Born-Again Brethren: History as Identity and Theology in the Cultural Transformation of a "Plain People"
AdvisorBruggeman, Seth C.
Committee memberWatt, David Harrington
Brethren in Christ Church
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/1829
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AbstractThis essay examines the ways in which one Protestant faith community has, over the course of the last six decades, deployed history as a means to form identity and shape practical theologies for daily living, in response to a particular transformation of its culture. Beginning in the middle decades of the twentieth century, the Brethren in Christ Church transformed from a small, separatist religious society into a growing mainstream evangelical denomination. Central to this transformation was the church's increasing investment in the larger American evangelical movement. Since the 1970s, church members have hotly debated their denomination's "evangelical turn." While some see it as an inspiring story that captures the church's missionary essence, others see it as a tale of acculturation to "worldly" society. This contestation, however, rests on a misunderstanding of the denomination's "post-turn" history. By re-narrating the church's "evangelical turn" and leveraging that narrative into a collaborative, web-based interpretive exhibit, I seek to empower the Brethren in Christ community to better understand its history. Ultimately, I conclude that throughout the last sixty years and into the present, members of the church have used and continue to use history to understand both who they are and how they should live--conclusions with significant implications for the practice of public history among faith communities.
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