“‘God Is My Partner’: An Evangelical Business Man Confronts Depression and War” chronicles the early career of R. G. LeTourneau, an industrialist and lay preacher whose life challenges the historiography of mid-twentieth-century fundamentalism as apolitical and otherworldly. In the 1930s and 1940s, every businessman had to grapple with the expanding federal state under the New Deal and in World War II. LeTourneau exemplified theologically conservative evangelical resourcefulness under changing political and economic conditions. Born in 1888 to a Plymouth Brethren family, his cultural memory reached back to the evangelical business activism of the nineteenth century, while his future lay in the fundamentalist subculture that the Brethren did much to create. However, as a businessman, LeTourneau had little patience with doctrines dividing “the world” from the church. He integrated evangelicalism into his manufacturing and managerial roles, and pushed fundamentalist clergy to tap laymen's proselytizing energy. Between 1930 and 1943, the years on which this article focuses, LeTourneau attacked dilemmas that preoccupied other evangelical business men: higher taxes, greater regulation, a forceful labor movement, and the challenge, as he saw it, to uphold the gospel and private enterprise against communist subversion. Business men such as LeTourneau represented the front line of what scholars have too often dismissed as trivial: evangelical politics during the New Deal.
(Online publication September 29 2011)
Sarah R. Hammond is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary.