Josiah Strong

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Josiah Strong (1847-1916) was an American Protestant clergyman, missionary leader and author. He was a leader of the Third Great Awakening and a founder of the Social Gospel movement that sought to apply Protestant religious principles to solve the social ills brought on by industrialization, urbanization and immigration. He served as General Secretary (1886-1898) of the Evangelical Alliance for the United States, a coalition of Protestant missionary groups. After being forced out he set up his own group, the League for Social Service (1898-1916), and edited its magazine The Gospel of the Kingdom.

His most well-known and influential work was Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis (1885), intended to promote domestic missionary activity in the American West. Historians suggest it may have encouraged support for imperialistic American foreign policies among American Protestants. He pleaded as well for more missionary work in the nation's cities, and for reconciliation to end racial conflict. He was one of the first to warn that Protestants (most of whom lived in rural areas or small towns) were ignoring the problems of the cities and the working classes.

He believed that all races could be improved and uplifted and thereby brought to Christ. In the "Possible Future" portion of Our Country, Strong argued that the superior Anglo-Saxon race (that is, the British and American peoples) had a responsibility to "civilize and Christianize" the world. The "Crisis" portion of the text described the grave "perils" that America faced – Mormonism, Socialism, intemperance, excessive wealth, Popery (the Roman Catholic Church), boss-ridden large cities, and unassimilated immigrants. Conservative Protestants rejected his Social Gospel and argued that missionaries should spend their time preaching the Gospel; they allowed for charitable activity, but argued it did not actually save souls.

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