Coming to Maturity.
As "the American century" dawned, the country's religious bodies faced a distinctly modern world, one in which the United States would often take center stage. If the Civil War had represented the growing pains of the nation's adolescence, the twentieth century clearly saw America attaining maturity. The country still faced a long and difficult task of defining what its role in the world should be, and its churches likewise had to clarify their place in a changing society. Economic, social, and intellectual trends that had begun shortly after the Civil War continued to transform American society, often in ways that challenged traditional religious values. Many religious leaders observed an increasing secularization that threatened the effectiveness of churches both in shaping public policy and in maintaining the loyalty of their members. Many theologians wrestled with two parallel concerns: if, and how, the churches should adapt to keep up with the spirit of the times; and if, and how, the conditions of the times should be altered to bring them more into keeping with the ideals of the churches. Many debates that had started in the 1870s on a theoretical level played themselves out in practical terms in the early 1900s. Through new faith ideals, as well as renewed commitments to some old ones, American religion began the process of putting on a new face to meet the new...
(The entire section is 2569 words.)
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