for the "Real Finney"
was very interested in the letter to the editor in the
Fall issue that referred to the Summer article about religion
on the Oberlin campus. As one writer notes, "Charles
G. Finney, the prime evangelist of the 1800s, left his
indelible mark on Oberlin." True as that is, I believe
it would be quite fair to say that the nature of that
mark has often been misunderstood, not only at Oberlin
but generally. For a great many "evangelicals,"
among them other writers of the response letters, Finney
represents "the good old-time religion" identified
today with fundamentalism, or at least the intense and
often quite emotional "conservative" form of
Christianity. This representation of Finney, the portrait
in the minds of so many who still see him as an evangelical
hero, actually distorts the man and the powerful movement
he stirred and embodied.
grown up in the Oberlin community, worshiped often in
Finney's First Church (though a Methodist myself), and
having eventually gone into the Christian ministry, I
have always been interested in Finney. My own faith journey
took me into a "liberalism" that seemed much at odds with
Finney's evangelical message and style--until I had the
opportunity to read his memoirs. There I discovered a
very different kind of person than I had imagined, a man
fearlessly combining spiritual devotion and fervor with
powerful intellectual evaluation of traditional Christianity.
Indeed, Finney made such radical departures from the traditional
Presbyterianism of his day that he almost didn't get ordained.
His "new-school Presbyterian" theology, also known in
that day as "Oberlin theology" got him into a lot of hot
water. He was widely excoriated by many for his challenges
to traditional doctrines of the day. In this he was much
like Harry Emerson Fosdick a couple of generations later,
the favorite whipping boy of the fundamentalists in the
early 20th century.
today could benefit greatly from a reintroduction to the
"real" Finney, who, I believe, would enter eagerly into
the lively diversity of religious experience and conversation
of the campus.
Vincent Hart '53
University Place, Washington
I get to the point of this letter, let me say that I thoroughly
enjoy the Oberlin Alumni Magazine. It is both attractive
and informative. And refreshingly free from typos! (I
happen to work as a technical writer.)
to the point. I guess it all depends on your perspective.
The news that Barnes & Nobel has been retained to manage
the store that was formerly the Co-op Bookstore is profoundly
sad. Why so? Aren't the needs of the town and college
going to be served? Isn't it better to have a bookstore
answers to these question are, of course, yes and yes.
And yet, as a writer and as someone who believes in the
importance of a diversity of voices in the mass media,
I believe it would have been far better to have searched
for and found an independent bookstore that would have
been willing to operate the store. Barnes & Nobel is one
of the behemoths of the bookstore industry in the United
States, opening stores all over the country and taking
away business from the struggling independent booksellers.
yesterday I was listening to NPR's Alternative Radio show
and heard media critic Ben Bagdikian pointing out how
a handful of corporations control the mass media--newspapers,
magazines, television, radio, movies, videos, and books--that
most of us are exposed to. By having Barnes & Nobel run
what was previously an independent bookstore, one more
independent outlet has been snuffed out. We are all the
poorer for that.
Ted Hornoi-Centerwall '72
Oberlin of 150 Years Ago
member of the Hitchcock family found a collection of letters
in a trunk in the attic of his family farm in Pittsford,
Vermont. Among them was a letter from Henry Chapman Hitchcock
to his grandparents, dated May 24, 1850, when Henry entered
Oberlin. Here are excerpts your readers might find interesting.
Grandfather and Grandmother, In noticing the date you
do not find the long word Fredericktown but in its stead
a trisyluble and now I imagine I hear you thus solyoquise.
"Oberlin! Why, where is that?" Now to save your
calling to memory the days when you studied Geography,
I will tell you where it is: vis in Lorain Co. N.E. part
of the state of Ohio. Mother has occasionally sent you
a paper called the "Oberlin Collegiate Institute"
now called "Oberlin College." And it is hither
that I have resorted to acquire that knowledge so essential
to a youth of the present generation...
is a beautiful village of the New England order and mostly
N.E inhabitants. I room at Rev. James H. Fairchild's--Prof.
Of Mathematics--which gives me superior advantages. He
is an excellent man. The institution is congregational
and antislavery and all the inhabitants of this section
of country vis "Western Reserve" are all abolitionists
and congregationalists. The institution educates the Negros,
which makes it unlike any other institution in the U.S.
Several are in my class and they fully equal the foremost
of the class. My studies are the Greek and Latin Languages
Norman Rich '42