LeventeGyori / Shutterstock.com Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther, a German monk, began to divide Christianity known as the Protestant Reformation. After the Reformation, deep divisions between Protestants and Catholics contributed to wars, anger and violence in Europe and America. For centuries, each side criticized the other and asked to convert its followers. Then, in the early 1900s, ambitious U.S. Protestants tried the unthinkable. In building on the ideas circulating in Europe, they spearheaded an effort to negotiate the encounter with Christianity. They failed, of course. Strange as can now be seen, their effort despite having information. Here’s why. How it started In 1900, atheists and agnostics became more prominent in the U.S. Anxious Protestant religious leaders began arguing in favor of a united Christianity to stop the spread of these ideas. Noted theologian and fellow Yale Newman Smyth complained at the time about the “lost authority” of religion in the family, community and intellectual life. He declares, “a Christianity divided by its own house against itself” cannot survive. In response, in 1910, a very small but influential group consisting of theologians including Smyth, as well as ministers of prominent churches and eminent business professionals, committed themselves to “Christian unity.” For this group, unity means more than cooperation or understanding with each other. It signifies the true union of Protestantism and Catholicism as well. The influential chapel at the WWI Monument to Charles Henry Brent. AndreoBongco (Self-employed) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA Their most important member was Charles Brent, an Episcopalian bishop. In the early 1900s, Brent was a missionary in the Philippines. While there, he befriended John Pershing, the army officer in charge of most of the territory captured by the U.S. This friendship would inspire the bishop to greater honor. General John Joseph Pershing. The Bain News Service, publishes, via Wikimedia Commons When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Pershing commanded U.S. forces in Europe. He persuaded Brent to organize and lead the newly formed corps of army chaplains. As he established the order of chaplains, Brent showed his own commitment to Christian unity. Even as a Protestant, he made a Catholic priest his second in command and encouraged the recruitment of Catholic chaplains. When Brent returned to the United States in 1919, he was even more convinced that “a divided Church” was a “fundamental disloyalty to Christ.” He lent his name to publications and activities to strengthen support for the cause. Failure to unite Proponents of unity recognize the need to continue slowly in this difficult task. For example, Smyth insisted that they would not rush to come up with “specific plans or measures.” However, the group should only arrange meetings and conferences where Catholics and Protestants can discuss their differences. Smyth hopes that “sentiment for unity” will emerge from the dialogue. But years of dialogue have not brought any progress towards true unity. The most common obstacle is that, despite repeated invitations, Catholics have nothing to do with the effort beyond sending unofficial observers to occasional meetings. There are other issues as well. Protestants expected permissions from both sides. They also hoped that Catholics would limit the power of the papacy. A Protestant theologian, Charles Briggs, expected the Vatican to put in place a system of papal checks and balances. Instead, Protestants said they might accept the papacy, leaving a critique that had even begun with the Reformation. Catholics see no reason for such an expectation. They rejected any demanded change in their church. World peace through Christian unity? Despite the difficulties, more religious motives provided new inspiration to the movement’s leaders in the 1920s. They think that Christian unity offers a pathway to world peace. This is a time when America’s role in global affairs seems uncertain. While American intervention helped the allies win the war, the U.S. rejected the Treaty of Versailles, the treaty that ended the war. The U.S. also refuses to join the League of Nations, the idea of President Woodrow Wilson, created to resolve international conflicts. There is a high probability that there will be another war. In this group, Christian unity offers an alternative way to attain peace. This is a way to prevent a lot of bleeding. Speaking to a friend, Charles Brent was concerned that the “new unity among the churches” would prevent “frightening waves of terror” from attacking the people of the next generation. ”Another supporter, peace activist Peter Ainslie, predicts that fights between Catholics and Protestants will continue to provoke conflicts in the world. “Only the unification of Christian forces” will end militarism and bring world peace, he said. Insufficient support Statements like these highlight how some Americans connected religion to international politics after World War I. But they also reveal why the unity effort failed to garner much support. The American people have no interest in united Christian unity as they do in the League of Nations. After the turmoil of the war years, many wanted to focus on domestic problems. They have no desire to revive familiar institutions like the church. This became clear in the leadership campaign of 1920, when Warren Harding won a landslide victory after running an isolationist campaign. His slogan, “Return to normalcy,” signifies the end of the past decade’s long-term effort to change the world. In addition, most Protestants have little enthusiasm for these efforts as Catholics. They say that there is no need for the same institution of Protestantism and Catholicism. For example, “Outlook,” one read in the national Protestant periodical, ran an editorial saying that the two sides already agreed on “essential elements of Christianity” and what the remaining differences were only one. “different denominational. Living with differences Tiko Aramyan / Shutterstock.com The struggle for unity was not a complete failure, though. It helped promote unity through dialogue. Its greatest success a conference in 1927 in Lausanne, Switzerland.Organized by a majority of Americans and led by Charles Brent, the gathering sparked a new dialogue among Protestants, both in the United States and in Europe.In fact, the main one was unintentional. the result of the unity campaign is that it makes people realize that they don’t want real unity.It is possible, that is, to accept of division after the Reformation in Christianity. The differences that divide Protestants and Catholics can be dismissed as “strange” rather than intolerable divisions. This article is published from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. Read more: Why the Judeo-Christian values ’a mythical dog mocked by Leo’s right-wing ancient legacy were nothing short of what the Reformation did On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, remember Martin Luther’s contribution to reading and writing David Mislin does not act, consult, own parts of or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliations beyond of their academic teaching.