Protestantism in America

Protestantism in America

Protestantism in America

Protestantism in America

Synopsis

As America has become more pluralistic, Protestantism, with its long roots in American history and culture, has hardly remained static. This finely crafted portrait of a remarkably complex group of Christian denominations describes Protestantism's history, constituent subgroups and their activities, and the way in which its dialectic with American culture has shaped such facets of the wider society as healthcare, welfare, labor relations, gender roles, and political discourse.

Part I provides an introduction to the religion's essential beliefs, a brief history, and a taxonomy of its primary American varieties. Part II shows the diversity of the tradition with vivid accounts of life and worship in a variety of mainline and evangelical churches. Part III explores the vexed relationship Protestantism maintains with critical social issues, including homosexuality, feminism, and social justice. The appendices include biographical sketches of notable Protestant leaders, a chronology, a glossary, and an annotated list of resources for further study.

Excerpt

At one time—and not so long ago—Protestantism served as the organizing principle for any survey of religious life in America. Not without reason. Ever since the early days of European colonization of North America in the seventeenth century, America has been both overwhelmingly diverse and overwhelmingly Protestant, and these characteristics gave religious historians plenty to work with. Charting the permutations of American Protestantism could easily consume an entire career, as reflected in the work of such worthies as Robert Raird, Winthrop S. Hudson, Edwin S. Gaustad, Sidney E. Ahlstrom, Robert T. Handy, and Martin E. Marty, among others. All of these historians produced important surveys of religious life in America, and all of them located Protestantism at its center.

Shortly after the publication of Ahlstrom's magisterial A Religious History of the American People in 1972, however, the “Protestant consensus” began to unravel, both in reality and in the historiography. Americans had, after all, elected a Roman Catholic to the presidency in 1960. More significantly, changes in the immigration laws in 1965 together with the rise of the counterculture in the late 1960s conspired to alter the American religious landscape. Muslim mosques, Hindu temples, Ruddhist shrines, and Sikh gurdwaras appeared in places as diverse as Queens, New York, and Toledo, Ohio. Hare Krishna proselytizers patrolled airports and street corners, seeking converts. Followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi conducted lectures about Transcendental Meditation on college and university campuses. Native American religious practices enjoyed a resurgence following the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973. Middle-class Americans (and . . .

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