12. Baker Praying Playing YMCA

12. Baker Praying Playing YMCA - PRAYING AND PLAYING IN THE...

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3 PRAYING ANOPlAYING IN THE YMCA The ideological trailblazers of muscular Christianity were not run-of-the- mill folk. Most came from highly privileged backgrounds, were trained in the classics at private boys' schools, and received degrees from Oxford or Cambridge, Harvard or Yale. Informed and articulate, they moved com- fortably in the company of clergymen, lawyers, and professors, not with la- borers and servants. What Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Moses Coit Tyler announced from their elite perch the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) im- plemented on the Main Street of American life. One can scarcely imagine a more unlikely tandem. Aristocracy meets petite bourgeoisie. Cool High Church kneels down to pray with fiery Low Church, and in the end the Low makes effective what the High could only talk about. In brief, the YMCA democratized the tenets of muscular Christianity. Not that the YMCA was an easy convert to the gospel of sport. The Y was born of Protestant piety, not playfulness. In England, the land of its birth, it barely endorsed physical exercise programs~ leaving organized sports to schoolboys, college men, and sports clubs. Americans chose a dif- ferent path. In the process, they created a principled but flexible institution run by highly motivated, well-trained personnel, an institution equipped to carry the gospel of sport all over the world. Narrow Grooves of Change Prior to the YMCA's emergence as an athletic center, American muscular Christianity existed on a limited, narrow basis. Regionally, it was confined to the Northeast-largely New England, with substantial support in New York. On the eve of the Civil War, while northern pulpits and periodicals '. ! PRAYING AND PLAYING IN THE YMCA sounded the liberal gospel of human rights and healthy sports,. not a peep of muscular Christianity came out of the American South. Finally, two years after the war, a Presbyterian magazine in North Carolina endorsed muscular Christianity's emphasis on "robustness and vigor" as virtues of "those who are strong in the Lord and the power of His might." The Prot- estant South, destined to emphasize the union ~of Christianity and muscu- larity more than any other region in the United States, at first interpreted it wholly in spiritual terms. For Carolina Presbyterians, the movement meant neither sport nor health-oriented gymnastic exemis'b, but rather a spiritu- ality that found its highest development in "those who neither run un- certainly, nor fight as those who beat the air, but who, in their resolute . purpose, take po denial of the blessings they seek, wrestling until their pe- titions are granted and their peculiar mission thoroughly and successfully accomplished:'l The Upper Midwest also failed to produce any notable contributors to early muscular Christian thought~ In 1855 a Unitarian minister in Cin- cinnati, Abiel Abbot Livermore, submitted an essay on gymnastics to the North American Review in which he lauded the ancient Greeks for their emphasis. on physical as well as mental excellence, and as models of the "
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This note was uploaded on 05/25/2011 for the course HIST 303 taught by Professor Salesa during the Fall '10 term at University of Michigan.

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12. Baker Praying Playing YMCA - PRAYING AND PLAYING IN THE...

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