The more things change . . .
I just stumbled across this delightful Lutheran Witness article. I think it might have been written in 1916. I had to share it with you all:
Is This Christianity? — The Rev. Philip Yarrow, of Morgan Park, Chicago, plumped down three bottles of beer on his pulpit lately, explaining that he had bought them in the three country towns of Burr Oak, Mount Greenwood, and Blue Island, contrary to the Sunday closing law.
Rev. H. D. Knickerbocker, of Houston, Tex., announces that “next Sunday” he “will have in the pulpit a deck of cards, a schooner of beer, a hawk, and a shotgun. I am going to use them all,” explains the Rev. Knickerbocker, “in the warmest, the livest, the lightning-strikingest sermon I have preached in Houston. I will also give a $2.50 gold piece to any young man and lady who will give a demonstration of the modern dance in my pulpit.” The title of the series of talks commencing with this effort is: “This Is the Life.”
The same Mr. Knickerbocker announces a “boys’ and their daddies’ night.” The subject of the sermon-lecture will be in keeping, “The Boy and His Daddy.” “The Boy With a Yellow Streak,” “A Batter Cake Boy,” “The Adventures of a Pig,” “A Smart Aleck Is a Sucker,” “Watch Yourself,” will be some of the subheads. “One hundred and fifty boy scouts in uniform will be there. A big delegation of the Young Men’s Christian Association boys will be there. An enthusiastic crowd of newsboys will come in a body. It is expected that a large section of the main auditorium will be filled with just boys. Stereopticon pictures will be shown. A blue ribbon will be given to the boys’ organization or school or class having the largest per cent, of its membership present. Five prizes, consisting of a silver dollar each, will be given to the five boys bringing the biggest gang of boys with them.”
In San Jose, Cal., a Baptist preacher advertises that he will speak on the subject: “Is There a Soul? What Is It?” “Hear it — the largest and finest church chorus choir in this part of the State will sing the new popular church hymns. The beautiful symbolical ordinance of baptism by immersion upon several candidates at both services. Come in, the water is fine. Mr. and Mrs. Ben King, noted violinists, will play a duet. 1,200 free seats if you come in time.”
At the Church of the Messiah, New York City, “two little barefooted dancing girls supplanted last night the solemn gentlemen in cutaways who usually take up collections at the Church of the Messiah; stringed instruments of a sort quite strange to a church took the place of an organ, and the Bev. John Haynes Holmes, the pastor, himself appeared in flowing crimson and white robes and sandals in place of a black ministerial gown.
“The Messiah Players, an organization of men and women connected with the church at Park Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street, were giving ‘The Story of the Prophet Isaiah,’ dramatized by Eleanor Wood Whitman. Three reigns in the history of Judah were presented to symbolize the futility of preparedness for war and the doctrine of nonresistance. Pastor Holmes took the part of King Hezekiah. The Rev. Harvey Dee Brown was King Abaz, and Isaiah was played by John P. Whitman. Mrs. A. A. Oye was the chief dancer, Mrs. Eleanor Wood Whitman was Shelah, and other women’s parts were taken by Miss Ruth Brown, Miss Helen Ashley, Mrs. Otis Keel and Mrs. Forrest Westerfield. The cast included thirty-three persons. At the close of the second act the little dancing girls passed the collection plates, then walked down the center aisle balancing them on their heads in the manner of Syrian water-jugs.” — New York World, .Jan. 4, 1917.
The Episcopal Churchman, commenting upon the tendency towards sensationalism in the Reformed sects, later suggested that the streets may yet be brilliant with everchanging electric signs flashing forth, “The Congregationalistic Casino,” “The Baptist Hall of Joy.” “The Gospel Free Lunch and Picture Show.”
A secular daily, the New Orleans States, contained the following brief and pointed editorial February 1, 1917: —
” ‘Love Affairs of Jesus’ was the title of a revival sermon in New York a short time ago. We don’t know that we are more pious than we should be, but it strikes us that a preacher who can’t attract congregations without resorting to sacrilege should leave the pulpit, and make a living In moving pianos.” G.