Biography of Famous Preacher Billy Sunday Part 2

About the famous American preacher Billy Sunday, biography and history of the church revivalist and evangelical.

BILLY SUNDAY (1862-1935)

His farm-belt audiences listened slack-jawed to this spokesman for the Lord denounce a "red-nosed, buttermilk-eyed, beetle-browed, peanut-brained, stall-fed old saloonkeeper"; or report that David "socked Goliath in the coco between the lamps and he went down for the count." But when Sunday called for declarations for Christ the corn-fed sinners jammed the sawdust-strewn aisles and stumbled by the dozen to the front of the tabernacle. It became known as "hitting the sawdust trail," and it was Sunday's personal trademark of success. Conventional clergymen would criticize him for turning worship into vaudeville, but they couldn't deny his results.

Sunday was as much a social critic as gospel preacher. His condemnations of booze, modernism, foreigners, socialism, and high fashion were pure fire. With America's entry into W.W. I he turned his verbal guns on the Kaiser and draft dodgers. He prayed that the German leader would "go to hell with the rest of them," and asked God to "strike down in his tracks" any man who failed to do his duty. A revival scheduled in a particular town often shrewdly coincided with a threatened labor strike or the appearance of a prohibitionist candidate on the local ballot.

Sunday peaked in 1917 with a New York City revival that netted 98,264 conversions. He was now a millionaire thanks to numerous "free-will offerings" which went directly to his earthly support.

After New York there was nowhere to go but down. The war had destroyed America's rural naivete, leaving behind a world too weary for holy wars protecting the Sabbath and the purity of American womanhood. The 18th Amendment stole much of his prohibitionist thunder. Almost overnight, Billy Sunday was painfully out of date. Americans--at least in the cities--were being willingly seduced by the Jazz Age and were in no mood for reforming themselves or their neighbors.

Sunday fully developed D. L. Moody's use of business techniques to advertise and conduct revivals. He produced tens of thousands of conversions at a time of growing preoccupation with worldly pleasures. But with war's end he became an instant anachronism in a world revolutionized by the radio and the automobile.

He spent his last 15 years tent-preaching in the same back-country farm towns where his ministry had begun.

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