These peace efforts among the churches were matched by peace talk in the world. It was reported in 1905 that more peace sermons had been preached that year than ever before. All was not sermonizing, however. In 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt submitted the first case to the new Arbitration Tribunal at The Hague, from which action Methodist bishops drew the conclusion "that the consciences of nations are more sensitive as to the wickedness of war than at any other time." Vigorous attempts also were being made to limit armaments, with the result that one optimist believed "humanity was finally nearing the goal of universal peace."
Among such optimists lurked a band of pessimists. A Methodist editor spoke for them, saying, "There is such a newness, such a largeness in the thought of Nineteen Hundred, that a sort of mysterious dread seizes us, and we shrink from it." The writer was thinking, perhaps, about the three wars on which the year 1900 floated in: British fighting Boers in South Africa, Americans fighting Filipinos, and a mixed bag of foreigners fighting Chinese in the Boxer Rebellion. Along with these military disruptions of peace and idealism came disruptions in the lives of black Americans caused by the conflict between their growing sense of self-worth and deep-rooted American prejudice exemplified by Jim Crow laws. The art world was disrupted by the disappearance of clear images of reality. A painting was shown in New York City in 1913 over the title, "Nude Descending a Staircase," but it looked to many viewers like an explosion in a shingle factory. No wonder, then, that pessimists began to predict an explosion in western civilization. They were proved right when the guns of August 1914 screamed their message of hate, flooding the world with evidence that material progress, far from bringing moral progress, had been placing more and deadlier weapons in the hands of moral barbarians. And by the time the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, bringing the First World War to an official conclusion, the tide of idealism had turned and a new tide was running, the tide of pluralism.
home table of contents index back continue