Race and evangelicalism: L. Nelson Bell and the fight for conservative Christianity, 1942-1973

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jonathan Israel Bennett (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/
Elizabeth McRae

Abstract: L. Nelson Bell was one of the most influential evangelicals in the United States during the post World War II and Civil Rights eras of the twentieth century. Bell was the father in-law of famed evangelist Billy Graham, a twenty-five-year medical missionary to China and an enormously influential editor who fought for America’s conservative Christian heritage. This study analyzes Bell’s engagement with racial issues during his writing career, which stretched from 1942-1973. It details his paternalistic tendencies and his belief that individual Christian conversion, coupled with intentional acts of kindness between the races, could solve the nation’s racial problems. Bell was either blind to or rejected the systemic nature of American racism and argued that personal and not structural change was the key to ending all of America’s social dilemmas. He was an unshakeable defender of segregation and campaigned against interracial marriage. He believed in the God-ordained difference between the races, and that African Americans should earn social equality. Bell showed great personal concern for individual AfricanAmericans but used his platform to fight for racial barriers that would preserve theAmerican color line. This study also details Bell’s disagreements and even disdain forMartin Luther King Jr., his responses to the legal impact of Brown v. Board of Education, his perspectives on a lynching in Greenville, South Carolina, as well as his appreciation for baseball great, Jackie Robinson.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2020

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