Document Type


Publication Date



Barnett College of Ministry & Theology


Department of Christian Ministries and Religion


This article posits that the cultural battle waged by Aimee Semple McPherson in concert with William Jennings Bryan over evolution and modernism was largely focused on a popular social theory linked to eugenics. On July 21, 1925, in the city of Dayton, Tennessee, a twentieth-century watershed event became a harbinger of the age: The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, popularly known as the Scopes Monkey Trial. The public remembers the event as spotlighting the fundamentalist-modernist controversy with respect to the teaching of evolution in the public-school curriculum against the protests of fundamentalist Christians who advocated Creationism. The historical event was far more complicated than the popular recollection. By revisiting primary materials, this investigation will demonstrate that much of the protest voiced by McPherson and Bryan involved Social Darwinism and eugenics and a concern over the impact of these popular theories upon the Social Gospel.