We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Protestant Voice in American Pluralism

Martin E. Marty

Publication Year: 2004

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.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: George H. Shriver Lecture Series in Religion in American History


pdf iconDownload PDF


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. vii-x

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...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xi-xii

The custodians of the George H. Shriver Lectures asked me to address and juxtapose two themes that have been foci of my studies in American religion and culture for decades: Protestantism and Pluralism. This I have done in the lectures that here are transformed into a book. In the nature of such cases, much of the original oral style characterizes the work. We historians...

read more

1. WHEN PROTESTANTS RAN THE SHOW: When Homogeneity Ruled, 1607 to 1955

pdf iconDownload PDF

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...

read more

2. MORE RINGS IN THE CIRCUS: Realized Pluralism, after 1955

pdf iconDownload PDF

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...

read more

3. IS THERE STILL A TENT, OR ARE THERE MANY TENTS?: Protestantism Gone Public, within Pluralism

pdf iconDownload PDF

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...


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 81-84

E-ISBN-13: 9780820342832
E-ISBN-10: 0820342831
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820325804
Print-ISBN-10: 0820325805

Page Count: 96
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: George H. Shriver Lecture Series in Religion in American History
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 759160204
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Protestant Voice in American Pluralism