Josiah Strong’s stomping grounds

Last night I was preparing materials for the intro to American religious history I’ll be teaching in the fall. I was selecting a reading from Josiah Strong’s Our Country(1885), which I’ll be using to exemplify the ideology of WASP supremacy. At one point, I flipped back to the title page–and blinked to see Strong credited as:


I hadn’t realized I was living so close to Strong’s old stomping grounds. So I poked around a bit online to see if this church is still standing. If so, I’d be eager to visit as a kind of morbid pilgrimage.

My understanding after a quick search is that Central Congregational Church is no longer with us but used to be located on Vine Street between 8th and 9th East. The public library now stands at or near that spot. That’s so sad. That the library’s tainted, I mean. It ought to be a warm-fuzzy place, where children are initiated into the joys of reading–but I’ll never be able to picture that without thinking that on this spot Josiah Strong used to preach. That on this spot, possibly, he penned these words:

It is not necessary to argue to those for whom I write that the two great needs of mankind, that all men may be lifted up into the light of the highest Christian civilization, are, first, a pure, spiritual Christianity, and, second, civil liberty. Without controversy, these are the forces which, in the past, have contributed most to the elevation of the human race, and they must continue to be, in the future, the most efficient ministers to its progress. It follows, then, that the Anglo-Saxon, as the great representative of these two ideas, the depositary of these two greatest blessings, sustains peculiar relations to the world’s future, is divinely commissioned to be, in a peculiar sense, his brother’s keeper….

This race is multiplying not only more rapidly than any other European race, but far more rapidly than all the races of continental Europe…. It is not unlikely that, before the close of the next century, this race will outnumber all the other civilized races of the world…. Then will the world enter upon a new stage of its history—the final competition of races, for which the Anglo-Saxon is being schooled…. Then this race of unequaled energy… will spread itself over the earth. If I read not amiss, this powerful race will move down upon Mexico, down upon Central and South America, out upon the islands of the sea, over upon Africa and beyond. And can any one doubt that the result of this competition of races will be the “survival of the fittest”?… Some of the stronger races, doubtless, may be able to preserve their integrity; but, in order to compete with the Anglo-Saxon, they will probably be forced to adopt his methods and instruments, his civilization and his religion….

Nothwithstanding the great perils which threaten it, I cannot think our civilization will perish; but I believe it is fully in the hands of the Christians of the United States, during the next fifteen or twenty years, to hasten or retard the coming of Christ’s kingdom in the world by hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of years.

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