Social issues of the 1920s

Social issues of the 1920s

The 1920s was the rise of a variety of social issues amidst a rapidly changing world. Conflicts arose concerning what was considered acceptable and respectable and what ought to be proscribed or made illegal. The conflict quickly coalesced into one largely between the liberal urban areas against the conservative rural areas.

Prohibition of alcohol

By 1926 or so, those who were militant for fundamentalism had failed to expel the modernists from any denomination. Moreover, they also lost the battle against evolution. Orthodox Protestants, who still numerically dominated all the denominations, now began to struggle among themselves. During the Depression of the 1930s the term "fundamentalist" gradually shifted meaning as it came to apply to only one party among those who believed the traditional fundamentals of the faith. Meanwhile, neo orthodoxy associated with Karl Barth's critique of liberalism found adherents in America.In several cases in the north fundamentalists created new denominations in order to carry on the true faith in purity apart from the larger bodies they regarded as apostate. They formed the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (1932), the Presbyterian Church of America (1936), renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Bible Presbyterian Church (1938), the Conservative

Disputes over human origin and the Scopes trial

It made for great oratory between eminent rivals, and it put the debate over teaching evolution on front pages across the country. But one thing the Scopes "monkey trial" of 1925 did not do was settle the contentious issue of evolution in the schools, which continues to incite strong passions and court actions to this day.

Narrowly, the trial was about challenging a newly passed Tennessee state law against teaching evolution or any other theory denying the biblical account of the creation of man. Broadly, the case reflected a collision of traditional views and values with more modern ones: It was a time of evangelism by figures such as Aimee Semple McPherson and Billy Sunday against forces, including jazz, sexual permissiveness, and racy Hollywood movies, which they thought were undermining the authority of the Bible and Christian morals in society.

John Scopes, the 24-year-old defendant, taught in the public high school in Dayton, Tenn., and included evolution in his curriculum. He agreed to be the focus of a test case attacking the new law, and was arrested for teaching evolution and tried with the American Civil Liberties Union backing his defense. His lawyer was the legendary Clarence Darrow, who, besides being a renowned defense attorney for labor and radical figures, was an avowed agnostic in religious matters.

The state's attorney was William Jennings Bryan, a Christian, pacifist, and former candidate for the U.S. presidency. He agreed to take the case because he believed that evolution theory led to dangerous social movements. And he believed the Bible should be interpreted literally.

The weather was stiflingly hot and the rhetoric equally heated in this "trial of the century" attended by hundreds of reporters and others who crowded the Rhea County Courthouse in July 1925. Rather than the validity of the law under which Scopes was being charged, the authority of the Bible versus the soundness of Darwin's theory became the focus of the arguments.

"Millions of guesses strung together," is how Bryan characterized evolutionary theory, adding that the theory made man "indistinguishable among the mammals." Darrow, in his attacks, tried to poke holes in the Genesis story according to modern thinking, calling them "fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes."

The jury found Scopes guilty of violating the law and fined him $100. Bryan and the anti-evolutionists claimed victory, and the Tennessee law would stand for another 42 years. But Clarence Darrow and the ACLU had succeeded in publicizing scientific evidence for evolution, and the press reported that though Bryan had won the case, he had lost the argument. The verdict did have a chilling effect on teaching evolution in the classroom, however, and not until the 1960s did it reappear in schoolbooks.

Isolationism, immigration, and communism

America's isolationist philosophy after World War I gave rise to a xenophobic feeling across the nation. This was concentrated in rural areas and especially in the South where the Ku Klux Klan gained widespread support and sought to persecute immigrants and minorities in the 1920s. At the same time, Communism was still a new philosophy in government, and much of the general American public held a hostile view toward it. The beginning of the 1920s saw the height and fall of First Red Scare as exemplified in the trials of Sacco and Vanzetti. This opposition to Communism was caused mostly by its Anti-war associations and its connection with a series of bombings.

ee also

*Roaring Twenties
*The Jazz Age
*The Lost Generation
*Prohibition in the United States

External links

* [ Analysis on the failure of Alcohol Prohibition]
* [ Website of the Prohibition Party]

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