Losing My Religion

The effects of World War I on pacifism in the Stone-Campbell Movement

Authored by: Joshua W. Jeffery

The Routledge History of World Peace Since 1750

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138069138
eBook ISBN: 9781315157344
Adobe ISBN:


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As the historiography of peace movements and pacifism has expanded in recent years and attracted new attention from scholars, these narratives have often—and justifiably—focused on the role of religion in the creation and sustaining of movements for peace. In fact, scholars of American religion have placed such an emphasis on peace movements that, according to Yale historian of American religion Harry Stout, textbooks, monographs, and surveys of American religion seem to portray “that religion in America is better understood in terms of its peace testimony than its support of war.” Stout argues that historians have generally failed to ask the question of “why did American religious actors feel compelled to preach peace.” 1 Stout’s answer is that many religious (and secular) Americans felt the need to teach on and argue for peace because “there has not been one generation in America’s colonial and national history that has not known substantial wars of conquest and dominion.” 2 Therefore, peace movements existed because America has been a nation from its inception that has not known peace; therefore, Americans have felt the need to agitate for it. Stout goes on to argue that historians of American religion have largely ignored war in favor of a narrative of peace, which creates the assumption that America’s normal state has been that of peace, punctuated by wars that were just, necessary, and good. 3 Stout’s article was, ironically, a call to arms to fellow scholars to address the history of religion and war in the United States, which he felt has been systematically ignored.

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