S6:E2 Harold Ockenga – Can Christians Unite?

S6:E2 Harold Ockenga – Can Christians Unite?

From Decline to Unity: Evangelicals Embrace the Youth Culture Revolution – Joel Carpenter

Does this sound familiar? As an evangelical leader, have you been told that the key to reaching today’s youth culture is to simply preach louder and hold more events? But despite your efforts, do you find that young people are still disengaged and uninterested in your message? The pain of investing time, energy, and resources into ineffective strategies can be disheartening. But what if there was a better way? By understanding the historical ties between evangelicals and the Republican Party, exploring the impact of the Scopes trial, and learning about the challenges and opportunities of connecting with youth culture, you can gain valuable insights and discover new strategies for effective outreach.

My special guest is Joel Carpenter

Renowned historian Joel Carpenter joins Chris Staron in this episode to provide expert insights into the relationship between the evangelical movement and youth culture. With his extensive knowledge and research, Joel offers a deep understanding of the historical context and challenges faced by evangelical leaders in engaging with young people. As the author of the influential book “Revive Us Again,” Joel’s expertise in the subject matter is unparalleled. His analysis sheds light on the dynamics within the evangelical movement, highlighting the need for a renewed focus on outreach to effectively connect with the youth of today. Listeners can expect a thought-provoking discussion as Chris and Joel explore the complexities of the evangelical movement’s interaction with youth culture, paving the way for a unified movement and a renewed commitment to reaching out to the younger generation.

The weird duality of separating oneself while also feeling wounded by the culture at large. – Joel Carpenter

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Understand the historical ties between evangelicals and the Republican Party, and how these connections have shaped the political landscape.
  • Explore the impact of the Scopes trial on the fundamentalist movement and gain insights into the ongoing tensions between science and faith.
  • Learn about the challenges and opportunities of connecting with the youth culture as an evangelical leader, and discover new strategies for effective outreach.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the formation and influence of the National Association of Evangelicals, and its role in shaping the evangelical movement.
  • Examine the reasons behind the evangelical shift towards the Republican Party, and uncover the implications of this alliance on both religion and politics.

Historical ties between evangelicals and the Republican Party
Historically, evangelicals have had a complex relationship with the Republican Party in the U.S. Initially, key figures in the evangelical movement, such as Harold Ockenga, did not feel the necessity to align solely with a single political party. However, as the counterculture and student protests of the 1960s and 70s unfolded, the anxieties and fears regarding youth culture pushed evangelicals towards a refocused Republican Party.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

  • Start at the beginning of season six: After listening to this episode, the host encourages listeners to go back and start at the beginning of season six to fully understand the context and background of the topic being discussed.
  • Check out the book Revive Us Again by Joel Carpenter: The host mentions Joel Carpenter, author of the book Revive Us Again, which provides insights into the history of evangelicalism. Interested listeners are encouraged to check out this book for a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
  • Become a patron on Patreon: The host mentions that there is a special bonus episode about Herbert J. Taylor, the president of a Chicago aluminum company, available for patrons on Patreon. Interested listeners are invited to become patrons to gain access to this exclusive content.
  • Visit trucepodcast.com: The host encourages listeners to visit the official website of the Truce Podcast, trucepodcast.com, where they can find additional information, resources, and episodes related to the topics discussed in this episode.
  • Listen to the episode about Harold Ockengay: The host mentions that there is an interview with Harold Ockengay available, but due to audio quality issues, an actor recreated the conversation.


  • “Revive Us Again” by Joel Carpenter
  • “The Evangelicals” by Frances Fitzgerald
  • Interesting article about the American “Religious Depression”
  • “The Surprising Work of God” by Garth Rosell
  • “After the Ivory Tower Falls” by Will Bunch
  • “Reaganland” by Rick Perlstein
  • Bill Graham’s Sermon “The Flames of Revolution”
  • The National Association of Evangelicals “The New Treason”

Discussion Questions:

  • The episode starts by recapping the Scopes Trial. What are your thoughts about that event?
  • Do we as Christians define ourselves by our wounds? Is that good or bad?
  • Do you define yourself by your wound?
  • Does it make sense for evangelists to target the youth? What was the effect in the 1940s and 50s?
  • How did the GI Bill impact college education?
  • Does it bother you that kids going to colleges that were partially funded by the GI Bill then went on to lead the counterculture movements of the 1960s?

Transcript (generated by AI)

This episode is part of a long series exploring how some evangelicals tied themselves to the Truce Podcast in the United States. It can stand on its own, but when you’re done, go back and start at the beginning of season six. This is Harold Akingay and the National Association of Evangelicals. Last season, I covered the history of fundamentalism up through 1925, and in this season, I’m going to spend most of my time in the 1960s. There are a lot of years left out, like 35.

So in this one episode, we’re going to try to catch up. Let’s begin where I left off in season five. Here we go. In 1925, do you believe Joshua made. The sun stand still?

Two lawyers squared off in a large, hot courtroom in Dayton, Tennessee, to try a case in which a young teacher was accused of breaking the law by teaching evolution in a public school. It was the first complete American trial ever broadcast on radio. I believe what the Bible says advertised as a battle of the Giants, science versus religion, ending in an embarrassing moment when a lawyer from the prosecution, William Jennings Bryan, was called to the stand. And they did not come here to try this case. They came here to try revealed religion didn’t do so well.

At the time, the case seemed like a draw. Nobody won. Nobody lost. But in the following decades, the 1930s story grew, and the legend of the Scopes trial turned into a defeat for fundamentalism in the public imagination. Fundamentalists lost in the denominations.

Remember, they didn’t die out. They went underground. That will be important later on. When fundamentalists come out of the woodwork in the 1970s and surprise the culture, fundamentalism was anything but unified. Some denominations divided and others didn’t.

Most fundamentalists stayed put, opting for unity. In the 1930s, historian Joel Carpenter, who we’ll hear from in just a moment, wrote this even when fundamentalists have expressed their alienation toward American cultural trends and advocated separation from worldly involvement, their words have been more those of wounded lovers than true outsiders. That’s something to look out for this season, the weird duality of separating oneself while also feeling wounded by the culture at large. Like a middle schooler who sits alone, joins no clubs, plays no sports, and wonders why they’re barely in the yearbook at the end of the year. Why is the culture we don’t engage with moving away from us?

They will have spent decades in their own Christian bubble when they suddenly start getting involved in politics in the 1970s. And speaking of the Christian bubble, it was about to get a lot bigger. As the scope of the American government grew, it went to war in a foreign nation. Then students protested, and Christian leaders, the same ones who tried to evangelize to young people, questioned the activism of the 1960s. They struggled to unify but failed, and then learned to fear the very kids they tried to reach.

You’re listening to the show that uses journalistic tools to look inside the Christian church. We press pause in the culture wars in order to explore how we got here and how we can do better. I’m Chris Staron, and this is truth.

On December 1741, the US Naval base at Pearl harbor was bombed along with a bunch of other places, and the US was at war. For evangelical Christians who stayed home, there was a renewed sense of purpose. The previous World War had left in its wake an age of flappers, illicit booze, new forms of music, and waning interest in Christianity. Instead of pushing people into churches, the Great Depression drove them away, what some have called the American religious depression. The term is disputed because some denominations grew in that period.

Mainline or theologically liberal churches faced incredible losses, but conservative and fundamentalist churches actually grew. Yet church attendance overall in the 1930s was on the decline. As morals loosened, evangelical clergy wanted to turn the tide. Here is Joel Carpenter, author of the book Revive Us Again. The term juvenile delinquency was probably invented in the early 40s, books coming out about the national youth problem.

So focus on youth. And of course, the war did that, too. All the young people serving, young people moving to factory towns to get jobs. And so the nightlife scene all of a sudden is filled with teenagers. As Pastor Tori Johnson put it, America cannot survive another 25 years like the last 25.

If we have another lost generation after this war, like at the close of the last war, America will be sunk. The quote is from the first ever annual convention of Youth for Christ in 1945. YFC in the 1940s may have been the most effective organization at reaching young people, though it certainly was not the only one more followed in the 1950s. Like fellowship of Christian Athletes, some leaders of those organizations are going to be important as this season goes on. From YFC’s Billy Graham, who gets mixed up with Nixon, to campus Crusade’s Bill Bright rallying for votes in the 1980 election, this will come up again.

At this stage, all these organizations, and there were a bunch of them, focused on two goals, evangelism of young people and discipleship. Several were financed by the same guy, Herbert J. Taylor, the president of a Chicago aluminum company. Patrons of the show can hear a special bonus episode about him@patreon.com. Truce Podcast so there was a real concern for the youth of America in the 1940s, and a group of young preachers rose up to meet the challenge.

They preached to big churches, and small stood in open fields. And soon these young preachers came to trust each other. Youth for Christ was one of the organizations that brought them together, led by Tori Johnson. He was a very winsome, zippy with it. Pastor of a Midwest Bible church on Cicero Avenue, west side of Chicago.

Chicago is such a powerhouse, and Johnson is such a great organizer that he’s the one who kind of builds a national network of these pop up, locally supported youth rallies around the country, and he forms Youth for Christ International. I think what changed is sort of a generational change in fundamentalism. Here’s a second generation. These are the people who don’t necessarily remember the scopes trial. They don’t remember as Christian leaders the humiliation of losing battles for orthodoxy and the denominations.

They in many respects are reverting to D. L. Moody’s style of evangelicalism. DL Moody Being maybe the most famous American evangelist in the 18 hundreds, his model was important to what would become Christian fundamentalism, essentially grow the kingdom using any method possible. Print media, organize events, start schools, found conferences, be everywhere, win the world for.

Christ, find Winsome ways to do that, speak the language of the people of our day. So as a major innovative surge that’s going on using pop culture, Jack Wurtson played saxophone in a dance band before he got saved. Sorry, I know this is a lot of names. He’s doing things that kind of shock and alarm people, like putting gospel songs to swing dance band tunes and rhythms, wearing loud socks. And some of his gospel musicians are actually more stand up comedians.

So it’s really a fresh wave of revivalism that seems much more with it than the older fundamentalist preachers. If you look at charts of church attendance in the 19 hundreds, you see a spike in the 1950s. This was due in part to citywide evangelism campaigns like those of Billy Graham. Church attendance went from 43% before the war to 55% in 1950 and 69% in 1960. But the precursor to those massive events was the youth rallies of the 1940s.

Even among fundamentalist groups, there was a desire to distance themselves from some of their fundamentalist past, a call to unity. But while also maintaining the authority of the Bible, they wanted an organization to present their cause before people of power. The NAE was sparked by the fact that the Federal Council of Churches put out a code in which the regular broadcasting should be confined to those people who were recommended by the Council of Churches. In 1979, Harold Ockengay sat down for this interview. I can’t play it for you because the audio quality is somewhat diminished and difficult to understand.

So I had an actor recreate it. In the 1940s, radio was king. New units sold even during the Depression. And evangelists were some of the first people to adopt the new technology. As time went on, though, there came a need to regulate the airwaves.

The Federal Communications Commission governed licensing of radio, and there were very strong efforts by the mainline denominations, the Federal Council of Churches, to say, you don’t want crazy sectarian dudes dominating the radio. Work with us FCC to get the networks to go for non paid representative radio broadcasts, and we Federal Council people will provide those for you. The Federal Council of Churches was a mainline group of largely theologically liberal churches. When you hear the word mainline, don’t confuse it with mainstream like I used to. Instead think liberal in their theology, a less literal interpretation of the Bible.

Perhaps they considered that Jesus wasn’t God, but simply a nice teacher, that kind of thing. Radio airwaves belonged to the public, and so the public good had to be served. Some stations opted to use preachers to fill that obligation. The Federal Council of Know that represented liberal and mainline churches became the go between. Who decided who got to be on the radio for free and who didn’t?

That’s a lot of power for a single organization, especially one with an agenda. And of course, fundamentalists, other Pentecostals, other kinds of evangelicals were all over the radio, and they saw this as a big threat, an attempt to put them off the air. So they said, no, we have to have our lobbying efforts, too. In the 1940s, a syndicated radio show meant reaching a huge percentage of the population. If modernists controlled the airwaves, then the God talked about would be the liberal vision, not the literal biblical one.

What theological conservatives needed was an organization that could represent their side to the Federal Communications Commission. Evangelicals also lacked representation as military chaplains. That, too, would need to be addressed. Enter Harold Ochenge. And his name may sound familiar.

He’s kind of coming back into the conversation. Akenge serves as a handy contrast to some of the people we’re going to cover later this season. Jerry Falwell, Phyllis Laughley, Patton Robertson, those people. Akenge was a guy with strong religious conviction and a desire to have influence in politics, but one who didn’t feel the need to honor a single political party. Okay, so who was Harold Akingay?

Harold and his cohorts came onto the scene in the midst of the youth revivals of the 1940s. He was kind of rough as a young man and was maybe a little too anxious to get married. He proposed to a woman the very first time they met after one of his mentors recommended her. Surprise, surprise, that didn’t work out. Akane preached over 400 times before even leaving seminary.

He first went to Princeton, and then, when they turned modernist, went to the New Westminster Theological Seminary. Even in those early days, you can see his opposition to modernism. One of his professors was a big name in the modernist fundamentalist debate. But the cultural appetite for the old fundamentalist battles was waning. Well, people were tired of the fundamentalist withdraw, both political and economic and social scene.

This again is an actor recreating a recording of Harold Ockengay and also the. Ecclesiology the fundamentalists had of a pure church and dividing every denomination if they didn’t have a, quote, pure church, and so on, and felt that we ought to take more of an active part in the fray. So I remember in 1947, I coined the word neo evangelical. I felt we needed a new evangelicalism to enter again into all areas of life, the academic, the social, the political, the economic, the ecclesiastical realms, and take a strong stance for the movement. Instead of being like the fundamentalists and withdrawing and allowing the endowments and the controls and the bureaucracy and everything going to the liberals.

His nickname was Mr. Evangelical. We did embrace, I think quite fully the fundamentalist theology. The movement embraced fundamentalist theology, where neo evangelicals like Akanke differed from other fundies, was on separation. They thought you should work within the denominations.

Infiltrate was the word they used, and make change within the existing structures rather than splitting. We thought that the organization should be, the NAE should be the means of bringing that about. The aim of the National association of Evangelicals at its founding was unity among Christ followers. The organization was still going to duke it out with modernism. How they would do that was still yet to be decided.

One big question was whether or not the NAE should allow Pentecostals to join. Akenge, thanks to his personal holiness, background, was open to the idea, and the NAE eventually welcomed them. One historian wrote, given the fact that. Modern Pentecostalism and its charismatic offspring represents the largest and fastest growing movement in the history of the Christian Church, with a worldwide membership of nearly 600 million after only a century of existence, makes one wonder where evangelicalism would be without it. This is a vital move.

Pentecostals were not yet part of the inside crowd of evangelicalism. Mid 19 hundreds. They were outsiders. By allowing Pentecostals into a national movement. They were essentially given a place at the table in Christian culture.

Decades later, as we’ll see, Pentecostals played a big role in tying evangelicals to the Truce Podcast. One, Pat Robertson, even ran for president. Others used their television ministries to rally for Ronald Reagan. In the 1970s and 80s. They were huge in the they were on the outside looking in.

Inviting them to the NAE meant legitimacy, and the NAE needed their muscle again. The goals of the new group were to gain access to free radio waves and also represent evangelicals to the government, seek representation as military chaplains, and Unify Christ followers. And of course, this being the 1940s, Akengay’s opening speech at the first national meeting also punctuated the need to oppose communism. He was such a powerful speaker that he was nominated for the position of President of the NAE. Yet Akengay’s vision for the NAE, which he shared with Billy Graham, was never fully accomplished.

The golden age of the evangelistic movement simmered down by the end of the 1950s. Part of that goes back to the old battles between fundamentalists and modernists, but also because the new evangelicals tended to start their own organizations rather than work within existing structures, as Akanke envisioned. Still, these guys transformed the country in the 1940s and 50s, welcoming Pentecostals and focusing on reaching young people. But they couldn’t have foreseen the tide of countercultural changes that was headed their way. Revival started in the youth, but so would upheaval.

I’ll continue the story after these messages.

In 1932, at least 20,000 American veterans marched on Washington, DC. They set up camps and occupied government buildings. After the Great War, they’d been promised a bonus, cash set up by the Congress to be paid out in 1945, literally decades after the final battle. Then the Great Depression hit, and veterans needed the money twelve years early. So they set up camps and demanded early payment.

The ensuing battle to shoe them away was a national embarrassment. So when World War II happened, the US government did not want a repeat. They passed the Servicemen’s Adjustment act of 1944, also called the GI Bill, which eventually paid for 2.2 million members of the armed forces earn a college degree. By World War II, only 5% of Americans had a bachelor’s degree. Compare that to 37% today.

A huge jump. Partially thanks to assistance to veterans, a veritable gold rush emerged to accommodate all the new students, largely men, and this being the 1940s, most of them white. Then came the war in Vietnam. Student protests of the war gotten national attention as they increased, leading into 1965 when the US began bombing in earnest, not to mention people of college age, had the most to lose with at its peak, 40,000 young men drafted every month, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Came out against the war, highlighting that African American men were disproportionately dying in Vietnam while also being harassed here at home. In 1968, many Americans turned against the war due to the Tet Offensive, which was a series of coordinated attacks that the Communist north took on the South. Targeting areas where American presence was concentrated. It demonstrated that the north was not as weak as the Johnson administration had said they were. This conflict, as you know, created tension.

Student protests grew severe. This placed evangelical leaders in a tight spot. By 1967, around 15,000 young Americans were dead and over 109,000 wounded. If the Vietnam War was a mission of God, as some had claimed, how could you justify bombing the stuffing out of a poor, small country to protect an economic model? Because, you know, it was a battle between communism and capitalism.

As I said earlier in the 1940s, Revival started with young people. 20 years later, it looked like they would rip the country apart. Billy Graham, who had risen to prominence as an evangelist to the youth on his 1966 and 1967 radio program, Hour of Decision, featured sermons like a nation rocked by crime or flames of revolution. He sermonized on how peace efforts through organizations like the United nations were a sign of the end times and that the only peace we can have on this earth is through Jesus Christ. To be fair, Graham had always used current events to create a sense of immediacy in his sermons.

Here are just a few clips from his 1969 sermon, can America Survive? I’ll play a few selections because, as per usual, it’s hard to put Graham in a box. America is involved in two Revolutionary wars, one in Vietnam and the other here at home. The Vietnam War gets bloodier and bloodier as AmericA finds itself the only nation in the world which has ever purposely fought a no win war. Hold on now.

Billy Graham described Vietnam as a war we couldn’t win in 1969. That may surprise you. It surprised me. The other war is just as complicated and perhaps even more serious. The President’s Commission on Riots and Disorders has bluntly warned that we may be in for anarchy, insurrection and revolution within a few months unless immediate emergency action is taken to solve the problems of the ghettos.

There was real concern about what these protests over race feminism in Vietnam would lead to. Were they legitimate or were they started by Communists? In a series of surprise moves, he warns about demagogues using this moment to gain power, hiding behind our suburban wealth and comfort consumerism on TV, saying that people will want to vote for the presidential candidate who panders to them. Thus this fall they are going to be tempted to vote for the man that promises them the most, whether he can deliver it or not. And a small minority are going to burn, loot, steal, and even kill to get what they think is theirs by right.

Scary stuff. My heart races just listening to him, even though this was 50 years ago. And rather than knocking liberals, he credits. Them, many liberal writers and intellectuals, a warning that America may be headed toward a left wing or a right wing dictatorship. His warning in this sermon is classic Graham look to Jesus to solve your deepest problems.

But clearly he wasn’t keen on protests. Neither were others. A 1966 resolution by the National association of Evangelicals, Remember them? Spoke out against the rage coming from young people. It’s really short.

Here is the whole resolution believing that. The authority of the state is sanctioned by God. The NAE deplores the burning of draft cards, subversive movements and seditious utterances and prevalent disloyalty to the United States of America. By the way, those two sentences are titled the Truce Podcast. Heavy word, treason.

This is kind of an interesting example because you’ll see this as we go through the season, people calling on the authority that God gives the state when it suits them to do so, but not maybe when the state does something that offends us, like, I don’t know, charging us taxes or tells us how to run our schools. And the NAE wasn’t alone. The Southern Baptist Convention echoed their concerns in 1971 of the major shifts in this era was a loss of trust for the American government as new truths came to light. Atrocities committed in Vietnam, spying on Americans, shiftiness in our leaders. The other big change is distrust of young people, as there were real concerns about the outcome of these protests.

Where would these battles over gay and lesbian communities, women’s rights, and African Americans lead us? Changing attitudes towards economics and taxes in the 1940s and youth ushered in an era of revival and prosperity in the white middle class of the United States. Then in the 1960s and 70s, some of the same religious leaders who helped in the viewed young people with growing concern. I wanted to start the season with Harold Akingay because he’s a fun mix of things, a theological fundamentalist and someone who sought unity even to the point of opening the door to mainstream acceptance of Pentecostal believers. I also want to highlight a reality.

The NAE didn’t unify evangelicals. Ultimately, it would be our common social and political fights that would do that. But you gotta love the impulse of the early NAE. It’s also important to touch on these student led protests, because what follows won’t make sense in a vacuum. As conservatives witnessed their country being challenged by students whose college educations had been paid for with taxpayer money, their attitudes towards taxation and education would change, too.

Youth, in their mind, could no longer be trusted. To recap after the Scopes trial, I believe what the Bible says, American fundamentalists went underground. Young people coming back from World War II were evangelized heavily. Church attendance in the 1950s and 60s skyrocketed. Young people were the key.

Repent for the day of the Lord approaches. Then those young people and their kids took part in the GI Bill. After the World War, Korean War, and Vietnam, they sought out higher education. And soon those colleges became hotbeds of protest, which national celebrity preachers like Billy Graham didn’t quite know how to respond to. Repent for the day of the Communist approaches.

Through the NAE, evangelicals tried to unite, even with Pentecostals. Repent and be baptized in the Holy Spirit. But they failed. The NAE didn’t do the trick. It wasn’t until the 1970s that evangelicals found common cause.

This time around politics and battles over morals, that stuff was kicked off when evangelicals panicked about the behavior of the youth. Was the country backsliding? Even though it had only been, what? Forward sliding? It had only been increasing in its religion for a short time.

Take note of that. The glory days that a lot of Christians look back on were not a sure thing. In the early 1940s, evangelicals were legitimately concerned that Christianity in America was about to disappear 80 years ago. Instead of simply lecturing young people, they shared the gospel, even if it meant wearing colorful socks. This era reminds me of today when so many evangelicals.

My people are terrified of the youth. And I get it. I drive a school bus. They’re intimidating. But what if we took all of our fear and anxiety and turned it to outreach, as the preachers of the 1940s and 50s did?

This middle period that we’re so quickly jumping over here between seasons five and six is fascinating. You can hear about the negative side, the fear of communism and socialism, our efforts to take resources in the Third World, and evolving ideas about the role of religion in America by listening to season three. But this period was also defined by that can do spirit of evangelism and hope. What would it take to let go of our wounds of the Scopes trial, past inabilities to unite, and the fear of the youth culture in order to do the right thing. That loving drive of the 1950s became anxiety in the 1960s and 70s, opening new wounds that pushed evangelicals into a radically refocused Truce Podcast.

But let’s end on hope. Could we prayerfully see that our hope doesn’t come from opposition, but from sharing the simple message of salvation and in the process, just maybe find unity among fellow believers?

Special thanks to everyone who gave me their voice for this episode, including my friend Chris Staron and Marcus Watson of the Spiritual Life and Leadership podcast. As usual, you can find a full list of my sources on the website@Truce Podcast.com or in your show notes. In particular, I benefited from the books the Surprising Work of God by Garth Roselle, the Evangelicals by Francis Fitzgerald, and an interview with Harold Ockengay that resides at the Wheaton Archives. Thanks to Emily Vanis of the Buswell Library Archives for her help. I’m also indebted to Joel Carpenter, author of the book Revive Us Again.

It does a great job of filling in the gaps between last season and this one. Truce is listener-supported. It takes so many hours to do this show. I’m doing it while also driving a school bus, which is my full-time job. If you’d like to hear more truce, consider giving a little each month by Check, PayPal, Venmo or Patreon.

Details are in your show notes or trucepodcast.com donate for this series, I’m breezing through the 1940s and 50s, which means I’m skipping over important topics like McCarthyism, fear of Soviets that we took as permission to ruin the Third World, tying Christianity to capitalism, and Eisenhower’s social religion. I covered that stuff in season three of this very podcast. My Christian films Bringing up Bobby and Between the Walls are streaming for free on Hoopla, YouTube, and Tubi. Check them out. They are a fun and cool way to talk to your friends about Jesus.

Send me your comments or follow the show on social media. God Willing, new episodes of Truce will drop every two weeks. Like and subscribe so you to every new episode as it’s released. Truce is a production of Truce Media, LLC. I’m Chris Staron and this is Truce.

S5:E30 The Scopes “Monkey” Trial Part 2

S5:E30 The Scopes “Monkey” Trial Part 2

Did William Jennings Bryan kill fundamentalism when he took the stand?

The trial was basically over. The prosecution won. John Scopes was moments away from being convicted of teaching evolution in Dayton, Tennessee. The ACLU and the prosecution had what they wanted. But Clarence Darrow did not. He wanted to make a monkey out of William Jennings Bryan, the famous “fundamentalist”. But how?

Clarence Darrow sets a trap for William Jennings Bryan

Darrow knew that if he turned down the chance to make a closing argument that Bryan would not be able to make one either. That meant that Bryan’s carefully crafted words would never get heard. But he had one more trick up his sleeve. He would call Bryan, the lawyer for the prosecution, to the stand. Imagine that! The case was no longer about the defendant. It was about the lawyers trying to flex.

Bryan took the bait. He got on the stand outdoors next to the Rhea County Courthouse in front of an audience of millions. Darrow, in a masterstroke, hit him over and over with the questions of any village atheist. Did Jonah really get swallowed by a large fish? Did the sun really stand still because Joshua prayed that it would? And Bryan… floundered on live radio.

Inherit the Wind gets the story of the Scopes trial all wrong

This event was made even more famous by the long-running play Inherit the Wind on broadway, which was followed up by a movie adaptation. But the play got it all wrong. Edward Larson, professor at Pepperdine University, and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Summer for the Gods, joins Chris to uncover what really happened on that muggy summer day.

Helpful Sources:

Discussion Questions:

  • Bryan believed in majoritarianism. What is that idea? What do you think of it?
  • Do you think Bryan should have gotten on the stand? Why or why not?
  • How did Bryan do on the stand in your opinion?
  • Does this court case matter in your understanding of fundamentalism?
  • How and when should Christians make stands for their beliefs? When should we stay quiet?
S5:E27 Eugenics

S5:E27 Eugenics

The history of eugenics and Buck v. Bell

Eugenics. It’s one of those words that gets thrown around these days, often by people accusing “the other side” of wrongdoing. But what is eugenics?

I invited law professor Paul Lombardo, author of “Three Generations, No Imbeciles”, to join me to try to answer that very question. It turns out that that question is harder to answer than you’d think. In the early 1900s, the word “eugenic” was often used to mean “pure” or to imply that a product was healthy for babies. But that word also extended into segregating certain populations from society and forced sterilizations.

It is important to understand the history of eugenics because some Christians use the fear of eugenics as a lens to understand the Scopes “Monkey” trial. I think that is an accurate connection, but we really should understand it. Did William Jennings Bryan support eugenics? Can Christians support eugenics? Many did. There were even competitions that rewarded pastors for writing pro-eugenics sermons. That was especially true for liberal pastors.

In this episode, we attempt to answer some tough questions. I hope you enjoy it!

Helpful Sources:

Discussion Questions:

  • What is eugenics?
  • How did the term “eugenics” differ in the early 1900s from today?
  • Are you in favor of eugenics? Why or why not?
  • How is eugenics tied to evolution? How is it not?
  • Do Christians have a responsibility to play when it comes to protecting people with special needs?
  • What can we do to help those with special needs?