From State Church to Pluralism: A Protestant Interpretation of Religion in American History

By Franklin Hamlin Littell | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The major problem before the churches in America is the achievement of self-understanding--more properly, the regaining of a consciousness of calling. A review of present thinking on the church, both theological and practical, shows a maximum of confusion in the pulpits and congregations. In some, there is still an effort to maintain standards of membership. In many, perhaps most, the infatuation with statistical success has led to the abandonment of Christian discipline. In Lent 1960, in Atlanta, Georgia, 462 individuals were admitted to a church on a single Sunday morning en bloc-without preparatory training and certainly without the baptism of repentance. In Nashville, Tennessee, in August 1960, young Christians, Negroes, were turned away from the doors of four churches by police --representatives of the civil government. No pastors objected. In Dallas, Texas, in the fall of 1960, a committee of churchmen announced they were opening a new Christian college to foster Bible study and "the American way of life." The remarks of an American theologian seem justified:

. . . the Protestant church has confused its evangelical mission with organizational success.

. . . ministers have learned nice people don't like ugly sermons.

. . . underneath the enormous prosperity of the American churches there is a growing misgiving, shared by its clergy and laity, about the moral stamina of this nominal Christianity.1

The American churches seem well on their way to settling

____________________
1
Waldo Beach, "Flip-Top Pulpits for Filter-Tip Faith," in The News and Observe ( Raleigh, N.C.; July 26, 1959), Section III, p. 1.

-ix-

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From State Church to Pluralism: A Protestant Interpretation of Religion in American History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chapter I - The Colonial State Churches 1
  • Chapter III - The Civil War and Aftermath 63
  • Chapter IV - American Religion at Floodtide 102
  • Index 171
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