What Is Modern American History

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They have also at times been informed, as in the past, by the work of philosophers and theologians. Hence, this review will cite contributions from these areas, as appropriate. IN If the historical approach has dominated the scholarship, we may well ask more specifically about the nature of that approach. To do so is to discover that there have been, in fact, several historical models that have been used to organize data and tell a story or stories about American religion.

The longest- reigning model-?indeed, the one that dominated the field from the mid- nineteenth century when, in 1843, Robert Bird first wrote Religion in America-?has been called the consensus model. In the last quarter century or so, the consensus model has been challenged by two others. The older Of these has been called the conflict model, and the more recent the contact model. All three models are currently employed, although most leaders in the lied have moved away from the consensus model and are seeking alternatives. But first, what is the consensus model?

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What kind of narrative does its employment organize? What are the alternative models, and what results do they produce? Consensus historiography writes the Angioplasties past at the center of U. S. Religious history. It sees processes of religious and ethnic blending-?the proverbial “melting at work in the nation’s history, and it minimizes any narrative of religious pluralism. Likewise, it minimizes the impact of social, cultural, and religious change over time and stresses a religious culture of continuity with Anglo- Protestantism.

Alongside Bard’s early work along these lines, with its evangelical ethos, we may set Philip Chaff ‘s America: A Sketch of Its Political, Social, and Religious Character, although it is less technically a history. Appearing in the U. S. In 1855, in translation from its original German, Chaff ‘s work expressed his vision of a new American religion arising out of old European ones, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. Later nineteenth- century works in this tradition include Daniel Dorchester Christianity in the united States and Leonard Woolies Bacon’s A History of American

Christianity. None of these books may be described as the productions of professional historians. It was in the first half of the twentieth century, however, that William Warren Sweet, in a series of works, signaled a turn toward professionalism in the field with his chair in religious history at the University of Chicago. His four-volume Religion on the American Frontier, published from 1931 to 1946, acknowledged change, but eschewed it and celebrated, instead, the attention to continuity that church history could offer.

By the 1 sass, in a series of ground-breaking essays collected in a volume allied The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America, Sidney E. Mead, Sweets Chicago student, provided his own reading of American religious exceptionalness. He hailed AMERICAN RELIGIOUS HISTORY ; the American Revolution and what he called the “religion of the Republic,” with its ideological underpinnings in the European Enlightenment, as a source of religious unity and a preferred alternative to sectarian acrimony and competition.

Then, in 1972, came the last comprehensive production of the consensus school in Sydney E. Alligator’s monumental A Religious History of he American People, with its lament for the decline of the Puritan heritage in late-twentieth-century America. By the time Alligator’s work appeared, however, especially among younger scholars influenced by postmodernism, postcolonial, and general critical-studies concerns, there was a general suspicion of grand narratives.

Hence, no successor to Localhost has produced a major new history with the sweep and narrative scope of his book. Instead, with far more attention to religious pluralism and its very prominent presence in the U. S. At the end of the twentieth century, the two alternative historical oodles cited above began to emerge. The first of these, the conflict model, emphasizes contentiousness and contests for recognition, status, and a fair share of the benefits accorded to the various religious traditions and groups in the United States.

Such contests are often small and replicating, and they often occur, too, in urban spaces or in public and political zones. Thus, by define action, conflict historiography does not produce comprehensive narratives. Given that observation, perhaps the work that most achieves a measure of comprehensiveness-?and certainly the work that first, in 1986, ND most clearly articulated the conflict model-?is Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans by R. Laurence Moore.

With its thesis that religious “outsider’s” in America was a strategy that many Ethan-religious and incrimination groups employed to achieve “insider hood” (in other words, acknowledgment and acceptance), Moor’s work has fostered new scholarship along similar lines. In this context, a good example of the smaller- scale studies that the conflict model has generated is Robert A. Rorer’s edited collection of essays Gods of the City: Religion and the American urban Landscape. Or, for a more inclusive narrative that tells the story of one tradition using conflict historiography, Stephen J.

Stein’s revisionist history of the Shakers, The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers, may be cited. Meanwhile, the recently emerging contact model seeks to encompass the conflict model but also to include more. Its argument is that conflict has been only one of a series of exchanges between religious peoples and religious goods when they have met in the United States and that, therefore, any comprehensive narrative of religion in America IN must examine and explore all of these exchanges.

The most ambitious attempt at articulating this model thus far is contained in the 1997 collection Of essays edited by Thomas A. Tweed, Retelling U. S. Religious History. It may also be found as the organizing principle in an older work, Michael Cobble’s The World They Made Together: Black and White Values in Eighteenth-Century Virginia, and-?although it is not properly speaking a single narrative history-?in the general textbook by Catherine L. Lebanese, America: Religions and Religion, especially in its third edition.

GENERAL SURVEYS In what follows, this essay will offer its own comprehensive overview of work n the field, organized according to various epochs and themes and beginning with narratives that aim at offering, in some way, an inclusive narrative of religion in America. Bear in mind that much of the scholarship that seeks to offer a chronicle with narrative sweep is organized according to consensus canons Of historiography. Among general surveys, among the best known is Edwin Scott Status’s A Religious History of America, in its revised edition, which quotes as much as is feasible in a one-volume work from historical sources.

Sided repeatedly as a text in basic courses has been Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America: An Historical Account of the Development of American Religious Life, with John Corcoran as co-author by its fifth edition in 1992. Still a third consensus narrative that has achieved considerable recognition and use is Martin E. Martyrs Pilgrims in Their Own Land: Five Hundred Years of Religion in America. Notice likewise needs to be paid to the somewhat shorter work by George M. Married, Religion and American Culture, often used as a text for courses.

And more theologically oriented among general works is Richard E. Wend’s Religion in the New World: The Shaping of Religious Traditions in the United States. Peter W. Williams, in America’s Religions: Traditions and Cultures, departs to some extent from the narrative line of these works to give more sustained attention (within a textbook context) to Native American and African American religions as well as to Judaism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and a series of discrete Protestant traditions.

Williams, who has also produced a classic study of what many scholars term, somewhat problematically, “popular religion” in his popular Religion in America: Symbolic Change and the Modernization process in Historical Perspective, writes with sociological sophistication in a good example of the kind of interdisciplinary scholarship that the historical study of American religion has supported.

An even more thorough- inning departure from consensus historiography than Williams may be found in the fourth edition of Julia Mitchell Corset’s Religion in America, which features major subsections on “Consensus Religion” and “Alternatives to the Consensus. ” Catherine L. Lebanese work, already cited above, belongs here as well. If we turn our attention to works that focus exclusively on Christianity, it needs to be noticed how books in this area have moved away from what as been termed “church history”‘ to the more flexible, less institutionally driven, model that is called “history of Christianity” or, more broadly, “religious history. A classic work on the older church-history model is the 1976 production of Robert T. Handy, A History of the Churches in the United States and Canada. The geographical comprehensiveness of this work has not often been achieved by later scholars. Mark A. Noel, however, has followed Handy comparative model, but he moved from chi arch history to religious history in his 1992 work, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. The difference in the titles Of these two histories suggests the methodological differences between them.

REFERENCE WORKS All of the works thus far described as general surveys are broad and sweeping-?the kinds of books that function best as texts for undergraduate courses in the university. For yet more comprehensive views of American religion, readers may turn to various reference works. Probably the most useful of these in religious historical terms is the three-volume Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience edited by Charles H. Lippy and Peter W. Williams. This work contains lengthy yet succinct topical articles and also says on major denominations and movements in American religious history.

Its bibliographies are somewhat dated-?it was published in 1988-?but still quite useful. Supplementing this reference tool is J. Gordon Melon’s The Encyclopedia of American Religion, now in its sixth edition. Although it is sometimes factually inaccurate, this work’s division of the numerous organized forms of religious expression in the United States into religious “families” offers a helpful classificatory scheme. For American Christianity, there is no better aid than the Dictionary of Christianity in America, edited by Daniel G.

Reid and Others, with its brief entries on a myriad of persons, themes, and movements. And for the latest available statistical and summary information on particular religious groups and denominations, the place to turn is the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches pub- SIC;C RENTS IN listed each year by Abandon Press at the behest of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. This work now includes unchristian religious bodies. For example, the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, 2001 , edited by Eileen W.

Liner, lists among numerous other on-Christian organizations the Buddhist Churches of America, the Buddhist Council of the Midwest, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and the Buddhist Shanghai Council of Southern California. General surveys and reference tools largely depend for their scholarship on a series of more specialized works, and-?in an introductory way-?this is the place to survey them, using combined chronological and topical approaches to summarize quickly the key studies available.

This essay begins the survey, therefore, with early America and progresses toward the twenty-first century, noting themes and topics as they assume importance. EXPERIMENTATION AND EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY For practical purposes, the study of early America in the region that became the United States commences with the seventeenth century and the event that historians and anthropologists call the “contact,” this time not the general “contact” invoked in contact historiography, but instead the more particular one between Anglo-Europeans and Native Americans.

The classic study to introduce this theme is James Steel’s collection of essays The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnologists of Colonial America, which contains a series of important pieces on religion. Ethnologists-?a “marriage” of history and anthropology-?organized a number of other works that appeared in the 1 sass and asses, and these generally touch on religion as part Of the business Of examining cultural encounter.

Among them are Francis Jennings The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Can’t of Conquest; Neal Salisbury Amanita and Providence: Indians, Europeans, and the Making of New England, 1500-?1 643; and William Cordon’s Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England-?all works that aim to incorporate the perspectives of Native Americans. A similar study for the Virginia colony is Savaging and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia by Bernard Sheehan.

For a more recent and more general ethnologists that incorporates some consideration of religion, there is New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America by Colon G. Galloway. And if the ethnological approach is tracked in terms of nineteenth-century materials there is Joel W. Mar- tin’s Sacred Revolt: The Muskegs’ Struggle for a New World, a postcolonial study of the Creek revolt of 1813-1814. More explicit studies n the Christianization of Indian peoples include Henry Warner Powder’s American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict and George E.

Tinker’s Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Cultural Genocide, both of them-?as their subtitles suggest-?conflict histories, although the Bowdon volume is more even-handed. The classic exploration of Protestant mistranslation of the Indians for the early national and antebellum (perceive War) period in United States history is Robert F. Foreseer’s Salvation and the Savage: An Analysis of Protestant Missions and American Indian Response, 1787-1862.

A more specialized study of mistranslation for much of the same period may be found in William G. McLaughlin Cherokees and Missionaries, 1789-1839. In the seventeenth century, the English people who settled the British North Atlantic colonies that later became the United States were, when churched, mostly either Anglicans (members of the Church of England) or Nonconformists (Puritans in New England, who became denominationally Congregationalists, Presbyterian, and Baptists: Quakers in Pennsylvania).

The study of New England Puritanism, in particular, became a kind of cottage industry in the duty of American religion, beginning with the work of Perry Miller and Alan Hemmers. Miller, with a background in literary studies, resuscitated American Puritan scholarship with his inquiries into the life of the (religious) mind in New England, beginning in 1 933 with his first book Orthodoxy in Massachusetts, 1630-1650 and then moving on to a series of works that are perennially cited in Puritan studies-?often by the late twentieth century to take issue with them.

Nonetheless, Miller’s The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province, and is still-cogent collection of essays Errand into the Wilderness are important sources for understanding both the Puritans and the revival of interest in them. By the mid-asses, Millers corpus was joined by the work of Alan Hemmers in Religion and the American Mind: From the Great Awakening to the Revolution.

The Hemmers thesis argued that the evangelical Great Awakening (the first major and pervasive American period of religious revival in the 17405) provided a major impetus for the later political amalgamation of the British Atlantic colonies that became the United States. The role of religious ideas in New England Puritan culture has also been explored in two vintage works by historian Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony) and Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (on the Calvinist notion of divine election for salvation).

Later studies, however, have focused more on the social and political implications of religious ideas, following the Hemmers more than the Miller lead, but doing so with a revisionist methodological turn that has sought to provide a more comprehensive cultural understanding of religious ideas. Thus, the role of Puritan millennialism has commanded attention in these works. For instance, James West Davidson The Logic of Millennial Thought: Eighteenth-Century New England points toward eighteenth-century American patriots’ religious estimate of the American Revolution as a millennial event.

In turn, Nathan O. Hatch argues still more closely the case for “civil millennialism” in the American Revolution in his book The Sacred Cause of Liberty: Republican Thought and the Millennium in Revolutionary New England. And in Sons of the Fathers: The Civil Religion of the American Revolution, Catherine L. Lebanese, using largely New England materials, argues for the millennialism and analyzes the general religious terms on which the Revolution was fought.

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