Journal Article

‘Disturbing the Complacency of Religion’? The Evangelical Crusades of Dr Billy Graham and Father Patrick Peyton in Britain, 1951–54

Alana Harris and Martin Spence

in Twentieth Century British History

Volume 18, issue 4, pages 481-513
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 0955-2359
Published online September 2007 | e-ISSN: 1477-4674 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/tcbh/hwm027
‘Disturbing the Complacency of Religion’? The Evangelical Crusades of Dr Billy Graham and Father Patrick Peyton in Britain, 1951–54

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This article explores some little-examined aspects of the widespread revival of religion in Britain in the 1950s through a close examination of the evangelistic crusades of the Baptist minister Dr Billy Graham and the Irish-American Roman Catholic priest, Fr Patrick Peyton. Against the backdrop of the ‘secularization debate’, which continues to dominate the existing historiography of the period, it suggests that a re-examination of the role of religion in English society might provide new and valuable insights into the broader social and cultural preoccupations of the post-war era. Employing a cross-denominational approach it argues that, much to the surprise of some contemporary commentators, the considerable appeal of these religious crusaders lay in their ability to articulate common fears and anxieties about the individual, the family, and Cold War society within a religious context. Moreover, from a contemporary historical perspective, it questions whether the appeal of Graham's and Peyton's evangelism is better viewed not as an instance of an ‘illusory’ religious revival of old-fashioned Christianity before a plunge into ‘secularism’, but rather as an illustration of a broader and hitherto unexplored shift in post-war England towards new configurations of religiosity.

Journal Article.  12594 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; British History

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