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Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis by Josiah Strong

Instructor: Joe Ricker
This lesson will cover the significance and progressive thinking of Josiah Strong's Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, which promoted equal civil liberties for all Americans, regardless of race.

Josiah Strong: Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis

Josiah Strong was a Protestant clergyman who had a tremendous impact on society in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Naperville, Illinois in 1847, he moved to Ohio with his family when he was five years old. His education included undergraduate studies at Western Reserve College and religious training at Lane Theological Seminary. His first posting was at a Congregational church in Wyoming. In 1885, he was given the responsibility of revising the manual for the Congregational Mission Society. Our Country was the result.

Out of the many pieces of writing Strong published over his lifetime, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis was his most notable and influential works. In Our Country Strong establishes his case for the importance of American expansion and the importance of elevating 'lesser' races to become strong Christian members of American society. 'Lesser' races, Strong felt, were those who were non-English speaking immigrants, non-Christians or non-whites. His ideas were considered progressive because they didn't promote limitations for other races, but instead, proposed equal civil liberties for those who converted to Christianity. Because Strong's focus for these civil liberties focused on immigrants, the importance of his work resonates in current events as we see stronger and stronger political rhetoric opposing immigration and projecting fear against people who are not white Christians.

Present Crisis

In Our Country, Strong points out that the rush of immigrants to American cities posed a significant problem to the United States. His views were mainly based on what Christians defined as sin and the tremendous amount that existed in American cities. He believed that the United States could become more powerful than Britain if the government endorsed a strong Christian presence in the more populated regions of the country (cities) where the majority of immigrants were venturing. He believed that the Anglo-Saxon race was the most advanced and that Christian values were substantial in defining morality. Strong felt that by converting immigrants to Christianity, it would create a stronger nation. Strong said:

Every race which has deeply impressed itself on the human family has been the representative of some great idea-one or more-which had given direction to the nation's life and form to its civilization.

God & Country

It's no surprise that a Protestant clergyman would want to promote his faith and values. And in Our Country, Strong views were considered progressive for the time. As opposed to embracing the superiority of whites over immigrants and other races, he felt they could be 'elevated' and the country could be united under all races provided they were Christians. This was his most fundamental proposal in Our Country, and one that would diminish the level of privilege and dominance the United States' current residents would have over immigrants, thus offering immigrants the same civil liberties as everyone else. He proposed this because he believed in the power of the United States, and Christian expansion could eventually spread to other regions of the world with American influence. Strong argued:

It is not necessary to argue to those for whom I write that the two great needs of mankind, that all men may be lifted up into the light of the highest Christian civilization, are, first, a pure, spiritual Christianity, and, second, civil liberty.

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