Abstract

With these words, professional baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday placed himself outside the mainstream of middle-class America's growing urban culture. However, as historian Laurence Moore notes, "outsiderhood is a characteristic way of inventing one's Americanness." Indeed, as Sunday's fiery blend of evangelism and vaudeville antics reached into the furthest recesses of the nation's religious consciousness, the revivalist found himself at the forefront of the early twentieth century fundamentalist movement. Emerging from his conversion at Chicago's Pacific Garden Mission, Sunday attained the pinnacle of his success between 1908 and 1920. Little interested in developing a comprehensive theology, both Sunday and Pacific Garden Mission came to perceive themselves as metaphorical lighthouses, moral beacons that could lead sinners through the turbulent seas of sin to safe harbor In Jesus Christ. Despite attempting to address social ills through evangelism, the message of Sunday and the Mission tacitly endorsed the socioeconomic status quo by overwhelmingly emphasizing personal spiritual conversion as the sole means of meaningful reform.

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