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Peabody’s new insight, of course, did not correct the undemocratic character of church, state, and business in the United States. 29 Serving a New York City congregation from 1907 until his retirement decades later, Holmes found himself near the vital center of the Social Gospel movement. ”30 Taking a position to the left of mainline social gospelers, Holmes declared that social salvation was the entire work of religion. The “revolutionary function of the church,” he declared in the optimistic years before World War I, was to be the “active agent” rather than the “passive witness” of salvation.

What would happen if we took the latter number as seriously as the former? I should give Emerson the last word. ”49 For all his anti-institutional prejudices, Emerson knew intuitively what it took Peabody, Ballou, Holmes and Ovington a lifetime to learn: no institutional scheme can fully control the bubbling creativity of life itself. At the same time, those others also learned what Emerson could not see: our institutions are as “vegetative,” in Peabody’s phrase, as the individuals who participate in them.

5 As is often the case, his criticism was more compelling when it included an element of self-criticism. ” His coldness lay in his continuing struggle to put his own vision into action: “I have not yet conquered my own house. It irks and repents me. ” Emerson concluded that to join Brook Farm “would be to traverse all my long trumpeted theory . . 6 Peabody, Ballou, Holmes, and Ovington would all eventually become as repentant of their institutions as Emerson was of his individuality. Just as Emerson began with an idealistic vision of the individual, these others were motivated first by an institutional idealism.

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