Michael Levin

Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




The most fundamental belief echoed in the Christian Century during the '20s was a persistent optimism about human progress. Editors of the journal devoted such a great deal of energy to the task of diagnosing the ills of society because they held the improvement of the American system to be both beneficial and achievable. It is from this platform of optimism that the Century derived the various components of its complex worldview: its religious morality, pragamatic approach, and its egalitarian belief. All of these principles were dependent on the notion that tomorrow could and would be better than today. The disillusionment that editors felt in response to the suffering resulting from the Great Depression wore on their optimistic approach, to the point where, by 1932, the Century no longer functioned as the stalwart of the social gospel that it once was.

The most significant issues that the journal considered have been grouped according to how editorial opinion in that particular case matched popular notions of liberalism, embodied in broad terms by rationality, toleration of new ideas, and freedom from bigotry and authoritarian attitudes. By all means, the Century's liberal and more theologically conservative motivations bled into and affected one another, each in turn contributing to how the journal perceived American society. Do not mistake the system of analysis that is used in this study for a strict historical model in the vein of the Two Party system-the boundaries defined by the fit with traditional liberalism is more a tool for organization than anything else. To miss this objective would be to miss one of the most essential points of the thesis, that is, the fluid exchange of ideas and concepts throughout the spectrum of Protestant theology.

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