The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict

The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict

The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict

The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict

Synopsis

If you still hold the notion that the fifties were the 'good old days, ' blessed with incomparable social affluence and widespread family unity, all buttressed by a strong, unconflicted spirituality, then look again. In this compelling narrative of religion in a decade still embraced by an indefatigable nostalgia, Robert Ellwood interrogates the notion of the fifties as an era of normalcy, and it proves it to be full of spiritual strife.

Excerpt

This volume represents a continuation of a study of U.S. religion in the mid-- twentieth century begun with The Sixties Spiritual Awakening. Working backward from that tumultuous decade, my intention is now to look at the previous ten years. The Fifties have often been considered a sort of baseline for all the subsequent twists and turns of religion and society generally in the United States, as though they represented a "normalcy" against which everything else can be judged. Nothing could be further from the truth; like most immediate postwar eras, they combined yearning for normalcy with the effects of profound dislocations. No less distorted is the view of many, no doubt enhanced by the memories of those millions of baby-boom Americans who had reasonably happy Fifties childhoods, that those were generally tranquil, secure days. Such was not likely the view of their parents, who knew what was going on.

Religion was, however, also very much going on in the Fifties. I propose to look at religion in its own terms, and in terms of its reaction to the great events and issues of the day. If not the decade many seem to have imagined it to have been, it was an unusual and fascinating time.

This book owes much to the unfailing support and good advice I have received from readers and staff of Rutgers University Press. I would particularly like to express my appreciation to my editor, Martha Heller, whose encouragement and insight have been invaluable, and to Professor Philip Hammond, who read and critiqued the manuscript. I have also received much of great importance from colleagues on the faculty of the School of Religion of the University of Southern California, especially Professor Donald E. Miller, who have read portions of the manuscript and provided excellent assistance.

The chapter epigraphs are passages that seemed appropriate to me from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, whose publication was a major Fifties religious event.

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