The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History

The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History

Paul Harvey
Edward J. Blum
Bibliography edited by Randall Stephens
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 480
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/harv14020
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  • Book Info
    The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History
    Book Description:

    The first guide to American religious history from colonial times to the present, this anthology features twenty-two leading scholars speaking on major themes and topics in the development of the diverse religious traditions of the United States. These include the growth and spread of evangelical culture, the mutual influence of religion and politics, the rise of fundamentalism, the role of gender and popular culture, and the problems and possibilities of pluralism. Geared toward general readers, students, researchers, and scholars, The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History provides concise yet broad surveys of specific fields, with an extensive glossary and bibliographies listing relevant books, films, articles, music, and media resources for navigating different streams of religious thought and culture.

    The collection opens with a thematic exploration of American religious history and culture and follows with twenty topical chapters, each of which illuminates the dominant questions and lines of inquiry that have determined scholarship within that chapter's chosen theme. Contributors also outline areas in need of further, more sophisticated study and identify critical resources for additional research. The glossary, "American Religious History, A--Z," lists crucial people, movements, groups, concepts, and historical events, enhanced by extensive statistical data.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53078-1
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Major Themes in American Religious History
    (pp. 1-48)
    PAUL HARVEY and EDWARD J. BLUM

    This book highlights tension, conflict, and creativity in America’s rich religious history. The twenty chapters, written by top scholars in their respective fields, follow particular religious traditions, movements, and time periods. In this broader interpretive overview, we will first explore ten themes, hoping to knit together particular threads of the diverse and ever-multiplying scholarship. Each individual essay in this volume will make reference to these themes as well, as they are intended to serve as a unifying center for the book:

    Religious freedom and religiously sanctioned repression

    (In)tolerance, diversity, and pluralism

    Racialized religion and the desire for a universal god...

  5. 1. COLONIAL ENCOUNTERS
    (pp. 49-68)
    LINFORD D. FISHER

    In 1528, three Spanish Catholics and an African wandered through the American Southwest, visiting Native American villages and performing religious healing rituals that astonished their Indian hosts. The three Spaniards—Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo, and Andrés Dorantes—along with Dorantes’s Moroccan slave, Estebanico (who was possibly a Muslim convert to Christianity), had been part of a failed 1528 Spanish attempt to permanently settle La Florida. After being captured and enslaved by the Apalachee Indians, a small group of Spanish soldiers escaped and, in a precariously rigged raft, sailed their way across the Gulf of Mexico, where...

  6. 2. NATIVE AMERICAN RELIGIONS
    (pp. 69-88)
    SUZANNE CRAWFORD O’BRIEN

    Native North America is incredibly diverse, comprising nearly 800 distinct tribal groups, each with its own sense of history and its own cultural and linguistic traditions. Each tribe’s experience of colonialism and history of religious practice has been different, deserving individual attention. And certainly such attention should not be limited to the years since colonization began—for Native people lived and thrived on this continent for millennia before the arrival of Euro-Americans. Of course, in an essay this brief, such a detailed survey is not possible. Rather, in the pages that follow I attempt to give a sense of the...

  7. 3. CIVIL RELIGION AND NATIONAL IDENTITY
    (pp. 89-104)
    ANDREW M. MANIS

    The study of civil religion requires a tolerance for a certain amount of asceticism. Ever since 1967, when Robert N. Bellah borrowed the term from Rousseau, sociologists and historians of religion in the United States have meditated on America’s religious meaning and sought to find it in a religious dimension of American culture called civil religion. Much of the navel-gazing has been eye-crossingly metaphysical in nature, focused largely on whether this phenomenon actually exists and whether it exists in the same way that the traditional religions do. In the past four decades, many novitiates have joined that monkish company and...

  8. 4. THEOLOGY
    (pp. 105-121)
    MARK NOLL

    Americans have changed the world much more by action than by thought. In the religious realm, it is the same. The activity of religious believers has been constantly transformative within American culture and, since the late nineteenth century, for the world, but the impact of what Americans have thought about God has been less obvious and less extensive. Nonetheless, the history of American theology shows how both inherited traditions and popular innovations have interacted with pressing circumstances to produce theological reflection of surprising breadth and unexpected depth.

    Three characteristics have been most important in the history of American theology. First...

  9. 5. EVANGELICALS IN AMERICAN HISTORY
    (pp. 122-135)
    DOUGLAS A. SWEENEY

    About one out of every ten people in the world is an evangelical—so say the number crunchers who keep the closest tabs on global religion. By the first year of the twenty-first century, the world population had topped 6 billion. More than 2 billion people identified themselves with Christianity. Of these, well over 500 million were “evangelical” Christians.

    A century ago, the number of Christians of any kind was smaller than this, and the vast majority of the world’s Christians lived in Europe and North America. But the twentieth century witnessed a virtual explosion of evangelicalism, a blast that...

  10. 6. RELIGION AND POLITICS
    (pp. 136-153)
    JASON C. BIVINS

    It is a truism that one should not talk about religion and politics in “polite company.” Yet Americans have always—for reasons good and bad, sensible and sensationalist—been drawn to the subject. Aside from the social awkwardness the topic can create, it presents analytical and historical challenges that are equally daunting to students of American religion. Conversations about such issues can be unclear even as to exactly what constitutes their subject or where it is found; a lack of precision dims the perception not only of “religion” and “politics” but also of the “and” conjoining them. While it is...

  11. 7. RELIGION AND THE LAW IN AMERICAN HISTORY
    (pp. 154-168)
    FRANK S. RAVITCH

    Numerous volumes have been written about the history of law and religion in the United States. This history has been used to argue both for and against the separation of church and state. Numerous decisions by the United States Supreme Court reflect this use of history. Yet frequently the interaction between law and religion in American history is far more complicated and textured than it is portrayed by those who wish to use it to effect legal norms. There is no one story of law and religion in U.S. history, and thus no one side in the broader church–state...

  12. 8. RELIGION, WAR, AND PEACE
    (pp. 169-187)
    IRA R. CHERNUS

    Issues of war and peace have been intertwined with religious concerns throughout American history in a wide variety of ways, too many to survey comprehensively in one brief chapter. Contemporary discussions of the subject usually circle around one central question: What role has religion played in leading the nation into war? But every view of war implies a corresponding view of peace, and vice versa. So the question may be put more precisely: How, and to what extent, has religion motivated Americans to consider, pursue, and practice both war and peace?

    Unfortunately, motivations always remain obscure at best. We can...

  13. 9. RELIGION, GENDER, AND SEXUALITY
    (pp. 188-212)
    ANTHONY MICHAEL PETRO

    The academic study of gender and sexuality in American religious history has grown rapidly in the past three decades as scholars have built on important gains first pioneered in the field of women’s history. In the 1980s, Rosemary Radford Ruether and Rosemary Skinner Keller brought the devotional lives of American women into focus with the publication of Women and Religion in America, a three-volume collection of documentary history. Women’s religious history found its first comprehensive narrative coverage with the publication in 1996 of Susan Hill Lindley’s “You have Stept out of your Place”: A History of Women and Religion in...

  14. 10. RELIGION, RACE, AND AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFE
    (pp. 213-235)
    EDWARD J. BLUM

    The modern academic study of African American religion was born in 1903. In that year, two works by W. E. B. Du Bois, the foremost African American intellectual of the first half of the twentieth century, laid the foundation for the evaluation of religion, race, and African American life. The better-known work, both then and now, was The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches. Mixing history, autobiography, musicology, and biography with poetry, short stories, and personal anecdotes, Du Bois endeavored to display the spiritual lives of African Americans to American readers. He focused on how American systems of slavery,...

  15. 11. RELIGION, ETHNICITY, AND THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE
    (pp. 236-252)
    ROBERTO R. TREVIÑO

    In my former professional life in the early 1980s, I worked in a migrant education program based in an inner-city elementary school whose enrollment was overwhelmingly Mexican American and included a large number of Mexican immigrants. Since my office was a classroom in the building I would hear the Pledge of Allegiance crackle over the public address system every day, earnestly blurted out by young Spanish-accented voices issuing from the principal’s office and echoing in the rooms around me. Inevitably during this morning ritual, a smile would spread across my face when the chorus reached the part—“… under God,...

  16. 12. ASIAN AMERICAN RELIGIONS
    (pp. 253-264)
    TIMOTHY TSENG

    The study of Asian American religions centers on the religious expressions of Asian Americans themselves. Transplanted Asian religious traditions with non-Asian adherents can be included, but the primary focus must be on Asian Americans and their religions. In this way, race, ethnicity, and Christianity (which is not traditionally considered Asian) become key sites for scholarly investigation. From this perspective, Asian American religion creates a set of issues and themes that have been overlooked until recently in historical studies of religion in the United States.

    The neglect of Asian American religions throughout much of the twentieth century was in part the...

  17. 13. ALTERNATIVE RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN AMERICAN HISTORY
    (pp. 265-279)
    STEPHEN J. STEIN

    Any account of the manifold alternative religious movements in American history must begin with a series of reflections on the diverse terms used to identify such movements over the course of several centuries. Among the variety of terms employed, perhaps the clearest is “sect,” which derives from the Latin verb sequor, meaning “to follow or attend to.” Religious sects traditionally have been defined as persons or groups following an individual leader or adhering to a set of distinctive principles. Often the term has been employed for groups breaking away from prevailing religious patterns and following alternative leaders or doctrines. The...

  18. 14. RELIGION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
    (pp. 280-294)
    LYNN ROSS-BRYANT

    The “environment” has always played an important and varied role in religions in the United States: from the wilderness against which the Puritans struggled to its veneration by John Muir and the preservation movement; from outdoor camp meetings and the Chautauqua movement to National Park campfires and nature walks; from the current “greening” of some American Jewish and Christian institutions to the nature religion of neo-pagans and radical environmentalists. The study of these widespread and elusive phenomena may not fully constitute a field, but the extensive work in this area actively engages many of the current trends in the study...

  19. 15. RELIGION AND POPULAR CULTURE
    (pp. 295-308)
    PHILIP GOFF

    In recent decades, as American religious historians have turned away from doctrine and belief systems as the heart of the story of religion in America, the study of religion’s relationship to popular culture has increased. The purpose of this chapter is to delineate how various schools of thought direct their inquiries at popular culture and how, in recent years, those who study religion in America have seized on those models to help us better understand the marrow of American religious life.

    The study of popular culture is a rather recent phenomenon that has been accompanied by some significant debates about...

  20. 16. RELIGIOUS CONSERVATISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM
    (pp. 309-320)
    MARGARET BENDROTH

    Fundamentalism is one of the most important and one of the most difficult topics in American religious history. Simply put, fundamentalists are “people of the Book”; that is, they uphold a divinely inspired Scripture as the final authority in every matter. Beyond that, the definition is considerably more complicated: scholars disagree over fundamentalism’s basic nature, its origins, and its trajectory—even whether it can rightly be called conservative. It is best understood as a form of American popular religion with a deeply ambivalent stance toward twentieth-century modernity, a line of inquiry that promises to move an old and embattled subject...

  21. 17. CATHOLICISM IN AMERICA
    (pp. 321-337)
    LESLIE WOODCOCK TENTLER

    Prior to 1830, Catholics were a negligible group in the American population: no more than 1 percent of the inhabitants counted in the census of 1790 and not much more than 2 percent in that of 1820. Anglo-American Catholics, living primarily in Maryland and Pennsylvania, were still the most numerous, although Irish and German numbers were growing steadily, while Catholics of African descent were a significant presence in parts of Maryland and Louisiana. French Catholics were concentrated in the vast Louisiana Territory, acquired by the United States in 1803, and—in much lesser numbers—in outposts along the upper Mississippi...

  22. 18. AMERICAN JUDAISM
    (pp. 338-351)
    ALAN T. LEVENSON

    American Jewry constitutes both a religion and an ethnicity—this is the principal distinguishing element in any analysis of American Judaism. An American Jew may not practice Judaic rituals, may not pray regularly, may even content himself or herself with entering a synagogue a couple of times a year and on life-cycle events, and still consider himself or herself a committed, rather than lapsed, Jew. Moreover, as long as this person either traveled to Israel; belonged to a Jewish social, political, or charitable organization; or showed some sign of identification, most American Jews would concur with this self-assessment.

    Whether Christians...

  23. 19. THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS (“MORMONS”)
    (pp. 352-364)
    D. MICHAEL QUINN

    Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has a worldwide membership of more than 14 million, with two-thirds of these adherents outside the United States. It likewise received international media attention in 2008 as the proudly avowed faith of a “conservative Republican” candidate for the U.S. presidency. This merging of ecclesiastical growth with political prominence began to characterize North America’s homegrown religion within a few years of its formal inception on April 6, 1830, in western New York State. That amalgam resulted from the faith’s insistence that there is no real distinction...

  24. 20. ISLAM IN AMERICA
    (pp. 365-380)
    JANE SMITH

    The Muslim community in the United States is undergoing significant and serious changes. With its unique blend of immigrant, African American, and other American-born Muslims, it is becoming increasingly heterogeneous even as efforts are under way to stress commonality over individuality. Muslim institutions are proliferating, Islamic education is taking new forms, various individuals and groups are vying for positions of leadership, and young people are often choosing paths of greater religiosity than their parents at the same time that the label on their religion seems to read “made in America.” The history of the Muslim faith in America exemplifies many...

  25. AMERICAN RELIGIOUS HISTORY, A–Z
    (pp. 381-416)
  26. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 417-420)
    RANDALL STEPHENS
  27. FILMOGRAPHY
    (pp. 421-426)
  28. DISCOGRAPHY
    (pp. 427-432)
  29. SELECTED ONLINE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS HISTORY RESOURCES
    (pp. 433-438)
  30. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 439-440)
  31. INDEX
    (pp. 441-462)