Friday, March 26, 2010

Charlie Chaplin Fan

D.G. Hart, Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America, pp. 164, 207:

The final issue that split fundamentalist and traditionalist Presbyterians concerned personal morality. In [James Oliver] Buswell's estimation this was the proverbial straw that would break the camel's back. Those in the church who sided with him, Buswell wrote (in what turned out to be his last letter to Machen), were concerned about reports that Westminster students used liquor in their rooms "with the approval of some members of the faculty." The use of alcohol, even in the celebration of the sacrament, he added, was "far more likely" to divide the church than "any question of eschatology." Buswell and other fundamentalists in the church were also "shocked" by leaders of the new denomination who defended "the products of Hollywood," a "useless,...waste of energy." Machen never responded to Buswell but his opposition to Prohibition provides a clue to his views on alcohol. In addition to opposing the expanded powers of the federal government that the Eighteenth Amendment granted, Machen also thought the Bible allowed moderate use of alcohol. This was also the position of the majority of faculty at Westminster who came from ethnic churches were the idea of total abstinence with American evangelicalism was foreign. As for Buswell's reference to Hollywood, Machen did enjoy going to the movies and commented favorably on Charlie Chaplin but did not make any remarks about film in his published writings.10

10. Buswell to Machen, December 4, 1936, MA. On Machen's fondness for movies, see, for example, his letters to his mother, May 14, 1913, March 11 and August 23, 1914, MA.

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