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The Great War: A Baylor University Museum Studies Exhibition
Untitled Document

Waco, Religion and the War


World War I devastated the American population creating widespread grief and turmoil. Churches and synagogues
answered this national upheaval by reaching out to the soldiers and hosting events to boost morale among their communities.
After examining two local Waco newspapers, the Waco Morning News and the Waco Daily Tribune, evidence was
found of Waco religious institutions participating in just this activity. The religious community held social events, such as dances
and game nights, for the soldiers as well as welcomed them to Sunday worship and prayer meetings during the week. The
soldiers stationed at Fort MacArthur near Waco regularly attended and enjoyed all of these events.

 

It was determined from the selected clippings in this collection that members of the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant communities
approved of the soldiers’ attendance at their social gatherings and worship sessions. The Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.)
also actively hosted parties and provided their headquarters as a gathering spot for young soldiers looking to escape the confines
of camp and training. At these events, a prominent local or out-of-town pastor would deliver a sermon or speech pertaining to the
war and the role of religious individuals in it. The Waco newspapers would report on the orations given at the various activities and
sometimes even reprint part of the sermons given at Sunday worship. The recurring theme of World War I and the role of religion in
the speeches infer a widespread acceptance of the soldiers in the Waco community. Religious leaders from all over the country even
encouraged the welcoming of soldiers at religious institutions as reported in articles pertaining to various meetings of religious summits
and leadership organizations. Religious associations in every community across the country were concerned with the well-being of
the soldiers and their participation in religious activities. These highlighted articles from Waco newspapers show that the religious
community in Central Texas was no exception.

 

The Waco Morning News and the Waco Daily Tribune reached individuals throughout Central Texas. Though the Waco newspapers
provided daily information on the war itself, it is important to note the inclusion of articles that provide information on the effect of the
war on individual religious institutions. This exhibit primarily presents a snapshot of the attitudes of religious leaders and communities
from 1917 to 1918 in Waco. The newspapers ran Associated Press (A.P) articles from New York and Great Britain, which represent
national and international religious attitudes towards the war. The ubiquitous welcoming of soldiers into religious communities affirms the
idea that religious groups supported the war effort and the individuals involved.

 

For additional religious attitudes toward and perspectives on World War I, two separate collections of sermons by two prominent Baptist
preachers are also available through the digital collections of the Baylor library. Moody Library has digitized the sermons of preacher
Selsus E. Tull, who delivered sermons in various cities in the south during World War I. The sermons of George W. Truett, a noted preacher
of Dallas who lived through the war, are available in audio form from the Crouch Fine Arts Library. Furthermore, the Baylor student
newspaper, known today as The Baylor Lariat, can be accessed online and contains articles addressing the actions and opinions of student
and local religious groups in editions dating back to the time of World War I.

 

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