- The Protestant Voice in American Pluralism
Based on a series of lectures delivered at Stetson University, this brief but provocative book displays Marty as an in-control ring master in a circus tent filled with trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns, bare-back riders, and wild animals of every stripe. And the author is unfazed by all the hurly-burly around him. He hardly ever needs to use his whip, for most performers seem to know their place.
One can only admire the daring of this ringmaster who treats 350 years of Protestantism in America in fewer than fifty pages. The author readily admits that nearly every sentence in this supersonic sweep could have a book written about it—and Martin Marty has written many of them. In addressing the last fifty years of the American Protestant story, the author slows down his pace a bit, but the high altitude of the flight is maintained. It is here that the "pluralism" part of the title takes over, as the story line becomes vastly more complex.
In an effort to hold the attention of his circus audience, Marty resorts to categories, classifications, lists, and imposed systems. Here the whip is occasionally required. But before one can challenge any lofty generalization, Marty disarms the critic by admitting the exceptions and providing the contrary evidence.
The writing is facile in the best sense of the term: easy, fluent, relaxed, pleasurable. One can readily imagine the Stetson audience being entertained as well as informed. Throughout this history, even in contemporary times, Marty remains optimistic, though clearly Protestants are no longer "running the show." Now, Protestants must learn "to serve where [once] they managed, to partner where [once] they controlled, to cooperate where [once] they directed" (p. 80).
Which is a good place to end, since the review should not be longer than the book.