The last great awakening: the revival of 1905 and progressivism
A major impulse within the Progressive movement was the desire to revitalize core values based on evangelical Christianity. For an important cross-section of Progressive leaders and evangelical clergymen, new patterns of thought and social realities threatened the moral imperatives on which they based their hopes for America. Feeling this danger acutely, yet also believing in boundless possibilities for building a righteous society, these reformers spearheaded a new Great Awakening within the tradition of past ones. This Awakening spread its influence to a ready electorate through moral fervor and political preaching similar to evangelistic awakenings of the past.Some reformers adapted this revitalization movement to modern patterns of thought, maintaining the moral core of the Awakening. On the other hand clergymen and other Progressives sought a more purely religious Great Awakening, a society-wide revival based on intensified piety and personal evangelism. Liberal and conservative evangelicals converged on similar revival hopes, and they were cheered by a sense of divine intervention and by the surge of popular religious interest culminating in 1905.Beginning with the normal fall and winter evangelism period of 1904-1905, revivals of surprising power swept through cities, towns, and villages around the country. The Revival of 1905 contributed heavily to a surge of popular support for reform, convincing many Progressives that the Great Awakening had arrived. A new constituency remained to support numerous Progressive issues; political leaders responded by framing reform causes as revivalistic crusades.Eventually, however, Progressive crusaders had to come to terms with realities they thought they had conquered. America had become a pluralistic society that operated according to secular lines of thought, and its problems could not be solved through moral suasion alone. About the time of the First World War, when the evangelical consensus collapsed over the question of how far to accommodate secularism, the life went out of Progressivism also. Reform thereafter became purely a matter of building coalitions of interests, not of appealing to society at large to actuate values derived from evangelical Christianity. Still, the power of the moral appeal inhered in American reform thinking for years afterward.
- History