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Union MadeWorking People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago$
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Heath W. Carter

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199385959

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199385959.001.0001

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“With the Prophets of Old”

“With the Prophets of Old”

Working People’s Challenge to the Gilded Age Church

(p.73) 4 “With the Prophets of Old”
Union Made

Heath W. Carter

Oxford University Press

By the mid-point of the Gilded Age, Chicago’s working-class communities had become hotbeds of alternative Christianities. To be sure, many wage earners were faithful churchgoers who eschewed class activism. But what had begun in the 1860s and 1870s as a narrow stream of working-class discontent with the institutional churches widened during the Great Upheaval of the mid-1880s into a churning river. Throughout those turbulent years surrounding the incident at Haymarket Square, trade unionists, radicals, and Knights of Labor challenged the cozy ties between the city’s Christian and industrial elite. Championing more egalitarian readings of the gospel, in which Jesus, a carpenter, stood in judgment over industrial modernity, they sustained and elaborated a growing tradition of working-class social Christianity. Church leaders continued to shrug off wage earners’ criticisms. But as the chorus of dissent grew louder in the years leading up to the century’s end, even the most recalcitrant of divines would be forced to take heed.

Keywords:   Haymarket, Gilded Age, social Christianity, trade unionists, Knights of Labor, radicals

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