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Religions 2018, 9(7), 205; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070205

“Vibrating between Hope and Fear”: The European War and American Presbyterian Foreign Missions

Department of Arts and Humanities, Indiana University Libraries, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
Received: 31 May 2018 / Revised: 21 June 2018 / Accepted: 27 June 2018 / Published: 2 July 2018
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Abstract

Scholars have argued that World War I and its aftermath caused a rapid transformation in American global philanthropy. The decline of the American “moral empire” coincided with the rise of professional, bureaucratic, and secular philanthropy. The reasons for this transformation appear almost self-evident: the crisis greatly exceeded the capabilities of all private organizations, leading to the growth of state-supported, public, and semi-public organizations like the American Red Cross. In fact, though, mainline foreign missions grew rapidly after the war and did not decline until the Great Depression. In 1920, for instance, they combined to receive over 80 percent of Red Cross receipts. Even amid the decline of the “moral empire”, therefore, mainline foreign missions remained major sources of philanthropic aid and primary representatives of American interests abroad. This article looks at the hopes and fears of Presbyterian (USA) foreign missions in the years before American entry into the (imprecisely named) European War, in order to understand the resilience of foreign missions during a period of crisis. The war created numerous practical, financial, and conceptual challenges. But, it also inspired the mission boards to seek greater sacrifices among donors, to coordinate with other boards and the federal government, and to find alternative methods to achieve its goals. These efforts in the first half of the 1910s prefigured a nationwide transformation in ideas about service and voluntary giving. After the United States entered the war, these “social goods” became nearly obligatory in the minds of many Americans. View Full-Text
Keywords: foreign missions; Presbyterian Church in the United States of America; World War I; humanitarianism; philanthropy; fundraising foreign missions; Presbyterian Church in the United States of America; World War I; humanitarianism; philanthropy; fundraising
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Libson, S.P. “Vibrating between Hope and Fear”: The European War and American Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Religions 2018, 9, 205.

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