Disciples of Christ

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The Disciples of Christ or formally, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a Mainline Protestant denomination in the United States. With roots back to the Stone-Campbell Movement in the early 19th century, it was organized in present form after the Churches of Christ split off around 1900. It is strongest in the lower Midwest and upper South. The most famous members were presidents James Garfield, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan. Garfield was a minister and college president and Reagan was a graduate of Eureka College, a Disciples school in Illinois.

Reagan as Disciple

Ronald Reagan took his religious values into the presidency. He was strongly influenced by Ben Hill Cleaver, the minister of the First Christian Church in Dixon, Illinois, during the 1920s, and by Reagan's mother, Nelle, an active member of the church. At many points the positions taken by the First Christian Church of Reagan's youth coincided with the words, if not the beliefs of the latter-day Reagan. These positions included faith in Providence, the association of America's mission with God's will, belief in progress, trust in the work ethic and admiration for those who achieved wealth, an uncomfortableness with literature and art that questioned the family or challenged notions of proper sexual behavior, the presumption that poverty is an individual problem best left to charity rather than the state, sensitivity to problems involving alcohol and drugs, and reticence to use government to protect civil rights for minorities. Reagan's experiences in the church and with the Cleavers provided early training in public speaking and offered a way of learning in which acting played a central part. Reagan's use of the jeremiad and his fusing of Judeo-Christianity and patriotism into a civil religion also have their roots in this early period. For her part, Nelle was a pillar of the church and the one who provided stability to the shaky Reagan family when the head was drunkard and a poor provider. She helped spark her son's interest in acting and believed the stage could be a force for noble purposes.[1]

Disciples of Christ and Church of Christ

The break around 1900 between the Disciples of Christ and the Churches of Christ was due to much more than disagreements over the use of music in worship or over missionary societies; it was fundamentally a division between Stonite primitivism and Campbellian more modern approach to theology. Alexander Campbell believed in progress toward the Kingdom of God and was both optimistic and not hostile toward the secular world. Barton Stone, on the other hand, wanted a radical separation from the world, was pessimistic about the human nature and prospects for progress, and looked toward restoring the authentic primitive church. From the end of the Civil War to 1917, David Lipscomb dominated the Churches of Christ and managed to balance the views of Campbell and Stone. After his death, the Churches of Christ moved away from the Premillennialism of Stone and Lipscomb and embraced modernism. Foy Wallace, whose views prevailed among the Churches of Christ from the 1930s through the 1950s, led the movement away from the thought of Stone and Lipscomb.[2]

See also


  1. Stephen Vaughn, "The Moral Inheritance of a President: Reagan and the Dixon Disciples of Christ." Presidential Studies Quarterly 1995 25(1): 109-127. 0360-4918
  2. Richard T. Hughes, "The Apocalyptic Origins of Churches Of Christ and the Triumph of Modernism." Religion and American Culture 1992 2(2): 181-214. 1052-1151

External links

Further reading

  • Harrell, David Edwin, Jr. A Social History of the Disciples of Christ. Vol. 2, The Social Sources of Division in the Disciples of Christ, 1865-1900. (1973). 458 pp. Scholarly history
  • Harrison, Richard L., Jr. From Camp Meeting to Church: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky. (1992). 341 pp.
  • Jorgenson, Dale A. Theological and Aesthetic Roots in the Stone-Campbell Movement. (1989).
  • Kenny, Michael G. The Perfect Law of Liberty: Elias Smith and the Providential History of America. (1994). 328 pp.
  • McAllister, Lester G. and Tucker, William E. Journey in Faith: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). (1975). 505 pp. the standard church-sponsored history
  • Osborn, Ronald E. Experiment in Liberty: The Ideal of Freedom in the Experience of the Disciples of Christ. (1978). 144 pp.
  • Williams, D. Newell. Barton Stone: A Spiritual Biography. (2000). 249 pp.
  • Williams, D. Newell, ed. A Case Study of Mainstream Protestantism: The Disciples' Relation to American Culture, 1880-1989. (1991). 578 pp.