Beginning in 1948, evangelical campus ministry InterVarsity Christian Fellowship urged multiple thousands of university students to pursue careers in overseas, cross-cultural missions during a triennial conference held at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Celebrated missionaries, scholars, and speakers in the Anglo-American evangelical circuit infused theologically and sociologically grounded appeals with a heavy dose of emotionally stirring rhetoric to support the “call” to the field. Through analysis of Urbana’s keynote addresses, as well as it organizational methods, a shifting ethos from self-denial in the 1940s and ’50s to self-fulfillment in the 1970s can be detected. This change, it seems, mirrored broader trends in postwar U.S. culture, which, according to contemporary essayist Tom Wolfe and later sociologists and historians, produced the radically self-entered 1970s–the “Me Decade.” Though generally portrayed as resisting and combating post-1960 mores and values, certain evangelical networks, as represented by Urbana and InterVarsity, appear to have considered accommodation to be a better strategy.
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