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Muscular Christianity / Edition 1

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Overview


Dissatisfied with a Victorian culture focused on domesticity and threatened by physical decline in sedentary office jobs, American men in the late nineteenth century sought masculine company in fraternal lodges and engaged in exercise to invigorate their bodies. One form of this new manly culture, developed out of the Protestant churches, was known as muscular Christianity. In this fascinating study, Clifford Putney details how Protestant leaders promoted competitive sports and physical education to create an ideal of Christian manliness.
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Editorial Reviews

Marie Griffith
Provides a much needed overview of muscular Christianity and its appeal during the Progressive Era. Clifford Putney's insightful work goes a long way toward correcting the scholarly blindness toward Christianity's role in creating a culture of American masculinity in the late nineteenth century and toward understanding its apparent replacement by (among other things) a secular gospel of health in the twentieth. He contributes to the literature on masculinity in crucial ways, blending new data with information previously brought to light in other works and helping us see the latter from a fresh perspective. A work that highlights the religious character of American masculinity during the Progressive Era is a welcome addition to the literature, one that scholars from a wide variety of fields will want to read.
Mark C. Carnes
In Muscular Christianity, Clifford Putney revisits some familiar quarries: the denominational periodicals and writings of Christian leaders during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By looking at these materials through the lens of gender, however, he has discerned a rich, new lode of meaning. That there was something of a masculinist movement in American society has been apparent for some time: one thinks of Teddy Roosevelt's unsubtle big stick. But Putney has found that American Protestantism itself--long thought to be a bastion of feminine "sentimentality" was imbued with a macho style and ideology. By illustrating the depth and range of this masculinist sentiment, Putney has forced us to rethink the ways in which men and women alike shared the prevailing gender conventions of the period.
James T. Kloppenberg
In this finely crafted study, Clifford Putney combines the most innovative interdisciplinary strategies of the new cultural studies with the sturdiest methods of traditional historical analysis to breathe new life into a host of topics ranging from schools to sermons, from sports to sculpture. Although Putney draws insights from the latest historiography on gender, religion, and American culture, his own contribution will outlast much that is currently fashionable because of his rock-solid archival research and his demonstration of the ways in which influential reformers translated shifting assumptions and aspirations into enduring institutions that continue to shape Americans' lives.
Booklist - Bryce Christensen
On his way to becoming a stone face on Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt converted to a now largely forgotten form of liberal Protestantism emphasizing masculine exertion and healthy living. Putney here chronicles the rise and eventual decline of this new creed of muscular Christianity, which, for all its brawn and bravado, actually betrayed its founders' fears: that Christian men would degenerate into feminine weakness in a church dominated by women; that Anglo-Saxon Protestants would be overwhelmed by the influx of swarthy Catholics; that infidels would roll back the gains won by previous generations of valiant missionaries. When the horrors of world war induced a national pacifism, liberal Protestants finally sidled away from this cult of masculine piety. But Putney detects the strange reemergence of a recognizably similar masculine orthodoxy in a new setting: conservative Protestants have taken up the cause in initiatives such as Promise Keepers and Athletes in Action. A fascinating study shedding light on a hidden link between the liberal Protestants of the past and the fundamentalists of today.
Dallas Morning News - C. R.
[This] fascinating study offers a fresh angle on gender issues and our attitudes about sports today.
Times Literary Supplement - Patrick Allitt
Far more women than men were going to church by the 1880s and 1890s, and ministers often exhibited a softness and delicacy of their own. Advocates of muscular Christianity, deploring this state of affairs, set themselves the task of bringing men back to church and showing that Jesus, the rugged, hard-bodied carpenter of Nazareth, was no sissy. Clifford Putney's superb Muscular Christianity shows that they tried to do it by linking Christianity to manly sports.
Dallas Morning News

[This] fascinating study offers a fresh angle on gender issues and our attitudes about sports today.
— C. R.

Booklist

On his way to becoming a stone face on Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt converted to a now largely forgotten form of liberal Protestantism emphasizing masculine exertion and healthy living. Putney here chronicles the rise and eventual decline of this new creed of muscular Christianity, which, for all its brawn and bravado, actually betrayed its founders' fears: that Christian men would degenerate into feminine weakness in a church dominated by women; that Anglo-Saxon Protestants would be overwhelmed by the influx of swarthy Catholics; that infidels would roll back the gains won by previous generations of valiant missionaries. When the horrors of world war induced a national pacifism, liberal Protestants finally sidled away from this cult of masculine piety. But Putney detects the strange reemergence of a recognizably similar masculine orthodoxy in a new setting: conservative Protestants have taken up the cause in initiatives such as Promise Keepers and Athletes in Action. A fascinating study shedding light on a hidden link between the liberal Protestants of the past and the fundamentalists of today.
— Bryce Christensen

Times Literary Supplement

Far more women than men were going to church by the 1880s and 1890s, and ministers often exhibited a softness and delicacy of their own. Advocates of muscular Christianity, deploring this state of affairs, set themselves the task of bringing men back to church and showing that Jesus, the rugged, hard-bodied carpenter of Nazareth, was no sissy. Clifford Putney's superb Muscular Christianity shows that they tried to do it by linking Christianity to manly sports.
— Patrick Allitt

Booklist
On his way to becoming a stone face on Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt converted to a now largely forgotten form of liberal Protestantism emphasizing masculine exertion and healthy living. Putney here chronicles the rise and eventual decline of this new creed of muscular Christianity, which, for all its brawn and bravado, actually betrayed its founders' fears: that Christian men would degenerate into feminine weakness in a church dominated by women; that Anglo-Saxon Protestants would be overwhelmed by the influx of swarthy Catholics; that infidels would roll back the gains won by previous generations of valiant missionaries. When the horrors of world war induced a national pacifism, liberal Protestants finally sidled away from this cult of masculine piety. But Putney detects the strange reemergence of a recognizably similar masculine orthodoxy in a new setting: conservative Protestants have taken up the cause in initiatives such as Promise Keepers and Athletes in Action. A fascinating study shedding light on a hidden link between the liberal Protestants of the past and the fundamentalists of today.
— Bryce Christensen
Dallas Morning News
[This] fascinating study offers a fresh angle on gender issues and our attitudes about sports today.
— C. R.
Times Literary Supplement
Far more women than men were going to church by the 1880s and 1890s, and ministers often exhibited a softness and delicacy of their own. Advocates of muscular Christianity, deploring this state of affairs, set themselves the task of bringing men back to church and showing that Jesus, the rugged, hard-bodied carpenter of Nazareth, was no sissy. Clifford Putney's superb Muscular Christianity shows that they tried to do it by linking Christianity to manly sports.
— Patrick Allitt
Publishers Weekly
Long relegated to occasional academic journal articles and mediocre, hagiographic books, the relationship between Protestantism and sports in America now has the definitive treatise the topic has long deserved. Bentley College's Putney surveys "muscular Christianity" the attempts to make Christianity seem manly and macho from 1880 to 1920. Worried that the average American man thought of the church as a place for girls and women, churches tried to lure men by, for example, building bowling leagues in their basements; pastors who once adhered to strict blue laws declared that sports on Sunday might just be allowable. Putney challenges many assumptions that historians have held for years. He demonstrates, for example, that Christians were anxious about getting men into the church not simply because women outnumbered men in the pews, but because, at the end of the 19th century, women increasingly held church leadership positions. Second, he shows that not only pastors, but secular reformers, from reporters to professors to government officials, were worried about a feminized church. Putney is to be commended for including Mormons, black Protestants and women like Girl Scout leaders who embraced at least slices of "muscular Christianity." If historians will find Putney's revisions fascinating, the general reader will also be riveted by the story he tells; his prose is as vigorous as his subject matter, and the anecdotes he scatters liberally throughout the book are captivating. In an age when Christian leaders like Bill McCartney are again using athletics to get men into the church, this study couldn't be more timely. Nov. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
With vigorous prose, Putney history, Bentley Coll. shows how in the late 19th century Protestant clergy and lay leaders of the "muscular Christianity" movement abandoned the sentimentality and "feminine" forms of Victorian religion for a new model that "stressed action rather than reflection, and aggression rather than gentility." Worried about a decline of Anglo-Saxon Protestant power in urbanizing, industrializing, and Catholic immigrant America and influenced by writers such as psychologist G. Stanley Hall who called for drawing on "primitive" instincts to counter enervating intellectualism, men such as Theodore Roosevelt pushed for the "strenuous life" as a means of imposing self-discipline and reasserting the culture and interests of Protestants in America and abroad. Advocates of muscular Christianity promoted organized sports and outdoor activities like camping to build bodies able to evangelize and effect social reform. The movement faded in the 1920s, but its basic organizations persisted. Putney's focus on ideas and leaders misses the chance to observe how the boys and girls involved in Scouting, sports, and the YMCA understood the connections between healthy bodies and healthy faith, but his arguments on the construction of "muscular Christianity" add much to our understanding of the Progressive era and American cultural imperialism. Highly recommended. Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674011250
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 324
  • Product dimensions: 0.68 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Clifford Putney is Assistant Professor of History at Bentley College.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. The Birth of a Movement

2. God in the Gym

3. Men and Religion

4. Fishers of Boys

5. Worldwide Redemption

6. Muscular Women

7. Christians in Khaki

Conclusion

Notes

Selected Bibliography

Index

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2007

    Clifford Putney

    Clifford Putney clearly knows about manliness. He is one attractive hunk of man, and his physique attracts people of all shapes and sizes. His girlfriend, MK, is by far superior to all females (and some males). Buy this book, read this book, love this book, and fall in love with Clifford.

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