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Book Review: Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement

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Why did so many American churches embrace eugenics?

Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement
Christine Rosen
Oxford Univ. Press, 2004
304 pp., $35

Have you ever heard the plea, "I want a church where I don't have to leave my mind at the door"? In other words, I will accept religious teachings so long as they do not contradict the orthodoxies of conventional society, the commonplaces of educated opinion. When that opinion runs flat contrary to traditional or scriptural teaching, then secular orthodoxies win every time...

All of which gives a powerful relevance to Christine Rosen's thoroughly researched study of the eugenic movement that gained such ideological power in American thought between about 1900 and 1940.

Rosen shows the immense influence that eugenic thought had within America's religious bodies, chiefly the mainline Protestant churches, but also among Jews and even some Roman Catholics...

Reformers, however, found themselves challenged by antediluvian reactionaries, who rejected the whole process of intellectual modernization, and who even suggested that eugenic doctrines might pose real dangers to civil liberties...the reactionaries were so blinkered as to suggest that eugenics itself might be a passing fad, which future generations would dismiss with a shudder.

In retrospect, of course, the reactionaries were exactly right on virtually every point...

Read the entire article on the Christianity Today website.

Posted: 7/19/04



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