Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

Ernest F. Freeberg

Committee Members

Lynn Sacco, Barbara Thayer-Bacon, Kurt Piehler

Abstract

Finding the origins and causes of the twentieth century evangelical Christian school movement in America during the years 1920-1952 was the subject of this study. Numerous primary and secondary sources were utilized. Primary sources consisted of original minutes of the proceedings of the National Education Association, the National Union of Christian Schools, and the National Association of Evangelicals. In addition, numerous evangelical publications of this era such as Moody Monthly, The Sunday School Times, and United Evangelical Action were consulted. From within the movement original sources such as Christian School Statistics, The Christian Teacher, and The National Association of Christian Schools Newsletter also added to the project. The scores of original books, speeches, and pamphlets by the two most significant early leaders in the movement, Mark Fakkema and Frank Gaebelein, provided rich insight into the thinking and tactics of the founders of this fledgling Christian enterprise. Secondary sources included numerous historical works on fundamentalism, public education, Christian education, the Cold War, and selected biographical works. Research was conducted in numerous data bases as well as a visit to the Wheaton College archives and to Wheaton Christian Grammar School, both in Wheaton, Illinois.

The result of this study revealed several conclusions. First, contrary to widely held views that the Christian school movement started as a reaction to de-segregation and the turbulence of the 1960s, this movement actually predated this era by at least thirty years. Second, the study found that this movement was a direct reaction to the decline of Protestant influence in America over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Third, this dissertation found that this movement goes back to the long held belief that America was founded as a Christian nation and should remain as such in the minds of evangelicals. Therefore, the thesis of this study states that the Christian school movement, responding to a century of change and adversity, emerged in the twentieth century as a means for evangelical Christians to reclaim their loss of power within the nation, their communities, and their homes in an increasingly complex American society.

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