ISBN : 9780199397860
Under the Big Top challenges the utility of the fundamentalist-modernist dichotomy in understanding turn-of-the-twentieth-century American Protestantism. Through an examination of the immensely popular big tent revivals, the book develops a new framework to view Protestantism in this transformative period of American history. Contemporary critics of the revivalists often depicted them as anachronistically anxious and outdated religious opponents of a new urban, modern nation. Early historical accounts followed suit by portraying tent revivalists as Victorian hold-outs bent on re-establishing nineteenth-century values and religion in a new modern America. Josh McMullen argues that rather than mere dour opposition, big tent revivalists participated in the shift away from Victorianism and helped in the construction of a new consumer culture in the United States between the 1880s and the 1920s. McMullen also seeks to answer the question of how the United States became the most consumer-driven and yet one of the most religious societies in the western world. Early critics and historians of consumer culture concluded that Americans' increasing search for physical, mental, and emotional well-being came at the expense of religious belief, yet evangelical Christianity grew alongside the expanding consumer culture throughout the twentieth century. A study of big tent revivalism helps resolve this dilemma: revivalists and their audiences combined the Protestant ethic of salvation with the emerging consumer ethos by cautiously unlinking Christianity from Victorianism and linking it with the new, emerging consumer culture. This innovative, revisionist work helps us to understand the continued appeal of both the therapeutic and salvific worldviews to many Americans as well as the ambivalence that accompanies this combination.
Chapter 1: Reaching the Masses: Big Tent Revivalism and the Populist Impulse
Chapter 2: Old Time Religion: Big Tent Revivalism and the Crisis of Late Victorian Culture
Chapter 3: Between Two Protestant Ethics: Big Tent Revivalism and Muscular Christianity
Chapter 4: The Problem of Pain: Big Tent Revivalism and the Search for Therapeutic Well-Being
Chapter 5: Vim and Vice: Big Tent Revivalism and Urban America
Chapter 6: Make 'Em Laugh, Make 'Em Cry, Make 'Em Think: Big Tent Revivalism and Entertainment Culture