Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought
Hart, D. G., Journal of Church and State
Christian Critics: Religion and the impasse in Modern American Social Thought. By Eugene McCarraher. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001. xi + 241 pp. $28.95.
This is a difficult, short, and important book. Its significance resides in the author's attention to the theological dimension, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, within twentieth-century critiques of "capitalist modernity in the United States" (p. 1). As such, Eugene McCarraher's study explores a body of discourse on the Left presumed to be hostile to Christianity. To be sure, the proponents of social Christianity that he examines have received scrutiny from other historians; the literature on the Social Gospel is long and expanding. What McCarraher does that cultural and religious historians have rarely attempted is first, to look at Protestant and Roman Catholics together; and second, to link these religious critics of capitalism to the history of intellectuals and anti-modernism, thus bringing religious, cultural, and intellectual history together as interlocutors. He discovers that many liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics turned to theolog)' as a "mode of critical attention" for inspecting "political economy, social relations, cultural life, work, and technology" (p. 1-2).
The dramatis personne run from Walter Rauschenbusch and John Ryan, to John Courtney Murray and Harvey Cox, with significant attention to H. Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. Although these critics defended the rights of labor, women, and blacks, they differed over the means to these ends: an economy shepherded either by a professional-managerial class or worker self-management. McCarraher argues that the discourse to emerge from these sources yields a different perspective not only on twentieth-century Christianity in the United States, but also "on the vicissitudes of selfhood, intellectual life, and progressive thought in modern America" (p. 2).
These vicissitudes, as important as they are to McCarraher's book, also account for its difficulty. Here the length …
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Publication information: Article title: Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought. Contributors: Hart, D. G. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 45. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 2003. Page number: 603. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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