Nelson Rockefeller as Social Gospel Christian

Richard Norton Smith’s outstanding new biography of Nelson Rockefeller does not directly focus much on the religious beliefs of the wealthy scion and long-time presidential aspirant. But there are enough tidbits to imply that he was a Social Gospel Christian, very much the product of his family’s targeted philanthropy and devotion to liberal Protestantism.The grandson of America’s first billionaire, Rockefeller was born into a pious Baptist home where liquor, smoking and profanity were prohibited, family prayers were a daily ritual, and the Sabbath always sacred. His grandfather, John Sr., the builder of an oil empire, was a conventional but not very theologically minded Baptist. His father, John Jr., the heir and only son, was devout but committed to modernizing Christianity under the guidance of experts he would fund. His counsel for philanthropy was Raymond Fosdick, a backslidden Baptist who championed cautiously progressive causes. Fosdick was brother to the great liberal preacher Harry Emerson, a zealous foe of “fundamentalism” who had survived a Presbyterian heresy trial. Continue Reading »

A New Heaven and a New Earth

“RE-imagining,” a conference “by women for women and men,” marked the midpoint of the World Council of Churches’ “Decade in Solidarity with Women.” Held last November 4-7 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, the conference drew 2,200 participants from forty-nine states and . . . . Continue Reading »