Academic journal article Journalism History

Building a Protestant Left: Christianity and Crisis Magazine, 1941-1993

Academic journal article Journalism History

Building a Protestant Left: Christianity and Crisis Magazine, 1941-1993

Article excerpt

Hulsether, Mark Building a Protestant Left: Christianity and Crisis Magazine, 1941-1993. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999. 374 pp. $38.

In Building a Protestant Left, Mark Hulsether traces the history of Christianity and Crisis from its founding in 1941 to its demise in 1993. Along the way, he provides enough information about the magazine, its editors and writers, staffing procedures and day-to-day operation to satisfy all but the most diehard fans of this pre-eminent magazine of liberal Protestant Christianity. But this book is not a narrow institutional history. It is, instead, an important piece of cultural historiography.

Hulsether takes the reader on a thoughtful and thought-provoking tour of major strains in twentieth-century liberal Protestant social thought as he demonstrates how theology-from the Christian realist and essentially socialist views of magazine founder Reinhold Niebuhr to the liberation, feminist, and black theology espoused by a later generation of editors and writers-influenced American social, economic, and political policy.

As a magazine aimed at clergy, academics, and other intellectuals, Christianity and Crisis editors and writers consistently performed a prophetic function through religiously-informed social and political criticism. But their judgments on a seemingly endless and ever-changing array of "crises" might well have had little effect had the magazine not opened its pages to those in secular positions of power. By creating and fostering an interlocking networks of friendship and mutual interest, Christianity and Crisis was able to achieve for many years influence far beyond what one might expect from a religious magazine whose peak circulation never exceeded 18,000 subscriptions. With evidence culled from an examination of internal records, interviews, and his close and careful reading of its content, Hulsether amply demonstrates the magazine's influence on political decision-makers and political decisions in World War II, the Cold War, the Suez Crisis and Vietnam and its impact on public policy concerning international development, civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights. …

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