Baptized with the Soil: Christian Agrarians and the Crusade for Rural Community, 1910-1970

Open Access
Author:
Lowe, Kevin Matthew
Graduate Program:
History
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
October 10, 2013
Committee Members:
  • John Philip Jenkins, Dissertation Advisor
  • David Giguette Atwill, Committee Chair
  • Kathryn Alexia Merkel Hess Mcdonald, Committee Member
  • Carolyn Elizabeth Sachs, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • agrarianism
  • Protestantism
  • rural life
  • soil conservation
  • stewardship
  • United States history
Abstract:
This dissertation is a history of the Christian commitment to rural America. Throughout the early and middle twentieth century, a broad Christian agrarian movement preached the importance of maintaining rural communities based on small-scale, family farm agriculture. This dissertation focuses on mainline Protestants, who were the most active and most visible of all Christian agrarians, although they have been the least studied. Christian agrarians argued that saving rural communities was critical for the nation’s future, because to live in the country, and especially to farm, was the most moral way to live. They believed that small rural communities were the best route to justice and opportunity for the nation as a whole. Protestant agrarians worked closely with the power of government, especially through state universities and cooperative extension, to train ministers and missionaries who could champion farming and rural life. Their belief that farming was an act of cooperation with God in creation led Christian agrarians to become leaders in the soil conservation movement, inspiring an environmentalist awareness and a language of stewardship decades before the environmental movement.