*** Muscular Christianity

Muscular Christianity

Figure 1.--

Muscular Christianity is a philosophical movement that developed in Britain during the mid-19th century. Religion was still very important in the 19th century. And many thought that religion was leading to a preceived softness in Christianity. Historian Edward Gibbons (1737-94) launced a popular quest for an ansWer to thev perenial question -- why Rome fell. He began an ongoing controversy about the role of Christianity. Many believed that the principal cause or a major cause was the rise of Christianity. One resonse to church critics was Muscular Christianity. It was the manly practice of Christianity that added health and fitness to the practice of Christian morality. It combined Christianity with patriotism, discipline, self-sacrifice, masculinity, and athleticism. We are not entirely sure about the oigins of the movement in Britain. The movement developed during the the Victorian era. It was strongly associated with the idea of building character in English public (elite private boarding) schools. It is not clear to us if the English public schools generated the concept of Musculsr Christianity or assimilated the concept that was developing. It is most commobly associated with Thonas Hughes (1822-96). His semi-autobiographical novel, Tom Brown's School Days (1857) promoted the concept of Muscular Christianity. Another important early author was Charles Kingsley (1819-75). [Trothen] The term was invented by T.C. Sanders in a review of Charles Kingsley's novel Two Years Ago (1857). Sanders described whatv he saw as Muscular Christian, "a man who fears God and can walk a thousand miles in a thousand hours — who breathes God's free air on God's rich earth, and at the same time can hit a woodcock, doctor a horse, and twist a poker around his finger." Schools began adding gymnasiums. The initial proponents were English. We are not sure as to the degree the concept spread on the continent to countries ike Germany. We do know that it had a profound impact on American thinking. And we see this impacting America at about the same time that English authors began discussing the concept. No country more enthisiastically adopted the the practice of Musucla Christinity more enthusiastically as America. No one illustrates this better than President Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore was a sickly child we was raised by a father that firmly believed in Muscular Christianity and he became as a father, a prominet adherent to the movement. [Andres, pp. 31-32.] Another important proponent was Canadian Ralph Connor (1860-1937). The proponents saw vigor and health important in the active pursuit of Christian ideals. The Young Mens' Christian Association (YMCA) was an embodiement of this approach . It was founded (1844). As one author ecplains, "The YMCA first opened gyms to train stronger Christians." Physical fitness was a secondary goal for the movement, commonly more spparent than Christian teaching. Soon gyms and then swimming pools were an important part of the 'Y" priogram. The Boys' Brigade (1883) and Boy Scouts (1907) followed. All of this began in Britain, but was soon taken up in America, and many other countries. One might think that such a phiolosophical movemebt might have influenced warfare, but there is little evidebnce of this in the major wars at the time, including the Crimean War (1854-56), the American Civil War (1861-65), the Franco Prussian War (1870-71), or World War I (1914-18).


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Created: 11:09 AM 12/12/2022
Last updated: 11:09 AM 12/12/2022