Archive for February, 2013

Where the Ladies at?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Preaching, apparently.

I must admit I was confused to read that there were women preacheras at all before the 20th century.  Much less preachers that were 3 years old.  It astounded me to know that women were actually considered in the church at this early of a time. 

Naturally this is headed towards a breakdown of the gender dichotomy in the Christian church.  For more information I took to the internet locating this article

In it I found that htere actually is an argument for women.  And a sound one at that.  Call me ignorant, or a non-believer or whatever but I was under the impression that women were treated rather poorly in the church.  It was astounding to find out that there are people making arguments for women using biblical references.  Not only now, but in the 19th century.



Another thing I found interesting in the online reading was that eventually the Evangelists copied the fashion of Flappers.  At this point I actually stopped reading, and reread that part several times.  Evangelists with bob haircuts and makeup?!  Incredible.  It sounds like something straight out of 2012.  Flappers are much akin to hipsters.  And like a normal American society the normal people who are against hipsters (the evangelists) reject anything new that might threaten their way of life.  Interestingly enough, the hipster fashion and music choices work their way into public favor and become affected by hipster culture. 

Ultimately the flapper evangelist exchange is one that has happened and will continue to happen for many years to come.  It is a social change that excites people and leads them to react negatively.  Perhaps because of popular suggestion the new social mnovement is shunned.  People claim that it is stupid, or uncool purely because they are too lazy to make a change. 

Perhaps change is at the root of this?  Maybe the reason people are afraid of hipsters and flappers is because it is different, it is new and it represents change.  The paralyzing fear of change makes a lot of people react negatively to new things.  I think this is the case with flappers.


It’s all Eve’s Fault, She ate the fruit first!

Thursday, February 28th, 2013


Women have been viewed as the “second sex”, not only because Simon de Beauvoir book, but also because women were the second sex because God Almighty created women second. While Adam was created first and in the likeness of God, women were created after man and from man, therefore women are second.  These ideas are still being argued and debated in Churches today.

So now we have established that women take a second place in the world. Because they come from man they then must submit to man and the laws that men place over women. Men have established their sphere in the public as a way to rule over women. The women’s sphere has then been established in the home in order to raise children and manage the family.

blog post 1

Not only is the woman a member of the second sex but she is also the cause for man’s eviction from the Garden of Eden. She picked the fruit, she ate it and gave it to man and convinced him to eat the fruit as well. blog6Now to the late 19th century… Women are trying to maintain their homes but also feel it is their moral obligation to nurture and keep men on a path that is good and moral. Thus the Women’s Bible Society, Women’s Temperance Movement are created. Her world is shifiting from inside the home to outside. She is treading on the male sphere.

blog 2The book Sin in the City, shows us the opposition that slowly emerged by women crossin the barrier into the mans world . Here we see the natural progression of the Womens Rights Movement concentrated in Chicago.

All The Cool Kids Are Doing It – Peer Pressure At Its Finest

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Throughout time, religion has been used a weapon to control the masses and oppress those who do not believe or conform. The revivals discussed in Sin and the City are a prime example of this and the effects of these revivals are still felt today.

Society is obsessed with putting people into categories and people following certain guidelines as to how to live their lives. It is justified by appealing to morality and God. The scrutiny that people endure when these guidelines aren’t followed leads to conflict resulting in revivals to save the non-conformers – even if the guidelines set are impossible for the non-conformers to achieve. Middle-class ideals of the woman being in the private sphere and the man being out in the public sphere were hard to meet for immigrant, working-class people. They were often forced to share a home with other families for economic purposes making it impossible to achieve that “privatized space…where assigned gender roles, familial harmony, and religious orientation could do their jobs” (pg 33). In the meantime, the Elite had shunned the private sphere for no other reason than they just enjoyed the growing night life in Chicago and did not want that “notion of home” (pg 33). These public women represented a “loose woman open to corruption, seduction, and possible prostitution” – they were the original Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. The behaviors of women and immigrants combined with the moral assignments given to both African-American men and women in order to uplift their race within society and their “lack of domestic order” (pg 79) had to be stopped. I find it very ironic that the morals that these revivals were trying to instill in people were the same reasons that they were using to justify discrimination against immigrants, women, and African-Americans. “Christian domesticity could cut two ways: one, to provide a moral standard for civilization, and two, to use that moral standard as a tool for discrimination and exclusion.” (pg 79) I also find it ironic that the effects of prohibition used to control these immigrants, women, and blacks are still felt today. With the separation of church and state that is supposed to be in place, you still cannot buy liquor on Sundays in the state of Virginia. I guess if you can’t buy alcohol on a Sunday then you must go to church instead. That is if there is nothing else on television.


Delivering the message

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

billy_sunday-the_truthbilly sunday


The fear of urbanization in Chicago specifically brought about, for the evangelicals, the rise of unfamiliar or unwanted ideologies about religion, such as flappers, and women maybe not wanting to be completely submissive to their husbands and have a better role when it comes to preaching “the Word.”

However, I also think Billy Sunday was a particularly interesting person to read about because of his extreme approach to religion, revivals and the role of women in them. I do think that the message of his revivals is important to analyze and break down, as well as apply it to this era and the problems with it and society, but I think the delivery of his message should be duly noted. His mannerisms and voice are supposed to represent an ideal man of God, and his own hyper masculinity.

I think the delivery of “the message” is especially unique and important to revivalism, because it is generally what draws people in, along with building a gender ideology. Billy Sunday’s revivals were a form of entertainment, so he is trying to please a crowd while also bringing people to Christ. When popular culture became more fascinating than religion and revivals did, less people went. This especially interested me, because religion really is a type of consumerism, even today, because if it’s boring you don’t want to go. I think maybe it’s because there has to be something else that makes you want to believe in God, especially since God cannot be physically present, therefore, his “disciples” must do something to represent how being in the actual presence of God would be. Because something other than religion itself needs to be offered, these revivals are a way for Christians to literally revive their religion and soul in order to continue their “service” for God, and put a little bit of money in the church while they’re at it.

Women and Evangelism

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Since everyone (I think) was posting pictures on flappers, I decided I would show off Em Dryer. Hehe.

So there are a couple of things I can’t get out of my head when I was reading Sin in the City but I’ll focus on one. I was a little impressed women were becoming more involved in evangelizing. It was a big awakening for most of the country; an awakening on how they worshiped God, on religion, and on women in church.

What was interesting to me was that some of these women became pastors and were preaching and converting. They seemed to be independent and doing their own thing but of course they’re still dependent on men. I thought it was interesting that Dyer started a group for women but how it was controlled by men because of the money. Without the fund from the men, they wouldn’t have been able to have this group to evangelize and educate women. It was just something that kept coming to mind.

Although they were still controlled because of money, they were still able to do somethings independently. It makes me wonder if these women felt more privileged than other women because they were permitted more just because they were evangelist women. Or if they used this type of independence to their advantage.

Flapping’ and Excluding Away: Race, Gender, and Flappers

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

It is clear that the vessels for change in the revivalism era had not only a separate sphere in terms of private versus public, but it had also a lot to do with race as well.  Whilst white, middle age women were encouraged to stay at home and domesticate their children and their homes, African American women on the revivalism front were excluded at every turn of the page in Sin and the City by Thekla Ellen Joiner.  Largely, blacks were excluded from the revivalist moment to save the city from sexual immorality because black women were viewed as “…when compared to white womanhood , whites saw blacks as “morally loose,” and outside the parameters of respectability” (Joiner 12).

This exclusion of African American women from the largely, white, Protestant  women’s movement to in the 1920’s to take sin out of the city was especially evident in dividing the movement along racial lines.

Perception of flappers; white women were considered innocent, their virginity rarely held in question


Black Flappers OR Oversexed black women? What is the difference?

In terms of the black versus the white flappers  I do not see any difference, the fact that African American women were held at a different standard is all wrong!  Ironically, as Joiner points out, both white working class girls and black girls were influenced by the same ills of struggling to find work and having to engage in prostitution.  Just as Joiner points out, “…with the upsurge in working women (both black and white) paralleled by an apparent rise in prostitution  civic leaders and reformers began to investigate this network that lured unsuspecting women into prostitution” (Joiner 126).


The result is simple, it was a double standard.  The racism and stereotypes prevailed.  White was considered the mainstream and acceptable mode of address to question the sexual ills and morality in late 19th century early 20th century society.




Static Faith and the Revival Experience

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I have sometimes found it challenging to confront  the idea some people maintain that religion is a static experience (means of worship, doctrine, governance, etc.).  I believe that people who adhere to this strict and inflexible idea operate chiefly from a position of fear.  They fear they will lose their perceived truth because this truth is bound principally in their doctrinal and social beliefs.  Case in point, what do you say (even as, myself, a Christian) to someone who emphatically believes that the only legitimate translation of scripture is the King James Version?  Never mind its inaccessibility to many people or the several errors in translation, it is correct, even truth.  Never mind that William Tyndale utilized the “thee, thou” language because it was used among the common man and therefore made scripture more accessible to the masses (why then not strive to translate into an intelligible language to the masses now?).  And never mind that this scripture was purportedly God-breathed or inspired (theopneustos)- 2 Timothy 3:16-17– throughout the history of ancient Israel through the Apostolic era into the 1st century AD (although, I imagine an argument could be made here in trying to determine if Paul is only referring to the Hebrew Bible or if we can safely include the New Testament since the established canon of his day was only the Hebrew Bible).  Given this information, it must only be fear that would tie a person to this belief, namely, that they perceive some truth in this translation and set of propositions which establish that translation as truth whereby the questioning and subsequent falsifying of that belief would thereby erode and destroy their truth.  As a Christian to a Christian in this situation, I would warn them to find truth only in the person of Jesus Christ and not peripheral issues to his nature and person.  Forgive my rant (it’s been bugging me for awhile).

Here again, in the city of Chicago, nativism rears its ugly head.  Over a period of spellbinding growth, even after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and intense urban and industrialization Protestants felt themselves to be on-the-ropes.  Viewing the poor, laboring, and largely Catholic immigrants as immoral by virtue of their lifestyles and backgrounds, they went about seeking to convert them to the true religion and a relationship with Jesus for the betterment of their poor condition and that of the nation as a whole.  As a part of this conversion, immigrants (or people new to the country and Chicago) were expected to adopt the gender roles of their WASP ‘saviors’.  This necessitated the acceptance of separate male/female spheres of existence in all things including the spiritual.  Women were home having and raising babies and, most importantly, inculcating religious, specifically Christian, feeling within their children, ideally for the making of strong male character.  It is curious here how women were chiefly invested in raising children of Christian character.  This exacerbates the tension between the female spiritual and male material spheres of existence which helped to bring about such intense revivalism and especially revivalism in which men were actively sought as converts.

Revivalism is not a dead concept today.  I found it curious to discover something of the origin of the revival concept.  Let’s just say that the ‘Third Great Awakening’ revivalism is still alive and well in Floyd County, Virginia (and I’m sure many other rural counties in America).  Go to Floyd, drive around and you will quickly come across signs, mostly outside of churches (not all churches but mainly some Baptist, Church of Christ/God, and Pentecostal churches).  In the summer you’re especially likely to come find plenty of large white tents for revival gatherings.  Oftentimes, these revivals last a week at a time.  My first encounter with this intense revivalism came when I was nine or ten years old.  My Presbyterian friend Russell and I were invited by our Baptist friend Cayman to his churches Vacation Bible School.  We thought nothing of it.  Both Russell and I participated actively and regularly in our churches activities including our own Vacation Bible School (which Cayman did not attend although he was invited).  We were met with a very aggressive teaching which threw the both of us, despite our age, into concern.  We were made to stay late after one class because we did not express an immediate and enthusiastic expression of acceptance when the teacher talked and asked us about Noah’s Ark and Goliath (for some reason, the exact height of Goliath was very important to our salvation).  After a few days of this sort of inquiry our parents pulled us from the weeks activities and were saved (no pun intended).

But these sorts of concerns are legitimate to a great many people and have their origin in this period of revivalism.  I enjoy watching A&E’s adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster book series staring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry.  Bertie Wooster (played by Hugh Laurie) is a very wealthy British bachelor who must constantly wrangle out of the machinations of his numerous aunts to see him marry various respectable but peculiar women.  In this endeavor, he is aided by his valet (manservant or butler) Jeeves.  In short, P.G. Wodehouse has a knack for capturing and satirizing the world of the British aristocracy and it is quite funny.  This scene has them in New York City in the 1920s.  The elderly woman in the scene has just come from the revival service of a certain Jimmy Mundy and now reviles the vice she encouraged her nephew to pursue previously (skip to minute 4:30):


As a side note, I recently re-watched Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp (1955) and was astounded to note the interlayering of gender, class, and race within the story.  This is one of my favorite childhood movies and I had never noted these themes before.  Wonderful and terrible all at once.  Proof that this class is broadening my horizons and expanding the way in which I view the world and analyze information.  Feel free to watch.  It’s only 75 minutes long.




Racial Boundaries in Religion and Economics

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Sin in the City navigates the late nineteenth/early twentieth century Protestant Christian revival movements and examines the onslaught of “family ideals,” which infiltrated the economic and political infrastructures of the United States’ conservative right.  These ideals arose out of social norms that were confronted by the growth of the city and all its offerings:  tightly cramped living quarters, the streamlining of labor systems, the draw of women away from the home.  The city clashed with customary, white, middle-class notions of moral foundations and was labeled as sinful.

The late nineteenth century found Chicago to be a place of wealth and opportunity.  Entrepreneurs from the east coast sought out new business opportunities; they were able to move to the area, begin in humble positions and work their way to the top.  This “American Dream” of hard work and reward was a strong draw for immigrants to Chicago.  The early population of non-black and non-foreign/non-white was relatively low, and so the opportunities were much more available to white people, and specifically to white men.  Within a relatively short period of time, these booming businesses established strong basis for capitalism in which those in power (white men) extracted resources (work) from lower-income employees who were oftentimes racial and ethnic minorities, disenfranchised them; they owned none of their own equipment and had nothing to offer except their labor (via a Marxist lens, anyhow).   The family structure in place prior to the growth of the city was middle to upper-middle class and white, and their lifestyle was unsettled by city growth.  As Joiner indicates, this sparked a resistance to “sin in the city” that placed heavy emphasis on family values (which have economic [middle class] and racial [white] implications embedded in them) as a defense against growth and change.

From a 2011 article on family values

The racial boundaries (which are intrinsically linked to class boundaries in our society currently) in this book are what interested me the most.  The values that were formed in the Evangelical movements were formed within a white setting.  During this time, black people were heavily discriminated (*not in any way implying that we live in a post-racist society) against and it was only a short time before that they were still enslaved by white families.  In spite of the tensions between black and white populations and individuals, Christianity was a common spread.  Whether they were forcibly or willingly, the oppressed group adopted the theological traditions of the oppressors.  While this is not entirely surprising in itself, it struck a cord with me nonetheless.

Black people during slavery and afterwards, having the Bible or versions of Biblical stories as narratives for their faith, would necessarily have to have drawn different lessons from Christianity’s offerings than white people would have.  While it is not uncommon for people to internalize self-hatred, Black embracement of Christianity came from messages of hope and survival more often than it would have come from white interpretations of it that served as justification for slavery/discrimination/oppression, etc.

During the 1893 World Fair Campaign, a woman named Fannie Barrier Williams was permitted by leaders of the movement to speak on behalf of the family values that were advertised as the solution to the moral crisis being presented by the city of Chicago.  Williams was a black woman married to a lawyer and was considered “elite” and the board who allowed her to speak was comprised of white men and women.  Williams was therefore not representative of black experience in Chicago in the late 1890’s, but her presence in the campaign was still controversial.  What I did find controversial was the message that she was touting.  The family values the World Fair Campaign promoted were the same values founded by white, middle class families.  Fannie Williams spoke against the myths surrounding black men and women’s promiscuity and against the use of Christianity as a tool to promote slavery and discrimination, but she went on to claim that slavery had ruined what she called “family instincts in the negro race in America.”  Missing the irony, Williams saw the family values as inherent to all humans and saw Evangelical Christianity as a baseline truth and opted instead to understand the issue to be the actions of slaveholders and those who allowed and enabled slavery.

The interpretations of Christianity used to promote family values were largely available to only white families — as discrimination occurred in job markets and in social relations — who were the ones with access to economic growth and geographical relocation to places where single-family homes (not “houses”) were available (in terms of existence and affordability).  Those ‘family values’ were an unreachable goal to many African-Americans at that point in time.  The values arose out of an interpretation of Christianity that evolved from and never reformed the interpretations that justified slavery.  And yet instead of applying Black Christian understandings to the city crisis, Williams adopted the values that were still rooted to slavery ideology.

Those values were what perpetuated the already-present racial boundaries that kept black people in place economically, and what better way to continue that cycle in the sub-consciences of both black and white listeners at the Fair than to have a wealthy, black woman — a statistical outlier — vouch for a system that suggested a solution to black families and yet ultimately provided them with a system that perpetuated their own oppression at the benefit of white people?

Girls Just want to have fun!

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

So as I was reading about the flappers and the women preachers, I thought to myself, do flappers dance? Because it seems to me like thats what flappers should do. So of course I went to youtube and looked in up! This is the video I found, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the music in the back ground. [youtube][/youtube]. But that got me to thinking even more (ya that’s a lot of thinking, I know) and I was wondering did the women of the 1920’s have fun? Was the freedom that they experienced as flappers and as preachers a good time had by all? Part of me thinks of course they did! They got to experience freedom and begin to break away from social norms. Women started to enter into a new social spheres that would have been unheard of before the 1920’s. But really, how different was it? Lets take a look at the women who began preaching. The readings talked about how even among the churches that women where allowed to preach, they still where expected to maintain the house, and be good wives to their husbands. The evangelical church was threatened by new ideas of freedom what they considered promiscuous behavior. Things like this didn’t sit well  with the evangelicals.  

The women that did preach, would preach against the changing culture that the flappers embraced. It ironic that while both the flappers and the women preachers were experiencing a new dynamic of freedom, they greatly disagreed about what it should look like. In class we talked about how the women evangelicals would go preach to prostitutes and other women, and when they did they would tell those women to embrace a pure life style, one in which they would be domestic and subversive to the male leaders of the church. I think that it is good that women began to have a role in the church, but part of me wonders just how big of a role it really was, especially if their roles only enforced patriarchy within the leadership of the church.

PS: When I was looking up images of flappers, I found this, anyone else think its super creepy?


A Playlist of Evangelism

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Yes, perhaps I’ve got classic rock on the brain–(all the time, 24-7)– but our readings this week definitely brought to mind some famous songs…and I’m not talkin’ Y.M.C.A. These songs, while perhaps seemingly frivolous at first glance, actually represent how closely religious and secular views of society resembled each other and– dare I say it?– influenced each other.

First of all, we have the Evangelist’s side of things: Don’t Stop Believin’. This rock anthem, brought to you by Journey, seems religiously based at the outset: “Don’t Stop Believin’/Hold onto that feeling,” namely, faith. (This also ties to Journey’s equally-amazing song, Faithfully…but I digress.)

Evangelists of all ages and both sexes urge the Chicagoans to hold fast to their faith in the increasingly secular city in which they live, as the Red Light District expands and venereal disease creeps into the homes of dutiful middle-class Christians. Evangelists are especially quick to criticize prostitutes and those who run from domestic, middle class lives, such as our victim/protagonist? in this Bon Jovi tune, Runaway. Indeed, it seems that this era is full of stereotypes of the woman who runs rampant with promiscuity, poisoning Chicago’s streets with her sexual availability and rebuttal of societal rules. However, equally potent is the girl evangelist (who, admittedly, hits the scene a little later) from “Out of the Mouths of Babes,” who seems (and seeks) to embody a little messenger Angel in the urban slums. In the end though, it always seems to come back to Girls, Girls, Girls!

However, these so-called “religious” messengers are often young and impressionable themselves, and if we take a look at the lyrics of the Journey songs especially– and both of these are lyric vids, just so that you can indeed look at the lyrics if you’re unfamiliar with them, you’re welcome– we can see a sense of loss and displacement on the part of the youth, and something that deviates quite starkly from matters of churchliness:

“A singer in a smoky room/ the smell of wine and cheap perfume/ for a smile, they can share the night/ it goes on and on and on and on/ Strangers waiting, walking down the boulevard, their shadows searching in the night/ Streetlight people livin’ just to find emotion, hiding somewhere in the niiiiiiiiight!”

Now, to me this indicates a certain youthful helplessness, which Joiner hits on in Chapter four, saying how the Christian men of Chicago’s younger generation struggle due to “not measuring up” to their father’s “masculinity,” and yet trying to avoid their mother’s “feminized Christianity” simultaneously. Seems like they’re caught in quite the bind, which may lead them further into vice…and lead them to singers in smoky rooms, wine and cheap perfume.

I really do think that the evangelicals of this time fully believed in what they were doing (and preaching)– but that didn’t keep them from suffering from the Stranglehold in which Chicago’s corrupt capitalist society bound them. At the end of the day, all they could do was keep Takin’ it to the Streets and, most importantly, Livin’ on a Prayer.