The Protestant Voice in American Pluralism

The Protestant Voice in American Pluralism

Martin E. Marty
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    The Protestant Voice in American Pluralism
    Book Description:

    For 350 years, Protestantism was the dominant religion in America--and its influence spilled over in many directions into the wider culture. Religious historian Martin E. Marty looks at the factors behind both the long period of Protestant ascendancy in America and the comparatively recent diffusion and diminution of its authority. Marty ranges across time, covering such things as the establishment of the Jamestown settlement in 1607, the 1955 publication of Will Herberg's landmark book Protestant-Catholic-Jew, and the current period of American ethnic and religious pluralism. For centuries, American Protestantism dominated in three main ways, says Marty: in the sheer numbers of its committed practitioners (spread across some two hundred denominations), in the Protestant leanings of nonadherents, and in the influence of the Protestant ethic in activities as diverse as business and art. To discover what is particularly "American" about Protestantism in this country, Marty looks at Protestant creencias, or beliefs, that complement or supplement pure doctrine. These include the notion of God as an agent of America's destiny and the impact of the biblical credos of mission, stewardship, and vocation on innumerable nonreligious matters of daily life. Marty also discusses the vigencias, or binding (though unwritten) customs, of Protestantism. They include the tendencies to interpret matters of faith in market terms and to conflate biblical and enlightenment ideology into "civic faith." Challenges to Protestant hegemony came and went over the centuries, says Marty, but never in such force and to such effect as in the twentieth century. Among other factors contributing to the rise of pluralism and to schisms between mainstreamers and Fundamentalists, Marty lists changes in immigration laws, U.S. Supreme Court decisions on school prayer, the women's movement, and Vatican II. Today, our Protean spirituality is the topic of everything from sermons to bumper stickers. All in all, this is good, reassures Marty, for to debate our spirituality is to sustain the life of a functioning, thinking, believing republic. Those who pine for some golden age of Protestantism are misled by nostalgia or resentment. The real work to be done by Protestants now is to serve, partner, and cooperate where they once managed, controlled, and directed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4283-2
    Subjects: History, Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Mitchell G. Reddish

    The George H. Shriver Lectures: Religion in American History is an endowed series of lectures at Stetson University established by Dr. George Shriver, Professor of History Emeritus at Georgia Southern University. An alumnus of Stetson, Dr. Shriver created this lecture series to honor his alma mater and to enhance the understanding of religion’s role in American society, both past and present. So that the lectures reach a wider audience, Dr. Shriver’s endowment provides assistance for the publication of each lecture series. An author and professor for forty-one years, Dr. Shriver has received several awards during his career, both for his...

    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 WHEN PROTESTANTS RAN THE SHOW: When Homogeneity Ruled, 1607 to 1955
    (pp. 1-50)

    Protestants of various sorts “ran the show” in the colonies that became the United States of America and in the nation after its formation. What “running the show” means is something I define a bit later. First I begin with a note of sympathy for readers, one that expresses the hope that I can be forgiven for an offense that surely accompanies this chapter.

    The sympathy is for anyone who has to run along at the brisk pace I have to set. From 1607 to 1955 is 348 years. (I once wrote an exactly 500-page book on exactly 500 years...

  6. CHAPTER 2 MORE RINGS IN THE CIRCUS: Realized Pluralism, after 1955
    (pp. 51-64)

    The metaphor of American religion as a show is not meant to demean ventures involving the sacred, life and death and eternity, and ethics. Instead the metaphor is intended to suggest that under the big tent of American life, the question of who runs the show, who manages, controls, and directs it, always endures. Though American religions have always had a significant, almost incomprehensibly complex diversity, even well before the first Europeans came, after they arrived, the force of numbers and influence and the disproportionate access to instruments of power gave a broad spectrum of Protestants the advantage in reaching...

  7. CHAPTER 3 IS THERE STILL A TENT, OR ARE THERE MANY TENTS?: Protestantism Gone Public, within Pluralism
    (pp. 65-80)

    As shown previously, Protestantism was a major element of—and no doubt on spiritual levels the chief contributor to—many of the creencias and vigencias in American culture. After having held a privileged position from 1607 to 1955 the many forms of Protestantism began to yield their place and share it with non-Protestant contributors, challengers, and rivals. Where, then, is the place of Protestantism(s) in emergent America? There are many discourses on pluralism, of course, but not many take up directly the interplay of Protestant forces or influences and the complex of “realized pluralism.”

    Several profound crises in American life...

  8. INDEX
    (pp. 81-84)