grimke's appeal to southern Xtian women; opposition to women overstepping their feminine role.

    "For the more intelligent a woman becomes, the more she cann appreciate the wisdom of that ordinance that appointed her subordinate station, and the more her taste will conform to the graceful and dignified retirement and submission it involves." (238)
  5. George Armstrong
    • "The Xtian Doctrine of Slavery"
    • 1857
    • Presbyterian minister

    Summary of Christian pro-slavery position

    "This is one way of dealing with slavery, and so firmly convinced we are that it is God's way for his Church that we cannot abandon it." (241)

    "We fear God more than man...a conscience voide of offense before God is above all prie...with this whole subject of slavery, we mean to deal just as XP and his apostles dealt - to preach what they preached, to labor as they labored, to govern the church of God as they governed it..." (244)
  6. Mary Antin
    • "The Promised Land"
    • 1912
    • Jewish female immigrant (at age 13), assimilated

    Autobiographical account of her Americanization as she cast off her religious Judaism for the New World assimilation; she held a pro-assimilation stance/universal ethic over Jewish particularism.

    "The price that all of us paid for this disorganization of our family life has been levied on every immigrant Jewish household where the first generation clings to the traditions of the Old World, while the second generation leads the lift of the New." (364)
  7. Josiah Strong
    • "Our Country"
    • 1885
    • Congregationalist minister

    Argued that God had appointed Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASP) in the US to lead the world in fulfillment of XP's kingdom on earth. Catholics and Mormons, along with the other 'eight perils,' presented a threat to evangelicalism or 'free institutions' (included challenges to public schools, intemperence and liquor traffic, socialism, love of wealth, and the evils spawned by city living) (365)

    "Popular government is self-government. A nation is capable of self-government only so far as the individuals who compose it are capable of self-government." (371)
  8. Black Elk
    • "Black Elk Speaks"
    • 1932
    • Oglala Lakota Native

    Healer/medicine man, member of the Ghost Dance movement and Battle of Wounded Knee (1890), converted to Catholicism, account written by John G. Neihardt (1932)

    "While they were lying there like dead they were having visions, and we kept on dancing and singing, and many were crying for the old way of living that the old religion might be with them again." (349)
  9. Heather White
    • "Reforming Sodom"
    • 2015

    "Both the emancipatory aims of queer activities and the anchors for conservatives' antigay bible traditions drew from modern therapeutic understandings of sexuality that leaned against an invented religious past." (5)

    "The notion that Xty has a stable history of condemning a discrete set of behaviors called 'homosexual acts' is in large part an invention that stabilized and naturalized modern categories of sexual regulation." (11)

    • Bottom line:
    • Homosexuality had become the unnatural opposite of healthy heterosexuality, thus ending the same and guilt of sex for heterosexuals that the church had instituted for centuries.
  10. Henry Emerson Fosdick
    • "Shall the Fundamentalist Win?"
    • 1922
    • Liberal Protestant minister, Baptist trained
    • became interdenominational minister

    Document is the response to the debate between liberal worldview/thinkers and fundamentalists.

    "Is not the Xtian church large enough to hold within her fellowship people who differ on points like this and agree to differ until the fuller truth be manifested? The Fundamentalists say not. They say the liberals must go. Well, if the Fundamentalists should succeed, then out of the Xtian Church would go some of the best Xtian life and consecration of this generation - multitudes of men and women, devout and reverent Xtians, who need the church and whom the church needs." (420)
  11. Philip Schaff
    • "America"
    • 1855
    • Lutheran, from Switzerland

    Drawn to evangelical Catholicism, this document is his analysis of the condition of American religion sectarianism, comparison to the Roman Church (Catholicism), an encouragement to take on traits of the German/Lutheran Church, and a treatise against the Mormons.

    "Suffice it to say, in general, that the whole present distracted condition of the church in America, pleasing and promising as it may be, in one view, must yet be regarded on the whole as unsatisfactory, and as only a state of transition to something higher and better." (267)
  12. James Woodrow
    • "Evolution"
    • 1884
    • scientist (Ph.D.)
    • Presbyterian minister

    Address to Presbyterian leadership discussing the compatibility of science and religion. Conclusion: he determined that is is not contrary to believe in God and he was inclined to believe that it pleased God to create mediately rather than immediately (evolution was God's Plan of Creation).

    "Whether it came into existence immediately or mediately is not material; but what or who brought it into existence...these questions involve the very foundations of religion and morality, but they lie wholly outside of natural science, and are, not in the least affected by the decision of that other question...they are not affected by, nor do they affect, the truth or falsehood of evolution." (290)
  13. Walter Rauschenbusch
    • "A Theology for the Social Gospel"
    • 1917
    • Baptist pastor, NYC

    Aghast with the poor living conditions of immigrants in the newly industrialized NYC, he developed the Social Gospel through activism and writings about the social teachings of Jesus. He felt strongly the need, religiously and politically, for more equitable distribution of wealth.

    "The social gospel joins with all modern thought in the feeling that the old theology does not give us a XP who is truly personal (315) gospel is based on the belief that love is the only true working principle of human society." (318)
  14. Dorothy Day
    • "The Long Loneliness"
    • 1952
    • Socialist/Communist
    • founder of The Catholic Worker movement

    Socialist/Communist Worker advocate and volunteer who strongly felt that one needed to advocate for the rights and better living conditions of working people; this piece is a narrative of her life and work concerning the Workers' movement (protests, distribution of the publication)

    "Going to the people is the purest and best act in Xtian tradition and revolutionary tradition and is the beginning of world brotherhood." (486)
  15. Reinhold Neibuhr
    • "The Irony of American History"
    • 1952
    • One of the most influential Protestant theologians of the 20th century
    • Xtian Realist

    America is overconfident of its own virtue which leads to arrogance, bullying of other international governments/entities; in the desire to be the 'good guys' end up being the 'bad guys.' 

    "That idealism is too oblivious of the ironic perils to which human virtue, wisdom, and power are subject. Too certain that there is a straight path toward the goal of human happiness; too confident of the wisdom and idealism which prompt men and nations toward that goal; and too blind to the curious compounds of good and evil." (426)

    "repentance is the true source of charity; and we are more desperately in need of genuine charity than of more technocratic skills." (434)
  16. Will Herberg
    • "Protestant-Catholic-Jew" (The American Way of Life), 1955
    • Marxist disillusioned by Stalinism in the late 1930s
    • Influenced by Niebuhr to explore religion
    • Author of Protestant-Catholic-Jew: An Essay in American Religion Sociology (1955)

    Influential critique of American patterns of assimilation to the ‘triple melting pot’ (of Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism) and the promotion of the ‘American Way of Life.’ Makes the argument that ‘The American Way of Life’ is the civil religion of the nation and results in self-righteous nationalism

    “In its crudest form, this identification of religion with national purposes generates a kind of national messianism which sees it as the vocation of America to bring the American Way of Life, compounded almost equally of democracy and free enterprise, to every corner of the globe in more mitigated versions, it sees God as the champion of America, endorsing American purposes and sustaining American might.” (530)
  17. MLK, Jr
    • "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," 1963
    • Baptist minister who led civil rights movement for racial justice
    • Nobel Peace Prize, 1963

    Letter written in response to an open letter published by eight white self-styled ‘liberal’ ministers outlining why their objections to segregation was clearly unjust. Letter from Birmingham Jail was written while he was serving time for civil rights activities in Birmingham, Alabama.

    • “Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America.” (512)
    • “we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people” (508)
    • “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” (509)
  18. Malcolm X
    • "Letters from Abroad," 1964
    • Influential leader, advocate for black nationalism
    • Openly critical of MLK, Jr.
    • Nation of Islam, then moved toward orthodox Islam
    • Assassinated by the Nation of Islam (1964)

    Three letters from abroad (written from April and May, 1964) where Malcolm X expresses surprise at lack of racial discrimination in Islamic countries abroad (so different from in the US) and encourages Pan-Africanism for all Africans, even if they are African-American.

    “…It is time for all African-Americans to become an integral part of the world’s Pan-Africanists, and even though we might remain in America physically while fighting for the benefits the Constitution guarantees us, we must ‘return’ to Africa philosophically and culturally and develop a working unity in the framework of Pan-Africanism.” (517)
  19. Mary Daly
    • "Beyond God the Father"
    • 1973
    • Radical feminist theologian
    • Three doctorates (religion, philosophy)
    • Self-identified post-Xtian (rejected RC) Professor at Boston CollegeABSTRACT

    “If God is male, then the male is God.” – excerpt from Beyond God the Father (1973)QUOTES“The widespread conception of the ‘Supreme Being’ as an entity distinct from this work but controlling it according to plan and keeping human beings in a state of infantile subjection has been a not too subtle mask of the divine patriarch.” (541)
  20. Mel White
    • "Stranger at the Gate"
    • 1994
    • Speechwriter to Christian Right leaders (Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker, Oliver North, Billy Graham)
    • Came out as same-sex in 1991
    • Author of Stranger at the Gate

    ABSTRACT Dramatic account of a gay man’s attempt to change his sexual orientation and retain his marriage and ministry (excerpt from the book above), ending with a stirring letter to Falwell in response to an anti-homosexual fundraising letter sent to supporters.

    “I didn’t foresee that one day those same religious media personalities and the political groups they would organize could become a dangerous threat to me, my gay brothers and lesbian sisters, and to all persons who might disagree with their political, religious, and social agenda for our country.” (588)
  21. Franklin Graham
    • "The Name"
    • 2002
    • Most prominent American evangelist of the 20th century
    • Publicly denounced Islam as a ‘wicked’ and ‘evil’ religion after 9/11
    • Continued inflammatory public statements that were monitored by the Council of American-Islamic Relations; fueled conflict between American evangelicals and Muslims after 9/11
    • Samaritan’s Purse ministry head

    Excerpt from book The Name – the God of the Muslims is not the Christian God.

    “The current warfare is a classic struggle that will end with the second coming of XP” (605) Differences between Xty and Islam “is that the god of Islam is not the God of Xtian faith” (604)
  22. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
    • "Letter to Franklin Graham"
    • 2002

    Letter to Franklin Graham expressing concern and dismay at repeated references to Islam as ‘evil’ and responding to accusation of condoning/supporting 9/11 attacks

    “By repeating such misinformation you are not only encouraging bigotry and ignorance; you are also allying yourself with those who would abuse religion for inhumane purposes.” (605)
  23. Richard Rodriguez
    • "Danger and Grace - 9/11"
    • 2002
    • Gay RC of Mexican descent
    • Writes “provocatively about the politics of identity in a nation that remains both deeply religious and deeply conflicted”

    Short piece that emphasizes the benefit of a secular America; that darkness of religious bigotry could “end up the bright grace for us all in this dark religious moment” (609) – a grace is one that is tolerant of other faiths.

    “This is or should be a deeply embarrassing time for anyone in America who claims to be ‘religious.’ (606)

    “Most embarrassing to me is that this adversary’s religious belief causes me to question my own.” (608)
Card Set
Primary Documents
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