Date: Thu, 4 Apr 1996 08:37:16 -0600
From: Mark Stoll <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: (QUERY) Muscular Christianity and the outdoors
I saw this notice on H-AmRel (American Religious History list) and thought that members of H-ASEH might have some constructive input. With the author's OK, here it is.
Date: Wed, 3 Apr 1996 06:24:42 -0600
FROM: Jay Blossom <email@example.com>
Although I believe in doing my own legwork, I am having a little trouble getting started on research for a project that *may* turn into a dissertation.
I'm interested in the connections between 19th-century American Christianity and the rise of camping/Scouting/backpacking. Anyone know of any good sources on muscular Christianity that specifically address the outdoors OR sources on Scouting or camping that emphasize religious angles?
Any help would be appreciated, either privately or on the list.
Regarding your query about muscular Christianity and the outdoors, you may wish to contact my colleague and chairperson at the University of Maine, William J. Baker. He has done work on aspects of that. You can contact at the address below or via UMHist@maine.maine.edu. Best regards,
William H. TeBrake E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History email@example.com University of Maine TELEPHONE: (Int+1) 207-581-1923 Orono, Maine 04469-5774 USA FAX: (Int+1) 207-581-1817
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 1996 15:21:56 -0600
Subject: Re: (QUERY) Muscular Christianity and the outdoors
From: "Ball, James G (201)-408-5272" <JBALL@MR.DREW.EDU>
You're probably already aware of David Shi's *The Simple Life*. The connections between Christianity and Scouting made by Shi are mainly indirect, if I remember correctly. Might be helpful as a starting place, however.
Date: Fri, 5 Apr 1996 08:41:23 -0600
Subject: Re: Muscular christianity and the outdoors
From: Laura Dassow Walls <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Regarding Jay Blossom's query on muscular christianity and the outdoors. Be sure to check the relationship between muscular christians and the logger of the late 19th and early twentieth centuries. The logger--as natural man, working in the healthy outdoors, building a great physique, an expert at hunting and other outdoor activities--was often the subject of the minister's writings and proselytizing. While this discursive representation did not, of course, always match material reality, it does point to some pretty interesting things going on that dovetail with the strenuous life, attitudes toward Nature and masculinity, etc. Check out the writings of Thomas D. Whittles, "The Lumberjack Sky Pilot," and other assorted writings in religious periodicals such as the Missionary Review of the World. There should be gobs of stuff. Some of it most amusing. The spectacle of itinerant ministers putting on boxing gloves to fight the occasional woodsworker who kept interrupting his sermons in the bunkhouse is something I would love to have seen!
Date: Sat, 6 Apr 1996 14:40:06 -0600
Subject: Re: Muscular Christianity & the outdoors
From: Inka Christiansen <email@example.com>
I'm coming in pretty late to this conversation, but not knowing how extensive the responses have been I'd recommend:
Best of luck in your research,
Paul L. Tidwell
American Thought & Language
Michigan State University
Date: Sat, 6 Apr 1996 14:40:05 -0600
Subject: Re: Antimodernism & "Muscular" Christianity
Although scouting has ostensibly been seen as one of many back-to-nature movements, perhaps scouting's origins equally (or even more so) reside in systems of social control and using the regenerative powers seen/felt in nature to assure regeneration of the society--especially when a culture, like that of the Mormons, is situated within/challenged by a larger (American) culture. Scouting arose in large part near the turn of the century because Americans/Europeans felt threatened by life in the new mass material and ethnically plural urban environment and compared it with a romanticized frontier/rural existence fading into the past. Although its American founders (Daniel Beard and E.T. Seton) initially tried to create a decentralized movement, it quickly became a tool of nationalist and class interests (with the Mormons religious?) Using T.J. Jackson Lears' concept of "antimodernism," scouting can be seen as a way of coping with change without doing anything significant to blunt the developing socioecononic systems that cause environmental harm.
See also Roderick Nash and _The Nervous Generation_; also Michael Rosenthal, _The Character Factory_, David I. Macleod, _Building Character in the American Boy_. Also you might consider the German forms of youth/nature movements and how the Nazis exploited this sentiment. Also, the English youth movement was highly steeped in militarism, racism, eugenics ideas, etc.
I hope this might encourage you to research the Mormon example.
Also, I'd like to query the ASEH list. "Environmenalism" has taken many forms throughout American history and often is ambiguous as to its conservative, progressive, liberal, etc. status. I would like to hear what others think about Environmental movements/currents or environmental thinkers throughout American history and their position as conservatives? liberals? "Antimoderns," etc. (Recently, on the ASLE list, there was a heated discussion on fascism in respect to the writings of Thoreau, among others.) And how does this ambiguity relate to the formation or demise of "environmentalism" in the 1990s as we know it according to current politics and success of Republican and business legislation and rhetoric?
Date: Mon, 8 Apr 1996 10:12:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Antimodernism & "Muscular" Christianity
As one who is more involved in environmental activism than scholarship, I feel impelled to point out that "success of Republican and business legislation and rhetoric?" with regard to the environment is almost non-existent, except for the timber rider -- NOT a stand-alone piece of legislation. In fact, Republican attacks on the environment, cleverly concealed though they were, proved highly unpopular to the voters, and began the public disenchantment with the Republican leadership, even before the debates over Social Security.
There is a more subtle process at work, however, which really does bear scrutiny in the context that Bryan suggests, and that is the widepread atrophy of grass-roots involvement and influence which made the major environmental organizations so vulnerable to this attack, even though it has failed, at least for the time being. This suggests a methodological conservatism reinforced by the substantial influence of board members with one foot in the business world and one foot planted in a different kind of green. William Ruckelshaus is only the most prominent example of this widespread phenomena.
Such a study is far less titillating than tracing antimodernist influences in the early, male leadership of Earth First!, but Earth First! has undergone considerable change in recent years, while the methodological conservatism of the major, inside-the-beltway environmental groups reamins largely unchanged.
In a message dated 96-04-06 15:48:58 EST, Inka Christiansen <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
"2. Your use of the word "muscular" immediately brings to mind William James, especially his ideas of the "strenuous" life in which you would certainly find links to his thoughts on religion."
Of course, all thinkers in a certain culture at a certain time share more things in common than they realize, but "muscular" Christianity was an imperialist trope, and William James was a prominent anti-imperialist, so it's best to treat any such connection with caution.
Also, James was often more charitable to those he disagreed with than many people are to their friends. There is a real danger of misreading such charitable passages as confessions of his own beliefs. Thus, for instance, James was above all a pluralist, yet in _The Varieties of Religious Experience_ he speculates that religous fundamentalism may prove itself "true" on pragmatic grounds. This is anything but the refutation of his pluralism which a careless reader might take it to be.
Reason & Democracy
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