James W. Fifield Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

James William Fifield Jr (June 5, 1899 – February 25, 1977) was an American Congregational minister who led the First Congregational Church in Los Angeles and was co-founder and president of the conservative free-market organization Spiritual Mobilization.

Early life[edit]

Born in Chicago, Fifield grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where his father was a Congregational minister. After having served in the infantry during World War I, he received a Master of Arts degree from University of Chicago in 1921. In 1924, he obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister.[1][2]

First Congregational Church in Los Angeles[edit]

Fifield received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in 1934.[1] The following year, he moved to Los Angeles to head the First Congregational Church.[3]

The First Congregational Church was at the time heavily indebted due to the costs of a cathedral-style building which had a 176 foot high tower, more than 100 rooms, auditoriums, and a gymnasium. The church had 1,500 members at Fifield's arrival, but after Fifield initiated a major increase in activities membership rose to over 4,500 in the beginning of the 1940s and the debt was paid off in 1942.[4]

The members of the First Congregational Church were mostly among the wealthy, giving Fifield the nickname "The Apostle to Millionaires".[5][4]

The Church from 1937 to 1942 paid substantial money to Spiritual Mobilization.[4]

Fifield strongly opposed a merger of the Congregational Christian Churches with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ. The merger was approved by a clear majority of the general council of the Congregational churches in 1949, and Fifield became part of the minority movement that tried to stop the merger from going through.[4] The merger was completed in 1957.

Spiritual Mobilization[edit]

In 1935, Fifield Jr. co-founded Mobilization for Spiritual Ideas with president of Carleton College Donald J. Cowling and William Hocking.[3] Fifield's religious-political organization Spiritual Mobilization was started by Fifield in 1935[6] He became its president; its ideology has been described by Kevin M. Kruse and others as Christian libertarianism.[7] "Freedom under God" was a much used phrase by Fifield and the organization. The message was mainly directed towards Congregational, Presbyterian and Episcopal ministers and laymen through radio and television programs and a monthly magazine Faith and Freedom with William Johnson as editor and James C. Ingebretsen as a major contributor.[5]

Fiefield and the organization attracted the attention of philanthropist J. Howard Pew and former President Herbert Hoover whom Fifield met and with whom he corresponded.[5]

In 1940, Fifield gave a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers at the Waldorf Astoria New York where he praised capitalism and business leaders, while denouncing Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. The speech, which underlined that Christian leaders and religious arguments were crucial in the effort to promote a free-market agenda, was exceptionally well received.[5]

In 1949, Spiritual Mobilization started broadcasting a short radio program called "The Freedom Story". By late 1951 the program, which included brief remarks by Fifield, was broadcast on more than 800 radio stations.[5]

In 1951, the Anti-Defamation League demanded an apology from Fifield after he falsely stated in a program that "it was a matter of historical record that Benjamin Franklin denounced the Jews at the Constitutional Convention in 1787."[8] On other occasions, Fifield and his organization were also accused of racism and anti-antisemitism. He successfully campaigned to remove UNESCO material from use in schools in Los Angeles.[4]

Awards[edit]

Fifield received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in 1934.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fifield Jr., James W Academy Stamp & Autograph. Retrieved 19 April 2015
  2. ^ Kevin Kruse (14 April 2015). One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. Basic Books. pp. 16–. ISBN 978-0-465-04064-3. 
  3. ^ a b Ronald Lora and William Henry Longton (1999) The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America, (subscription required) pp. 153–154. Greenwood Press. Via Questia.
  4. ^ a b c d e Ralph Lord Roy (1953) Apostles of Discord: A Study of Organized Bigotry and Disruption on the Fringes of Protestantism (subscription required) Beacon Press. Boston. Via Questia. Pp. 286–294
  5. ^ a b c d e Kevin M. Kruse (6 April 2015) How Corporate America Invented Christian America Politico
  6. ^ Kevin M. Kruse (14 March 2015) A Christian Nation? Since When? New York Times
  7. ^ Kevin M. Kruse (17 November 2012) For God So Loved the 1 Percent ... New York Times
  8. ^ Los Angeles Minister Urged to Apologize for Broadcasting Anti-Semitic Falsehood Jewish Telegraphic Agency 27 July 1951