Muscular Christianity

Religious and social movement

Muscular Christianity is a term for a movement originating during the Victorian era. It stressed the need for active Christian activism and belief of vigorous masculinity. It is most associated with the English writers Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes, and in Canada with Ralph Connor, though the name was bestowed by others. Kingsley and Hughes promoted physical strength and health (at least for men) as well as an active pursuit of Christian ideals in personal life and politics.

Illustration by F. R. Gruger for the novel Hepsey Burke, by F. N. Westcott, 1915. The Episcopal rector Donald Maxwell (left) gets little pay because of interference from Sylvester Bascom (right), so Maxwell shovels stone to support himself and his wife. Here he confronts Bascom, who accuses him of having no pride.

Muscular Christianity has continued itself through organisations that combine physical and Christian spiritual development.[1] It is influential within both Catholicism and Protestantism.[2][3]


  1. David Yamane, Keith A. Roberts (2012). Religion in Sociological Perspective. Pine Forge Press. ISBN 9781412982986. Retrieved 1 August 2011. Muscular Christianity's main focus was to address the concerns of boys directly, not abstractly, so that they could apply religion to their lives. The idea did not catch on quickly in the United States, but over time it has become one of the most notable tools employed in Evangelical Protestant outreach ministries.
  2. Alister E. McGrath (2008). Christianity's Dangerous Idea. HarperOne. ISBN 9780061864742. Retrieved 1 August 2011. Nor is sport a purely Protestant concern: Catholicism can equally well be said to promote muscular Christianity, at least to some extent, through the athletic programs of such leading schools as the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
  3. Michael S. Kimmel; Amy Aronson (2004). Men and Masculinities: a Social, Cultural, and Historical Encyclopædia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576077740. Retrieved 1 August 2011. As neo-orthodoxy arose in the mainline Protestant churches, Muscular Christianity declined there. It did not, however, disappear from American landscape, because it found some new sponsors. In the early 2000s these include the Catholic Church and various rightward-leaning Protestant groups. The Catholic Church promotes Muscular Christianity in the athletic programs of schools such as Notre Dame, as do evangelical Protestant groups such as Promise Keepers, Athletes in Action, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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