THIS BOOK has resulted from the generosity of many people. I owe thanks to the pastors of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Southern Baptist Convention who responded to my request by sending me a sermon on Luke 15. Princeton University funded the doctoral studies that led to this book and awarded me the Harold W. Dodds Fellowship in my final year. Nancy Ammerman, Marvin Bressler, Kevin Christiano, Thomas Long, Albert Raboteau, Christine Smith, and John Wilson were extremely helpful at the beginning stages of this project.
The following people gave me valuable insights into the sermons: Philip Bakelaar, Michael Billig, David Brown, Cindy Gibson, Susan Harding, Carol Harris-Shapiro, Christopher Lynch, Mark Pollock, Anita Pomerantz, and David Watt. Thanks go also to participants in the Workshop in Religion and American Culture at Princeton University, in the session on social scientific analyses of religion at the mid-Atlantic meeting of the American Academy of Religion (1992), and in the Colloquium of the Department of Rhetoric and Communication at Temple University. In addition, Martin Bradley, Richard Gladden, Norman Green, Brian Horton, Glenn Koch, Jack Marcum, John Schmidt, Laura Schwartz, Pat Strum, and Barbie Zelizer provided advice and information that have made this a stronger work.
I am grateful to the following people for commenting on part or all of the manuscript at various stages: Jeffrey Alexander, Marvin Bressler, Gene Burns, George Cheney, N.J. Demerath III, Robert Handy, Susan Harding, Tricia Jones, Thomas Long, James Moorhead, Alan Neely, Mark Noll, and Herbert Simons. Ann Himmelberger Wald, Religion Editor at Princeton University Press, not only guided this project to fruition but also gave very useful comments during revision of the manuscript. All errors, it goes without saying, are mine alone.
A few people should be singled out for thanks: Robert Wuthnow, for guidance and inspiration; Michèle Lamont, for counsel and support; Eva Garroutte, for insight and friendship; Herbert Bass, for editorial expertise; my parents, Bernice and Carl Witten, for assistance and love; my husband, Charles Slater, for advice and encouragement, and for putting up with it all; and our son, Benjamin, for teaching me, through his presence in our lives, something about miracles.