In A Consuming Faith, Susan Curtis analyzes the startling convergence of two events previously treated independently: the emergence of a modern consumer-oriented culture and the rise of the social gospel movement. By examining lives and works of individuals who identified themselves as social gospelers, rather than just groups or individuals who fit a particular definition, Curtis is able to capture the very fluidity of the term social gospel as it was used. In addition to exploring the time in which the movement took shape, Curtis provides biographical sketches of traditional figures involved in various aspects of the social gospel movement such as Walter Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden, and Josiah Strong alongside those of less-prominent figures like Charles Jefferson, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Charles Mcfarland. Going beyond their roles in the movement, Curtis shows them to be sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and workers and citizens who experienced the vast changes in their world wrought by industrialization and class conflict even as they sought to define a meaningful religious life. This groundbreaking study, now with a new preface by Curtis, provides an illuminating look at culture and religion as dependent influences, and treats religious life as an integral part of American culture - not a sacred world apart from the secular.
Susan Curtis is Professor of History and Chair of American Studies at Purdue University. She is the author of several books, including Dancing to a Black Man's Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin and The First Black Actors on the Great White Way (both with the University of Missouri Press).