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Cincinnati, Ohio

Lane Theological Seminary

View of Lane Theological Seminary from the General Catalogue. 1829-1899

View of Lane Theological Seminary from the General Catalogue. 1829-1899

Lane Theological Seminary was founded by the Presbyterian church during the wave of evangelical revivals known as the Second Great Awakening with the express purpose of educating pastors to serve the growing population of the old Northwest Territory. Its location in Cincinnati was strategic: as members of the class of 1833 would later explain,

[The West] was our expected field; we assembled here, that we might the more accurately learn its character, catch the spirit of the gigantic enterprise, grow up into its genius, appreciate its peculiar wants, and be thus qualified by practical skill, no less than by theological erudition, to wield the weapons of truth. (“Statement of Reasons,” From The Liberator, vol. 5, no. 2, Jan. 10, 1835, pp. [5]-6)

The nation’s most significant inland city, Cincinnati’s location on the Ohio River made it a center of commerce and communication, the pivot point between not only Eastern and Western States, but between North and South as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the school quickly became the site of a major rift in American Protestantism over the issue of slavery.

Portrait of Lyman Beecher, between 1855-1865. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-cwpbh-02529.

Portrait of Lyman Beecher, between 1855-1865. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-cwpbh-02529.

The college trustees recruited prominent New England preacher Lyman Beecher to serve as the Seminary’s first president in 1832. Beecher–an evangelical who combined theology with activism–encouraged the students to reflect on the application of Christianity to the serious social and political problems of their time, including slavery. Although some of the students came from Southern families, even they tended to be view the institution of slavery as an evil in need of reform: the question for the Lane student body was not whether slavery should be brought to an end, but how.

Up to this point in the nation’s history, anti-slavery advocates had largely taken one of two positions: gradual emancipation, or colonization. As the nineteenth century wore on, the question of slavery weighed ever more heavily upon the conscience of Americans in the northern and western states, some reformers like William Lloyd Garrison began to demand the immediate end of slavery in the United States. These radical abolitionists spoke with a sense of moral imperative: with fiery rhetoric, they denounced not only the evils of slavery, but also their more moderate counterparts in the anti-slavery movement as little better than co-conspirators with slaveholders.

Abolition Debates of 1834

The seminarians organized an eighteen-day event to consider two central questions:

  • “Ought the people of the slaveholding States to abolish Slavery immediately?”
  • “Are the doctrines, tendencies, and measures of the American Colonization Society, and the influence of its principal supporters, such as render it worthy of the patronage of the Christian public?”

Representatives from the student body who had first-hand experience with slavery spoke for nine evenings on each question. By the end of the debates, it was clear that the majority of the students had not only reached the opinion that colonization was un-Christian, but also that immediate abolition was the only possible position compatible with Christian beliefs. The formed an anti-slavery society with the goal of “the immediate emancipation of the whole colored race within the United States: The emancipation of the slave from the oppression of the master, the emancipation of the free colored man from the oppression of public sentiment, and the elevation of both to an intellectual, moral, and political equality with the whites.” To achieve these ends, the students vowed to use their theological training to help shift public opinion on the issue, as well as to improve the condition of the black population in their midst. 

Preamble and constitution of the anti-slavery society of Lane Seminary. [c. 1834]. Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.24800600/.

Preamble and constitution of the anti-slavery society of Lane Seminary. [c. 1834]. Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.24800600/.

The students not only “published facts, arguments, remonstrances and appeals” they also “threw [them]selves into the neglected mass of colored population in the city of Cincinnati, and that we might lead it up to the light of the sun, established Sabbath day and evening schools, lyceums, a circulating library, &c..” [1] The radicalization of the student body unnerved the local population, and the school’s governing board responded to their complaints by censoring all anti-slavery speech and activity on the grounds that it was unrelated to the scholarly work of the institution. Nearly forty members of the student body left in response to the Board’s actions: these “Lane Rebels” eventually found a home at Oberlin College, where they contributed to its reputation as an institution at the forefront of social and cultural reform.

The Aftermath: Two Visions of Freedom and Religion

In the immediate aftermath of the controversy over the abolition debates, two strikingly different visions of the relationship between religion and freedom emerged. To the students and their supporters, the Board’s actions were a clear infringement upon their natural right to free inquiry. In a lengthy statement published in The Liberator, the Rebels explained their decision to leave the seminary. 

We believe free discussion to be the duty of every rational being. It is the acting out of the command ‘prove all things.’ It is inquiry after immutable truth, whether embodied in the word, or hid in the works of God, or branching out through the relations and duties of man. We bound to conduct this search, wherever it may lead, and to adopt the conclusions to which it may bring us. And, whereas, the single object of ascertaining truth is to learn how to act, we are bound to do at once whatever truth dictates to be done. This duty of discussion and action is not conferred by human authority, and we have no licenseto resign it upon entering into any association, literary or political. Free discussion being a duty, is consequently a right, and as such, is inherent and inalienable. It is our right. It was before we entered Lane Seminary: privileges we might and did relinquish; advantages might and did receive. But this right the institution ‘could neither give nor take away.’

… If it be objected that such a system of government is liable to abuse by students, we answer, be it so. Moral agency is abused by every sinner. Liberty is liable to abuse, and so is religion. Heaven was abused by devils, and Paradise was prostituted by Adam. The best principles, as well as the best things, are most liable to abuse. But there is a remedy; the same that God adopted with the fallen angels and our first parent, —Expulsion. We know of no other. Inhibition of free discussion is ruin, not remedy.[2]

Thus, what happened at Lane Seminary is often cited as a landmark in the development of the modern conception of academic freedom–a concept that in its origins, draws explicitly upon a Christian understanding of freedom of conscience and religious exercise. 

Meanwhile, Beecher sought to use his position as the head of the seminary to promote his vision of a theologically conservative and moderately reform-minded Protestantism as the key to national peace and prosperity. Ironically, in A Plea for the WestBeecher argued that popular support of mainline protestant educational institutions (like Lane) was the only way order to secure the “religious and political destiny” of the nation. National identity–threatened by radical Protestantism of the sort represented by the Lane Rebels–was equally threatened by the growing influence of Catholicism in the United States, with its historic associations with monarchical and even despotic regimes.


[1] Statement of the reasons which have induced the Students of Lane Seminary, to dissolve their connection with the Institution. Cincinnati: 1834. From The Liberator, vol. 5, no. 2, Jan. 10, 1835, pp. [5]-6

[2] Ibid.

Big Horn National Forest, Wyoming

Big Horn Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark Bighorn National Forest, Lovell, Wyoming. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark Bighorn National Forest, Lovell, Wyoming. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Constructed in pre-Columbian times, this native stone structure consists of twenty-eight spokes radiating from a central cairn. The circular shape is meant to represent the sun, and the twenty-eight spokes correspond to the length of a lunar month. Around the perimeter of the wheel are several additional cairns, which archaeologists and astronomers believe were placed in order to indicate the location of certain key astronomical events, the timing of which were important for various religious observations.

Today, the Medicine Wheel is still considered a sacred site by various native groups who visit it for vision quests, healing ceremonies, and as part of religious observations connected with solar and stellar activity.

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Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Mother Mosque of America

Mother Mosque of America, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photo by David and Ellen Tucker.

Mother Mosque of America, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photo by David and Ellen Tucker.

Muslims first arrived in what is now the United States in the early years of exploration and settlement. Often they came as African slaves or servants, but they also arrived as sailors, merchants, explorers and settlers. A Muslim appears to have been a colonist in New Amsterdam as early as 1630. Muslim numbers were small, however, until late in the nineteenth century, and not large even then, as immigrants from the Ottoman Empire and India arrived. Even these immigrants did not result in communities that could afford to build and maintain mosques. Islamic organizations did develop, however, often in connection with the purchase and maintenance of cemeteries where Muslims could be buried according to Islamic law and custom.

In the nineteenth century, many Muslim immigrants arriving from what is now Syria and Lebanon worked as peddlers in rural America, especially in the mid-west. Some of these immigrants learned about the opportunities available in the United States through attendance at Christian schools in the Middle East. (American Christians built these schools as part of their largely unsuccessful efforts to convert Muslims.) If these Muslims gathered for prayers, they did so in a home.

The first mosque in America was built in 1929 in Ross, North Dakota.[1] It is no longer standing.  The longest surviving mosque is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Now referred to as the Mother Mosque of America, it was finished in 1934.  The Mosque came about after the wives and children of the first male immigrants arrived, causing the community to grow to a size sufficient to support a mosque. The women in fact organized first into a social club, and then used this club to encourage the men to engage in the fundraising necessary to build the mosque.

The mosque was used until 1971, when the community had grown enough to warrant the construction of larger mosque, The Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids (http://crmosque.com/).  The first mosque was sold, fell into disrepair, and then was re-purchased by the Islamic Center in 1991. Today the Mother Mosque is used as a meeting place and cultural center.

The Mother Mosque is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Moslem Temple,” the name by which it was known locally when first constructed.

Learn more


[1] http://www.voanews.com/a/a-13-2005-10-20-voa14/293702.html

Wilmette, Illinois

The Baha’i Temple

Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David & Ellen Tucker.

Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David & Ellen Tucker.

The Baha’i faith arose in Iran and from Iran’s Shia Islamic traditions in the 1840s. It teaches the unity of God, religion, and humanity. Adherents of the faith believe that key figures in other religious traditions – Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, and Mohammed – are also prophets sent by God at various points in history to establish religions suitable to their time and place. This religious history, a gradual and still ongoing revelation, will lead finally to the establishment of universal peace and justice. The Baha’i faith recognizes its founder, Mírzá Husayn `Alí (1817–1892), and Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad (1819–1850), who prophesized the coming of Mírzá Husayn `Alí, as the two most recent of God’s messengers. Because the faith arose out of Islam but does not consider Mohammed as the final messenger of God, Muslims consider members of the Baha’i faith heretics. For this reason, Baha’is have suffered persecution by Muslims, most recently and notably in Iran.

Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David & Ellen Tucker.

Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David & Ellen Tucker.

Estimates of the number of adherents to the faith world-wide vary between five and seven million. Estimates also vary of the number of adherents in the United States. One recent estimate by the official Baha’i organization in the United States put the number of Baha’is in America at about 150,000.

Converts to the Baha’i faith began to appear in the United States in the 1890s, during a period when interest in religions outside of the Christian and Jewish traditions was growing in the United States. The World’s Parliament of Religions convened in Chicago in September 1893 (during the Columbian Exposition, a world trade fair timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of European discovery of the Americas). A speech at the parliament by a Christian missionary to Syria mentioned Mírzá Husayn (then living under house arrest in Acre, in Ottoman Palestine, now Israel). The speaker complimented as “Christ-like” Husayn `Alí’s call “that all nations should become one in faith and all men . . . brothers.” These remarks in 1893 are thought to be the first recognition of the Baha’i faith in the United States.[1]

The Baha’i faith has no clergy. Elected councils at local, national and international levels run the affairs of the faith, which include organizing study groups, lectures, and devotional gatherings as well as building temples and other meeting places. Anyone may become a member of the faith by accepting the teachings of Mírzá Husayn `Alí, known to the Baha’i as Baha’u’llah, or “the Glory of God.”

Detail, Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David & Ellen Tucker.

Detail, Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David & Ellen Tucker.

Plan of Baha'i temple Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David and Ellen Tucker.

Plan of Baha’i temple Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David and Ellen Tucker.

In keeping with its global mission, the Baha’is have built eight temples around the world.  Each of the temples is different, but all are nine-sided domed structures surrounded by gardens. This design represents the Baha’i belief in the ultimate unity of religions and humanity under one God. (In the Baha’i faith, as in Hinduism, the number nine – for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it is the highest single digit – symbolizes completion and perfection.) All of the temples are built with donations only from adherents to the faith.

Detail, Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David & Ellen Tucker.

Detail, Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois. Photo by David & Ellen Tucker.

One of the eight temples is in Wilmette, Illinois, just north of Chicago. It was designed by noted architect Louis Bourgeois, himself a member of the Baha’i Faith. The cornerstone was set in 1912; construction began in 1921; the temple was finished and dedicated in 1953. On each of the nine sides of the temple, an arched doorway offers entrance into one large, light-suffused worship space. This design suggests the multiplicity of entryways, via separate religious traditions, that lead to one unified faith. While the intricate filigree patterns cut into the walls and dome of the structure reflect the origins of the faith in the Islamic middle east, close examination reveals a range of symbols – including circles, triangles, serpent shapes, suns, flames, stars ranging from five to nine points, and crosses – from a range of ethnic cultures and religious traditions, all woven into a unified design.  

Learn more:


[1] The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893, ed. Richard Hughes Seager (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1993) 37, 42.

Kirtland, Ohio

The First Mormon Temple, 1836

The Kirtland Temple, Kiirtland, OH. Photograph by Kate Pitrone.

The Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, OH. Photograph by Kate Pitrone.

Joseph Smith (1805-1844) published the Book of Mormon in 1830, while he was living in Palmyra, New York. As converts began to increase, Smith sent a small group of people to Missouri to prepare a place for the Mormons (as they were commonly known) to gather because Smith believed that there he and his followers would found the New Jerusalem. On their way west, the group met and converted Sidney Rigdon (1793-1876), who himself had started a small community near Kirtland in northeastern Ohio, not far from Lake Erie, whose purpose was to return to a more original form of Christianity. Most of Rigdon’s community converted to Mormonism as well.  In 1831, after Smith had met Rigdon, he decided to relocate his church to the Ohio town.

Kirtland became the first Mormon outpost. Within the space of a few years, the population of the town exploded as new converts arrived to help build the community, to study the book of Mormon, and to hear Smith’s preaching. Throughout this period, Smith continued to receive what he claimed were divinely inspired revelations regarding both the doctrine and polity of the church. Among the most controversial of Smith’s teachings was that human beings were co-eternal with God, and would indeed, one day become gods themselves. It was in Kirtland also that Smith received the revelation of the Word of Wisdom, which enjoins Mormons from drinking alcohol, or hot drinks (understood to be tea and coffee), and using tobacco. Abstaining from these practices, Smith taught his followers, would help to purify and strengthen their physical bodies so that they would be better able to sustain the rigors of life on the mission field.

In early 1833, Smith reported that he had been told the time had come for the church to erect “an house of prayer, an house of fasting, an house of faith, an house of learning, an house of glory, an house of order, an house of God.”[1] Work commenced immediately. During this period, church members followed what Smith called the Law of Consecration, in which they turned their property over to the Church. They also donated their labor to help build and furnish the temple, working in teams to quarry, transport, and set the stone blocks used in its construction, as well as to weave the rugs and curtains, construct the pews and altars, and other materials required for the religious services eventually to be held there.

At the dedication of the temple in 1836, and for some time after, the community experienced a time of renewed religious enthusiasm. Both male and female Mormons reported speaking in tongues, having ecstatic and prophetic visions, and participating in the laying on of hands for spiritual and physical healing. Yet all was not well: the Kirtland community was undone by the economic panic of 1837, in part because it had operated its own bank, which (typical of banks in the United States at the time) issued notes but was unregulated. Bankruptcies and conflicts with non-Mormon neighbors, who saw Mormonism as a heretical form of Christianity, combined with what has been described as the the Kirtland Apostasy, when several converts left the church as a result of Smith’s more controversial teachings, forced Smith to leave. He took those who would follow to Missouri. Those who stayed behind organized themselves into a separate Mormon church, now known as the Community of Christ.  

In 1838, shortly before fleeing Kirtland for Missouri, Smith officially changed the name of the religious movement from the “Church of Christ” to the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” signifying his increased emphasis on new revelations rather than on primitive Christianity.


[1]Revelation, 27–28 December 1832 [D&C 88:1–126],” 45–46, josephsmithpapers.org; punctuation and capitalization modernized; see also Doctrine and Covenants 88:119.

 

Chicago, Illinois

Hull House: The Social Gospel in Action

Born in 1860 to a long-time friend of Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams (d. 1935) dedicated her life to ensuring that even the nation’s poorest citizens would be able to realize their natural right to the “pursuit of happiness” central to the Declaration of Independence. Although Addams’ personal religious views are somewhat enigmatic, she fully believed that the human soul existed on a level above the merely material or even rational. A proponent of the “social gospel,” she emphasized those elements of Christian teaching that pointed to the dignity of every individual and the duty to ‘love thy neighbor’ as practical and not merely spiritual exercise.

Jane Addams, c. 1914. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-10598.

Jane Addams, c. 1914. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-10598.

In an essay on “Religious Education and Contemporary Social Conditions” (1911), Addams criticized traditional churches and religious organizations for failing to appreciate that the souls they longed to save had immediate as well as eternal needs. She warned church leaders that in doing so, they had left the poorest and most vulnerable members of society open to the false promises of evolution and materialism. Yet the very falseness of these philosophies–their inability to speak to the transcendent element of human nature–meant that there was still a “great opportunity” for religious educators to reach not only the poor and immigrant communities, but also the optimistic and secularized social workers who labored among them. Addams urged religious educators to harness their theology to compassion, to “transmute the comradeship of mutual suffering into a religious communion.” It was the “business of religion,” she argued, “not only to comfort and conserve, but to prophecy and fortify men for coming social changes.”

America’s First “Social Settlement”

In 1880s,  Addams traveled to Great Britain to study the “settlement house” movement. Although settlement workers often advocated for government reforms to improve living conditions in the crowded tenement housing of nineteenth century cities,  their most important contribution came in the form of hands-on volunteer work.Essentially an urban missionary effort, the movement recruited young men and women from the educated classes to live (or “settle”) among the poorest urban communities. There, they could put their education to use, offering services to their neighbors ranging from daycare, language, and health and hygiene classes to lending libraries, lecture series, and other forms of cultural enrichment.

Living Room, Tenement Apartment Near Hull House, 1910. Lewis Hine. New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-4d95-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Living Room, Tenement Apartment Near Hull House, 1910. Lewis Hine. New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-4d95-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

In 1889,  assisted by her friend Ellen Gates, Addams moved into the heart of one of Chicago’s largest immigrant neighborhoods to establish the first American settlement house.

New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 18, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-0451-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 18, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-0451-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

At Hull House, Addams and her coworkers put their progressive, practical morality to the test, offering a variety of social services and practical educational opportunities to immigrants from Italy, Ireland, Germany, Greece, Russia, and Poland. Subjects covered included: sanitation, midwifery, modern cooking techniques, and office skills as well as language and physical fitness.

Driven by Addams’ vision of dignified democracy,  these courses were supplemented with activities designed to uplift the human mind and spirit such as book clubs, lecture series, singing groups, and even an art studio and exhibition space. In these settings, Addams encouraged immigrant families to retain their traditional heritages while also adopting a respectful attitude towards those of others. She fostered a sense of unity within diversity at Hull House by welcoming all its members to share their traditions and talents with one another.

"The singing class at Hull House, Chicago, 1910." Lewis Hine. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 18, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-4db2-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

“The singing class at Hull House, Chicago, 1910.” Lewis Hine. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 18, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-4db2-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99. As Hine noted: “This is characteristic of the friendly, constructive work that has always been done at Hull House with the neighbors.”

Although Addams fiercely criticized the majority of religious education as irrelevant, she appreciated the use of music in such settings. Group singing of religious songs, she observed, reinforced a sense of community among the participants: choral singers not only gained a skill that could provide enrichment and beauty to their lives, they also learned to work together with the rest of the chorus members to create the harmonies necessary for a richer, more nuanced song. Music practice, then, was also practice in the art of community building so central to the success of Hull House’s mission, and Addams even went so far as to encourage one of her coworkers to compose a series of Hull House Songs specifically for use at the settlement.

 


Pacificism

Newport, Rhode Island

“Children of the Stock of Abraham” in America: The Jewish Congregation of Newport

After the Dutch lost control of their settlements in Brazil to the Portuguese in the mid-seventeenth century, the small Sephardic Jewish community that had flourished under the tolerant laws of the Netherlands found themselves in diaspora. A handful of these families migrated north, eventually settling in Newport, Rhode Island around 1658. Founded as a haven for religious dissenters, colonial Rhode Island was a notably diverse and relatively religiously tolerant society where the Jewish population could expect to flourish without fear of reprisal.

Constructed between 1759-1763 for a Jewish congregation that had been meeting in Newport for over a century, Touro Synagogue is the oldest Jewish synagogue in the United States.

View of West Façade of Touro Synagogue. Historic American Buildings Survey, June, 1971. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.ri0083/photos.144467p

View of West Façade of Touro Synagogue. Historic American Buildings Survey, June, 1971. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.ri0083/photos.144467p

The building and its interior furnishings reflect the elegant neo-classicalism popular in the mid- to late- eighteenth century, and suggest the success of the Newport congregation in adapting to their new home.

The integration of the Newport Jewish community with the rest of the town is also indicated by the placement of their house of worship. The synagogue (indicated by the letter K on this map) was located in the heart of Newport’s commercial and governmental activity; note the shading which indicates its prime situation on a rise overlooking the harbor, and its close proximity to the courthouse (L).

A Plan of the Town of Newport by Charles Blaskowitz. London: William Faden, 1777. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Divison, 74692104.

A Plan of the Town of Newport by Charles Blaskowitz. London: William Faden, 1777. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Divison, 74692104.

The dedication of the synagogue was described in a diary entry by local Congregational ministry Ezra Stiles.

In the Afternoon was the dedication of the new Synagogue in this Town. It began by a handsome procession in which were carried the Books of the Law, to be deposited in the Ark. Several Portions of Scripture and of their Service with a Prayer for the Royal Family, were read and finely sung by the priest and People. There were present many Gentlemen and Ladies. The Order and Decorum, the Harmony and Solemnity of the Musick, together with a handsome Assembly of People, in an Edifice the most perfect of the Temple kind perhaps in America and splendidly illuminated, could not but raise in the Mind a faint Idea of the Majesty and Grandeur of the Ancient Jewish Worship mentioned in Scripture.

Dr. Isaac de Abraham Touro performed the Service. The Synagogue is about perhaps fourty foot long and 30 wide, of Brick on a Foundation of Free Stone; it was begun about two years ago, and is now finished except the Porch and the Capitals of the Pillars. The Front representation of the holy of holies, or its Partition Veil, consists only of wainscotted Breast Work on the East End, in the lower part of which four long Doors cover an upright Square Closet the depth of which is about a foot or the thickness of the Wall, and in this Apartment (vulgarly called the Ark) were deposited three copies and Rolls of Pentateuch, written on Vellum or rather tanned Calf Skin: one of these Rolls I was told by Dr. Touro was presented from Amsterdam and is Two Hundred years old, the letters have the Rabbinical Flourishes. A Gallery for the Women runs around the whole Inside, except the East End, supported by Columns of Ionic order, over which are placed correspondent columns of the Corinthian order supporting the Ceiling of the Roof, the Depth of the Corinthian Pedestal is the height of the Balustrade which runs around the Gallery. The pulpit for Reading of the Law, is a raised Pew with an extended front table; this placed about the center of the Synagogue or nearer the West End being a square embalustraded comparting with the length of the Indented Chancel before and at the Foot of the Ark.

On the middle of the North Side and Affixed to the Wall is a raised Seat for the Parnas or Ruler, and for the Elders; the Breast and Back interlaid with Chinese Mosaic Work. A Wainscotted Seat runs around the Side of the Synagogue below and another in the Gallery. There are no other Seats or Pews. There may be Eighty Souls of Jews or 15 families now in Town. The Synagogue has already cost Fifteen Hundred Pounds Sterling. There are to be five Lamps pendant from a lofty Ceiling.

Ezra Stiles, Friday 2 December 1763 in Diary. Cited in HABS No. RI-278

Interior, Touro Synagogue. New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a5c31f84-0606-ffc6-e040-e00a18060180

Interior, Touro Synagogue. New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a5c31f84-0606-ffc6-e040-e00a18060180. Many of the same rich appointments Stiles commented upon are still visible in this early twentieth century postcard.


“To Bigotry No Sanction”: Washington’s Visit to Newport

In 1790, shortly after Rhode Island ratified the Constitution, George Washington visited the state to promote passage of the pending amendments to the Constitution. Now known as the Bill of Rights, these amendments were largely a response to Anti-Federalist fears about the extensive powers of the national government and delineated several essential personal rights as beyond the reach of Congressional legislation. To many Americans, especially those belonging to minority religious groups, the most significant of the proposed amendments was the one protecting religious liberty.

In Newport, Washington was met by a welcoming delegation of the town’s leading citizens, among whom was Moses Seixas, the warden of the Touro Synagogue. In his address, Seixas left no doubt of his support for the proposed religious liberty amendment, expressing his relief and gratitude to “the Ancient of Days, the great preserver of men” that the Jews–so often grievously “deprived … of the invaluable rights of free Citizens” on account of their religion–now lived under a government “which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799Newport, Rhode Island, Hebrew Congregation to George Washington, August 17, 1790, Address of Welcome.

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799 Newport, Rhode Island, Hebrew Congregation to George Washington, August 17, 1790, Address of Welcome.

In Washington’s response, the new president quoted Seixas’ description of the government of the new nation as one where neither bigotry nor persecution on religious grounds were to enjoy protection.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

Invoking the common heritage of Jews and the nation’s Christian majority, Washington closed his letter to the Jewish congregation by expressing his hopes that the “children of the stock of Abraham” in America would “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants,” and that all of that nation’s citizens would find “light, and not darkness upon [their] paths.”

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 2 LetterbooksGeorge Washington to Newport, Rhode Island, Hebrew Congregation, August 17, 1790

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 2 Letterbooks. George Washington to Newport, Rhode Island, Hebrew Congregation, August 17, 1790

Princeton, New Jersey

Presbyterian Evangelicalism

Frontispiece to An Account of the College of New-Jersey, Woodbridge, N.J., 1764 | Gilbert Tennent. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7acf-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Frontispiece to Gilbert Tennent,  An Account of the College of New-Jersey (Woodbridge, N.J., 1764). New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7acf-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The sister-institutions of Princeton University (then known as the College of New Jersey) and later, Princeton Theological Seminary have been at the center of American Presbyterian education and scholarship. Founded in 1746 to provide training for New Light (evangelical) ministers during the Second Great Awakening, the college moved into Nassau Hall (shown above, from a sketch drawn by Gilbert Tennent) in 1756. Ministerial training ceased to be the primary goal of the college after John Witherspoon was named to the presidency in 1768, although Princeton retained a strong evangelical identity and connection to American Presbyterianism until the end of the nineteenth century. 

John Frelinghuysen Hageman, History of Princeton and its institutions (J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1879), 324.

John Frelinghuysen Hageman, History of Princeton and its institutions (J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1879), 324.

As the curriculum at Princeton became more broadly academic, it became apparent that a new institution where ministerial candidates could go to obtain specialized theological training was needed. Accordingly, in 1809, the Presbyterian Church in the United States voted to establish a seminary where students might be taught in accordance with the great creeds and confessions of Presbyteriansim. Naturally, given Princeton’s long-standing associations with American Presbyterianism, as well as its desirable location in the mid-Atlantic, the denomination hoped to be able to locate their new seminary near the existing college. In 1811, the General Assembly reached an agreement with the new president of Princeton, Ashbel Green, in which the college ceded a portion of its land to be used to create the campus for the new seminary and pledged to accommodate the seminarians in its own buildings until construction of the theological school could be completed. 

Relations between the seminary and the college remained close for almost a century; indeed, Charles Hodge, professor and second president of the seminary served as a member of the college’s Board of Trustees from 1850-1878, where he used his influence to help keep religious instruction central to the college’s mission and curriculum. Professors at one institution were regularly invited to give lectures at the other, and together, the College and the Seminary combined to offer the nation a model of excellent, religiously-influenced education with a strong orientation towards public service as an expression of personal piety.

At the seminary, Archibald Alexander and his successors in the theology department over the next century–Charles Hodge, Archibald Alexander Hodge, and B.B. Warfield– developed this general attitude towards life and learning into a unique strain of Reformed evangelicalism, eventually known as “the Princeton school.” Characterized by a combination of robust scholarship and strict confessionalism with “concern for religious experience [and] sensitivity to the American experience,”[1] for over a century, Princeton theology epitomized orthodox Christian scholarship in America. The writings of Princeton theologians, were not limited to academic audiences, but were widely distributed throughout the country in both book and article form. Through their students’ ministries and their own writings, Princeton’s theologians aimed at cultural transformation in the name of furthering Christ’s kingdom on earth, while simultaneously adhering to the most rigorous standards of academic scholarship.

The Clash of Cultures: Christianity and Liberalism

All of that changed in the 1900s, when the college and the seminary both fell under the influence of liberal, secularizing scholarship. In response, J. Gresham Machen, an esteemed professor at Princeton Theological Seminary published Christianity and Liberalism in 1923. Machen’s book undertook a defense of orthodox Christian doctrine against what he saw as the tendency of American Protestants to water-down the gospel in search of the elusive and transitory goals of relevance and ecumenicism. (Machen had been one of the most vocal opponents of an earlier attempt to unify the nation’s Protestant denominations into one “Organic Union” on the grounds that such an agreement, aimed at the “consolidation… of particular churches” into one generic and doctrinally imprecise ‘church’ was both impractical and unbiblical; see “Protestant Churches Make Plan For United Action,” Scarsdale Inquirer, Number 13, 7 February 1920.)

Machen’s concern only grew stronger after his own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, adopted the Auburn Affirmation in 1924. Intended by its authors and signatories as a statement in favor of freedom of conscience and the congregational governance at the heart of Presbyterian polity, Machen and other critics saw the Affirmation as a rejection of the authority of the Bible and an abandonment of traditional Reformed doctrine. For the next several years, Machen would work to prevent this sort of theological pluralism from prevailing at the seminary and in American Christianity more broadly. Although often labeled as a fundamentalist for his staunch adherence to Biblical inerrancy and other traditional orthodox doctrines, Machen wrote:

I never call myself a “Fundamentalist.” There is indeed, no inherent objection to the term; and if the disjunction is between “Fundamentalism” and “Modernism,” then I am willing to call myself a Fundamentalist of the most pronounced type. But after all, what I prefer to call myself is not a “Fundamentalist” but a “Calvinist”—that is, an adherent of the Reformed Faith. As such I regard myself as standing in the great central current of the Church’s life—the current which flows down from the Word of God through Augustine and Calvin, and which has found noteworthy expression in America in the great tradition represented by Charles Hodge and Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield and the other representatives of the “Princeton School.” (Machen to F.E.  Robinson, Esq., President of the Bryan University Memorial Association, June 25, 1927. Reprinted in THE PRESBYTERIAN, vol. 97, no. 27, July 7, 1927)

When, in 1929, a reorganization of the Seminary’s administration allowed for the inclusion of not only liberal, but also non-Reformed professors on the faculty, Machen and three other members of the faculty (Robert Dick Wilson, Oswald T. Allis, and Cornelius Van Til) left to found Westminster Theological Seminary in nearby Philadelphia.


Machen’s Church Trial

Machen’s efforts to stem the tide of modernist heresy in the Presbyterian church did not end with his retreat from Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1933, after he became convinced that the official missions activities of the Presbyterian Church were more in keeping with the teachings of modernist philosophy than Christian orthodoxy, Machen founded the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. The General Assembly of the PC(USA) accused Machen of undermining the denomination’s efforts and ordered him to disassociate himself from the Independent Board. When Machen refused, on the grounds of conscience, he was brought before a church court in the New Brunswick Presbytery for a disciplinary hearing.

Clipping from an unknown newspaper. Image provided by the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO. Used by permission.

Clipping from an unknown newspaper. Image provided by the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO. Used by permission.

Machen’s trial, held at the First Presbyterian Church in nearby Trenton, NJ, garnered nationwide attention; it was reported in the major newspapers of Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore, as well as in Time Magazine (Monday, Mar. 11, 1935). The irony of Machen’s position–being harried out of a denomination that only ten years earlier had ‘affirmed’ the primacy of individual conscience to scripture–was not lost on outside observers who pointed to the trial as a watershed moment in the history of American Christianity. Indeed, two years after Machen’s trial (and subsequent suspension from the PC(USA), followed by his departure from the denomination to found the Orthodox Presbyterian Church), satirist and cultural commentator H. L. Mencken–normally quite critical of Christianity–applauded the theologian for his astute grasp of the peril presented to the church by modernism, and for the logical tenacity with which Machen defended his beliefs.

He [Machen] saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting and polluting Christianity in the Modernist manner would be its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle away its essential postulates, however respectable their motives. (H. L. Mencken, “Dr. Fundamentalis,” Baltimore Evening Sun 18 January 1937, 2nd Section, p. 15.)

As Mencken observed, for a man of Machen’s faith and learning, there had been literally no other course to take.


 

[1] Mark A. Noll, The Princeton Theology 1812–1921 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 13.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Mother Bethel African-American Episcopal Church

OIH

Albert Newsam, 1844 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, NPG.99.94

Albert Newsam, 1844. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, NPG.99.94

 

1910 | Philadelphia Colored Directory. The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-9d9f-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

1910 | Philadelphia Colored Directory. The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-9d9f-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

1910 | Philadelphia Colored Directory. New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-9d9d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

1910 | Philadelphia Colored Directory. New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-9d9d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Taos, New Mexico

Pueblo Revolt, 1680

1893 | Charles Barbant New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-1be3-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

1893 | Charles Barbant. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-1be3-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

On August 11, 1680, after eighty years of Spanish domination, the settled native population of the Southwest (known collectively as the Pueblo, after their distinctive style of architecture) revolted. The Pueblo had been in conflict with the Spanish colonial population for nearly a century, partly due to the encomienda, a system that allowed Spanish colonists to exact tribute from the native population in the form of labor or material goods in exchange for the supposed benefit of religious instruction. Not surprisingly, the Pueblo people resented being forced to ‘pay’ for the privilege of being being converted to Catholicism, especially when Spanish missionaries used the coercive power of the colonial administration to suppress the native religion by imposing harsh penalties on those found practicing or preaching according to the old traditions and the destruction of native religious paraphernalia.

In 1675, Spanish authorities arrested forty-seven Pueblo priests on charges of sorcery and subjected them to a variety of punishments including imprisonment, forced labor, public flogging, and even execution. After his release from prison, one of these native religious leaders, Po’Pay, retreated to the Taos Pueblo where he received a vision that convinced him it was possible to coordinate the widely disparate Pueblo settlements for a combined attack against the Spanish. Oral tradition tells us that Po’Pay sent runners with knotted chords to each of the Pueblos in New Mexico with instructions that the community leaders were untie one knot every day. When the knots were all undone, they would know that the day of the attack had come.

1701 Herman Moll "The isle of California, New Mexico, Louisiane, the river Misisipi, and the lakes of Canada" New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/4eb08660-1f4c-0133-e930-58d385a7b928

1701 | Herman Moll. “The isle of California, New Mexico, Louisiane, the river Misisipi, and the lakes of Canada” New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/4eb08660-1f4c-0133-e930-58d385a7b928

 

2005 | Cliff Fragua Architect of the Capitol.

2005 | Cliff Fragua. Architect of the Capitol. Note the knotted cords in Po’Pay’s hands.

Following the revolt, Po’Pay toured the various Pueblo communities calling for a revival of traditional lifeways and religious practices. Po’Pay urged the Pueblo people to destroy all material evidence of the Spanish presence, including buildings, church records, religious statues, vestments. At the same time, he also encouraged them to construct new buildings in the traditional styles, including large public ‘dual-plazas’ with each plaza associated with one of the moities or kinship groups of the community. The dualism of traditional Pueblo society was linked to their religious worldview, which emphasized opposites and balance in nature.

1898-1931. The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-3536-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

1898-1931. The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-3536-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

 

1854 | Seth Eastman. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-1bef-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.

1854 | Seth Eastman. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-1bef-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.

During the twelve years the Pueblos maintained their independence, they were able to reinstate many of the traditional religious practices that had been suppressed by the Spanish. Perhaps most significantly, they reopened the kivas (underground chambers) used for religious worship of their ancestors. Po’pay and his followers were so successful in their nativist revival that even after the Spanish returned to New Mexico in 1692, the Pueblo people retained a significant degree of self rule. Thus, the Pueblo communities were able to continue their religious practices virtually without interruption. Many of these festivals and ceremonies are still observed today.

c. 1899 | Hartwell and Hamaker. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-101334.

c. 1899 | Hartwell and Hamaker. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-101334.


Additional Resources:

Matthew Liebmann, Revolt: An Archaeological History of Pueblo Resistance and Revitalization in 17th Century New Mexico (University of Arizona Press, 2012).

Matthew Liebmann, “The Other American Revolution: Archaeology and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” lecture given at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 7 February 2013.

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