Read Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America by Lyle Wesley Dorsett Free Online
Book Title: Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America|
The author of the book: Lyle Wesley Dorsett
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 34.50 MB
Edition: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Date of issue: May 2nd 1991
ISBN 13: 9780802801517
Read full description of the books Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America:Sure, there are saints, but more often that not Christians are both saint AND sinner. Billy Sunday was an eager and earnest baseball player-turned-evangelist who preached to over 100 million people and led hundreds of thousands to Christ, early on taking to the "kerosene circuit" and leaving his young family at home for long stretches of time. However, Sunday's success would also lead to worldly indulgence, entangling both himself and his family and leading some of his closest colleagues to criticize him. It's the complexity of the Fall and faith.
Lyle W. Dorsett writes sympathetically of Sunday. He chronicles the itinerant's humble and harsh beginnings, his father, serving in the Union Army, dying five weeks after Sunday was born. Sunday's mother was too poor to care for Sunday or his brother and both were sent to a soldier's orphan home where Sunday learned hard work and discipline. Though Sunday would go on to become a millionaire and live in sumptuous comfort, one must recall his childhood poverty and how this made him so susceptible to Mammon.
Providence led Sunday to become a professional baseball player famous for stealing bases. He played for Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, making more money than he ever had before. In this same period he both converted to Christianity and met Helen "Nell" Thompson, daughter of a wealthy businessman and a devoted Christian herself. Though initially hesitant about his advances, Nell eventually came to return Sunday's affections and she proved to be an invaluable companion; she helped him grow spiritually, taught him the etiquette of the upper class, provided him with "tough love" when he needed it and warm encouragement (for all his success and swagger, Sunday was a very insecure man) and she would eventually go on to help organize and administer his evangelistic campaigns.
Still in his prime, Sunday left professional baseball and all the money that went with it, convinced that God had called him to be an evangelist. He worked with the YMCA and then apprenticed under J. Wilbur Chapman (the second-most famous evangelist of the period after Dwight L. Moody). Sunday adopted the conservative evangelicalism of the day, railing against alcohol and calling country folk and urbanites to repentance. In the early days, Sunday would chip in and help locals construct barns and other buildings, endearing him to his audiences. He still maintained his country mannerisms, sometimes seeming outlandish to the sophisticated cosmopolitans.
It was after his apprenticeship with Chapman and after several years on the "kerosene circuit" that Sunday, with Nell's effective administration, began to gain mass success. Sunday began hosting revivals in larger cities such as New York City, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Chicago. Attendees blessed him with significant sums of money and the Sundays, who had lived very frugally early on, began to indulge themselves with first-class transportation and fine clothes. The Sundays, who had four children, often felt guilty leaving their children at home and also pampered them with clothes and later on, auto mobiles. Besides their firstborn, Helen, the Sunday children would be disappointments, reckless, greedy and scandal-ridden. But critics also chastised Billy and Nell for their own opulence while at the same time, newspapers reported the Sundays' campaigns and their forays among the nation's elite, including presidents (Sunday was a fervent Republican).
Sunday rallied Americans to participate in the First World War but after the conflict, his ministry entered into a decline. Contributions dwindled, colleagues (including music director Homer Rodeheaver) left, and Sunday no longer campaigned in large cities. Rodeheaver had tried to get Sunday to change his evangelism style but Nell kept such criticism away from her husband, fearing his insecurity. Eventually Sunday did get wind of Rodeheaver's remarks and he began to change his ways and reform.
Dorsett's is a fair but empathetic narrative. He calls out Sunday's faults while also suggesting how Sunday fell into those faults. He includes a couple of sermons at the back of the book to give readers a taste of Sunday's sermon style. In many ways, reading Dorsett's biography of Sunday reminds me of Sunday's "spiritual heir," Billy Graham. Both reached out to Christians of other denominations, especially Roman Catholics, while maintaining their conservative evangelicalism. Neither were viewed as erudite scholars (Sunday poked fun of his ignorance of church history, pg 76-77; Sunday's contemporary Dwight L. Moody had refused ordination, pg. 75). Both schmoozed with presidents. Sunday also was good friends with John D. Rockfeller Jr. who applauded Sunday's tireless advocacy of prohibition. This is interesting since Rockfeller is also well known as the financial champion of Riverside Church, the pulpit of which was occupied by famed liberal minister who preached the notable sermon, "Should the Fundamentalists Win?" Like Graham, Sunday was also very progressive when it came to reaching out to African Americans (pg. 96-97) and made special arrangements to minister to them. Dorsett also notes the origins of the phrase "sawdust trail" on pg. 91-92.
This is an excellent, brief biography of one of the most important evangelists of all time.
Read information about the authorLyle W. Dorsett received his B.A. in history (1960) and M.A. in history (1962) from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Missouri-Columbia (1965). He began his teaching career at the University of Missouri, moving briefly to the Univ. of Southern California and University of Colorado at Denver, before he joined the history department at the University of Denver.
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