cover image Holy Humanitarians: American Evangelicals and Global Aid

Holy Humanitarians: American Evangelicals and Global Aid

Heather D. Curtis. Harvard Univ., $29.95 (365p) ISBN 978-0-674-73736-5

In this useful study, Curtis (Faith in the Great Physician), associate professor of religion at Tufts University, broadly examines evangelical Christian humanitarianism at the turn of the 20th century by focusing on the efforts of organizations associated with the Christian Herald newspaper. Much of her material comes from the archives of the paper, a popular evangelical publication in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Herald’s owners and editors, Louis Klopsch and Thomas Talmage, used the newspaper’s reach to inform American evangelicals of international disasters and solicit funds for disaster relief. Curtis explores the difficulties this presented for Klopsch, Talmage, and the associated relief organizations in their evangelical context. For example, when they solicited funds for victims of an earthquake in Constantinople, readers responded with anti-Muslim backlash. Klopsch and Talmage, Curtis writes, thought of aid as a way of not only Christianizing international populations but of Americanizing them as well. This ideological bent inevitably led to the Herald frequently clashing with non-sectarian organizations such as the American Red Cross. The final chapters of the book wrap up the story of the Christian Herald—it ceased publication in 1992—and take a too-brief glance at the history of Christian evangelical humanitarian efforts through the end of the 20th century. Despite the narrow focus, Curtis’s study sheds new light on the development of evangelical aid relief in America. (Apr.)