home | many pasts | evidence | www.history | blackboard | reference
talking history | syllabi | students | teachers | puzzle | about us
search: go!
advanced search - go!

“Shall We Gather at the River?”: Aimee Semple McPherson on Prohibition

Urban as well as rural Americans flocked to fundamentalist and evangelical churches in the 1920s. Preaching tradition and timeless value, American evangelicals adopted innovative techniques for spreading the word. Aimee Semple McPherson, pastor of the enormous Angelus Temple in the booming city of Los Angeles, preached to a vast radio audience and pioneered the novel technique of faith healing over the airwaves. In this audio clip from a 1924 sermon, McPherson described a loving, kind, and rewarding God instead of the severe, wrathful God of Old Testament tradition. Her youthful persona and cheery good humor helped make her radio presence highly effective. Following a well-publicized scandal involving a mysterious lover, McPherson and other fundamentalists began to lose the prominence they enjoyed in the 1920s.

Listen to Audio:

Amy McPherson: Leaving Los Angeles for New York, and the boat, upon which we sail immediately, I was met en route by multitudes of our friends. Among them ever was a liberal sprinkling of newspaper men. And in each city, they asked the same question: “Sister McPherson, what do you think of Prohibition?” It was rather difficult to answer the question in such a few words as one must use then, but I told them, that the case about Prohibition here in the United States, reminds me of the story of the lecturer who gave a marvelous address on prohibition. And he wound up in a blaze of glory that brought everyone to their feet enthusiastically. “Why is it my friends, if I had my way, do you know what I’d do? I’d take every barrel of liquor, every bottle of booze, every crate, and I’d empty it in the river. Yes sir.” Then he said, “Shall we now close our meeting by rising and singing, ‘Shall We Gather at The River?’” He’d spoiled it all. And that’s the way perhaps with us over her in America: we teach it, but so often those who profess to make the laws do not quite live up to them, and back them themselves. I wish that you could all have the joy of going with us this Easter tide to the Holy Land, where we shall visit on Easter Day, the tomb of our risen Lord.

Source: Courtesy of the Michigan State University, G. Robert Vincent Voice Library.

See Also:"Shall the Fundamentalists Win?": Defending Liberal Protestantism in the 1920s
"Not Rum but Righteousness": Billy Sunday Attacks Booze