The Social Gospel, the YMCA, and the Emergence of the Religious Left After World War I
This chapter examines the impact of the Protestant Social Gospel movement on the development of the religious left in the United States, focusing upon the role of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Influenced by the writings of important social gospel leaders, such as Walter Rauschenbusch, collegiate YMCA youth explored how the Social Gospel’s emphasis upon the ethical teachings of Jesus could be applied to a range of social issues in the aftermath of World War I. During the interwar period, both radical and liberal activists with connections to the YMCA embraced shared commitments to economic justice, racial equality, and nonviolent direct action. This interwar activism laid a critical foundation for the religious left’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.