Award Date

5-1-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Committee Member

David Tanenhaus

Second Committee Member

David Holland

Third Committee Member

Andrew Bell

Fourth Committee Member

David Fott

Number of Pages

99

Abstract

The contention of this thesis is that religion played a vital and sometimes overlooked role in the promotion and success of progressive reform. Religious leaders often provided primary leadership for reform. But even when their role was not so direct, they and the institutions they represented helped cloak reform efforts in moral and religious institutional authority in order to garner support for change. The process of spreading reform was directly related to the process of articulating reform in language with which people would be comfortable.

Just as reform efforts inevitably faced traditionalist resistance, they often succeed when cast in traditional and familiar language. The benefit of religious support for progressivism was its potential to "sell" reform as traditional to conservative buyers. However, religious support for reform was not insincere; reformers were often motivated by religious impulses to cleanse and purify society in order to render it more godly and care for the downtrodden in keeping with Christian counsel. This religious impulse was expressed not only in the lives of members of the Protestant Social Gospel movement, but also in the lives of Catholics, Mormons and Jews. These groups often found common ground on which to plant their reformist flags - whether it was labor legislation, suffrage, prohibition, health and safety regulation, or numerous other causes. Not only did they communicate with each other, but they forged ties with reformers whose fervency was less traceable to institutional religious motivation, but who were no less zealous.

Keywords

Catholic; Catholic Church; Mormon; Mormon Church; Pluralism; Progressivism; Progressivism (United States politics) – Religious aspects; Protestant; Protestant churches; Religion and social problems; Religious pluralism; Social Gospel

Disciplines

Politics and Social Change | Religion

Language

English


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