Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Billy Sunday Sermon from his Omaha Revival (1915)

These sermon excerpts were originally printed in the Omaha World Herald.  I scanned copies of them from the Douglas County Historical Society. They are are part of a wide-ranging sermon in which Sunday rails against all sorts of evils and (as he sees it) absurdities.  I'm putting them here along with brief commentary to describe how Sunday's style seems similar to Driscoll's.  



* When Sunday says he has read "Science and Health" he is referring to Mary Baker Eddy's (the founder of Christian Science) most famous book.
The text is a bit difficult to read, being from 1915 and all, but you can see Sunday's simple style: "Christian Science says this...the bible says the opposite."  Driscoll is a bit more advanced with this method, but the style of "here's what 'x' philosophy/religion/theology says, and here's a Scripture/theological idea that says the opposite" is the same.
Here Sunday uses the classic pop-culture-savvy tactic of referencing a recent book, seemingly off-the-cuff, and then making a joke about how absurd the book is.  Driscoll often does this...for example, he'll quote something crazy that Howard Stern said, or he'll cite a new book that advocates something that his congregation would be appalled by, and then he'll crack a little joke about it, and the audience will laugh at those crazy weirdos who come up with such outlandish ideas...yet as they laugh, their worldview will feel threatened.  

*when Sunday refers to "the continental idea" he is speaking of the European Sabbath, which was not strictly observed in the way that many American Protestants of the 19th century believed it should be observed.
...and then Sunday closes this section off with the hammer.  His language here is obviously xenophobic and racist to our eyes and ears.  Fortunately, Driscoll does not use such language or have such beliefs.  However, the confrontational style is similar to approaches taken by Driscoll, where he does not mince words and attacks blatant sin or whatever annoys him (usually effeminate men), just as Sunday rails against the "blatant sin" of sabbath-breaking, and the annoying foreigners.

If you are interested in a well-researched book that places Sunday's life and ministry in the cultural context of Progressive Era America, this book is recommended.