The Progressive Spirit.
The progressive movement in politics provided a keynote for a dominant voice in American religion in the early years of the twentieth century. Much of the country's white, middle-and upper-middle-class, Protestant establishment believed that America had a special role to play in the destiny—even the salvation—of the world, and the years prior to World War I gave them ample reason for confidence. The prevailing scientific mood of the times fostered a belief in progress toward bigger and better things, and the religiously liberal as well as the politically liberal in the United States thus embraced the new and the modern as evidence of such evolution. They also believed they had the ability and a duty to aid in the betterment of society, so a "crusading," reformist spirit characterized the time. Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party platform of 1912 dovetailed nicely with the Social Gospel movement that had grown up in American Christianity since the 1880s. The call for social and industrial reforms issued by the progressive movement was based on a deeply held conviction about what constituted a just and moral society, and while Roosevelt failed to capture the White House in 1912, his surprising draw in the election illustrated the power of such a vision. American exceptionalism had reached a high point. Through progress, guided by moral principles, the United...
(The entire section is 3935 words.)
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