Cover

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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

Catherine A. Brekus & W. Clark Gilpin

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pp. 1-24

Christianity— like electricity— is simultaneously omnipresent and invisible in the modern United States. It so thoroughly permeates American sensibilities about space and time, right and wrong, us and them, that many citizens find it remarkable only when it does something unexpected, spectacular, and potentially dangerous...

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Part I: Christian Diversity in America

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pp. 25-28

The amazing diversity of Christianities in the United States has numerous sources. Many traditions arrived in the cultural luggage of immigrants, from Europe or Asia, from Ethiopia, or from the Caribbean. Other groups, including the Assemblies of God and the Latter-day Saints (Mormons), arose as new Christian movements in the United States. Still others emerged in the aftermath of controversies...

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Understanding Christian Diversity in America

Catherine L. Albanese

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pp. 29-58

Christianity shapes people to think in terms of oneness. Ideologically, there is one God over all nations, and there is one Great Commission from Christ to the nations. Historically, there has been one “true church”— whether conceived in material form as in medieval Europe or understood spiritually as in post-Reformation...

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The Practices of Native American Christianities

Michael D. McNally

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pp. 59-75

Only recently have scholars begun to traverse the disciplinary boundaries that have prevented their fuller apprehension of the wide range and complex texture of the practices and theologies of Native American Christians. Specialists of indigenous religions largely have left the story of Native Christianity to missions historians...

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From the Coercive to the Liberative: Asian and Latino Immigrants and Christianity in the United States

Timothy S. Lee

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pp. 76-101

In his essay “Liberty, Coercion, and the Making of Americans,” Gary Gerstle argues that the coercive has been no less operative than the liberative in the history of immigrants in the United States.1 Gerstle finds the locus classicus for the liberative motif in Letters from an American Farmer, written in 1782 by the French immigrant Hector..

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African American Christianity and the Burden of Race

Curtis J. Evans

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pp. 102-118

It may be necessary to note why we treat “black Christianity” in a separate category from other Christianities in America. The facts of American history will come to mind for most literate Americans: slavery, legal segregation, and informal and formal customs of keeping blacks out of neighborhoods and positions of power. All...

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Christians and Non-Christians in the Marketplace of American Religion

Jonathan D. Sarna

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pp. 119-132

On September 9, 1844, South Carolina governor James H. Hammond issued the following Thanksgiving Day Proclamation to the citizens of his state: Whereas, it becomes all Christian nations to acknowledge at stated periods, their dependence on Almighty God, to express their gratitude for His past mercies, and humbly and devoutly to implore His blessing for the future: Now, therefore, I...

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Tensions Within: The Elusive Quest for Christian Cooperation in America

James B. Bennett

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pp. 133-152

Christians in America have struggled to get along with one another from the moment the colonial impulse first arose. Only a year after Columbus sailed to the Americas, Pope Alexander VI had to issue the 1493 bull Inter Caetera to resolve the competing colonial claims of Portugal and Spain and thereby protect the harmonious expansion of Christendom in the New World. Over the next century, the Protestant...

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Part II: Practicing Christianity in America

Alasdair MacIntyre, in his historically attuned study of moral theory, After Virtue (University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), emphasized that “every action is the bearer and expression of more or less theory-laden beliefs and concepts; every piece of theorizing and every expression of belief is a political and moral action.” Taking...

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Redeeming Modernity: Christian Theology in Modern America

W. Clark Gilpin

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pp. 155-182

“In what sense, if in any,” Harvard philosopher Josiah Royce asked in 1912, “can the modern man consistently be, in creed, a Christian?”1 The efforts of Catholic and Protestant theologians to resolve Royce’s question about the connection between modernity and Christian ideas shaped the task and methods of theology in the...

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Hearts and Stones: Material Transformations and the Stuff of Christian Practice in the United States

Sally M. Promey

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pp. 183-213

American Christian practice in past and present is intimately engaged with stuff, as inherently sensory and material as it is textual. Studies of the subject might effectively consider how Christianities look, feel, smell, taste, and sound, as well as what Christian practitioners say and write. The density of “religious” things with which...

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A Contested Legacy: Interpreting, Debating, and Translating the Bible in America

David W. Kling

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pp. 214-241

If, as the editors of this volume observe, Christianity is everywhere in America, the same may be said of its sacred text, the Bible, the nation’s best-selling book. Each year, Americans purchase 20 million new Bibles, with annual sales generating between $425 million and $650 million.1 A perusal of the religion section in national chain...

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Space, Time, and Performance: Constitutive Components of American Christian Worship

Jeanne Halgren Kilde

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pp. 242-258

Christianity in America is profoundly physical, material, and performative. Many Christians have only a rudimentary understanding of the theological or conceptual foundations of their beliefs and instead experience their religious commitment in religious practices. These practices might include such home-based rituals as prayer...

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Spreading the Gospel in Christian America

Edith L. Blumhofer

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pp. 259-274

On Sunday, October 5, 1913, New Yorkers waited in long lines at a Harlem rail station to file through a railroad car refashioned as a Catholic Church and sidelined for a few days in Manhattan to showcase Catholic evangelism. Billed as the longest car in the world, St. Peter’s chapel was built to order by the Barney & Smith Car...

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Part III: Christianity and American Culture

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pp. 275-278

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in the early 1830s, the Christian character of American culture surprised him. Although he had expected to find religion and democracy at odds, the reverse turned out to be true. Unlike in Europe, where people often resented Christian churches because of their formal ties to the government, Americans saw religion and democracy as inseparable, and...

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The Perils of Prosperity: Some Historical Reflections on Christianity, Capitalism, and Consumerism in America

Catherine A. Brekus

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pp. 279-306

The United States is one of the most Christian countries in the world, with more than 80 percent of the American people identifying themselves as Christian. It is also one of the most capitalist countries in the world, with an economy built on a seemingly endless desire for consumer goods. Throughout much of American...

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A Wilderness Condition: The Captivity Narrative as Christian Literature

Kristina Bross

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pp. 307-326

The possibilities for a single essay on Christianity and literature in America are endless. One could take up Christianity, literature, and social activism, exemplified by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the “little woman who started this big war,” as Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have greeted her.1 One could...

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Science and Christianity in America: A Limited Partnership

Jon H. Roberts

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pp. 327-346

During the past several decades, historians have devoted a great amount of attention to the history of the relationship between science and Christianity. Although this attention has unquestionably led to a more nuanced view of that history, it may have unwittingly fostered an exaggerated view of the importance of science...

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“My Homosexuality Is Getting Worse Every Day”: Norman Vincent Peale, Psychiatry, and the Liberal Protestant Response to Same-Sex Desires in Mid-Twentieth-Century America

Rebecca L. Davis

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pp. 347-365

The Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale famously urged Americans to engage in “positive thinking” to rid themselves of guilt, pain, and insolvency. That message of healing through faith and optimism captured the imaginations of millions of Americans who read his best-selling self-help books (most famously, the 1952...

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Christianity and the Media: Accommodation, Contradiction, and Transformation

Stewart M. Hoover

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pp. 366-381

The relationship between Christianity and “the media” is more profound than is often appreciated by clerical, scholarly, or lay observers. It has been convenient to think in rather simple and straightforward terms, but upon closer investigation a complex history of interaction is revealed. In this essay, I will argue that such a close...

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What Is “American” about Christianity in the United States?

Mark A. Noll

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pp. 382-396

Debates about whether the United States is “exceptional” are usually less productive than considerations about what has been “distinctive” in American experience. For religious history, claims about American “exceptionalism” are often confusing precisely because they elide results of empirical research with assertions about...

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Part IV: Christianity and the American Nation

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1791, prohibited the creation of an established national church and defended the principle of religious freedom. Few documents...

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Christianity, National Identity, and the Contours of Religious Pluralism

Tracy Fessenden

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pp. 399-426

In his 2009 inaugural address to the nation, President Barack Obama affirmed that “our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus— and nonbelievers.”1 The new president’s salutary nod to America’s religious variety differed from those of his recent predecessors...

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Beyond Church and Sect: Christian Movements for Social Reform

Dan McKanan

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pp. 427-444

Christian efforts to reform the social order have roots as deep as the prophets and the gospels. Amos’s call to “let justice roll down like waters” (Amos 5:24) and Jesus’ promise to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy by “proclaiming release to the captives” (Luke 4:18) resonate in Saint Francis’s call to gospel simplicity, John Calvin’s reorganization of public...

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Shifting Sacrifices: Christians, War, and Peace in America

Jon Pahl

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pp. 445-465

“Love your enemies.” This simple imperative attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew has been ignored, interpreted, and applied in often startling ways by Christians in America. American Christians have not, by and large, had a difficult time identifying enemies. What it has meant to love them, in contrast, has repeatedly been...

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Women, Christianity, and the Constitution

Ann Braude

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pp. 466-490

The Reverend Maria Bliss, a homemaker and mother of three in North Carolina, combined her call to ministry with leading her state’s campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution. Still a relative rarity as an ordained woman in the early 1970s, Bliss joined a fastgrowing cohort of Methodist...

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An Enduring Contest: American Christianities and the State

Kathleen Flake

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pp. 491-508

From their beginnings in a new-to-them world, the experience and ideals of British and Dutch North Americans required them to confront the issue of church-state relations. The nature of their response, as a matter of law, varied according to their experiences in their homelands and their purposes in crossing the Atlantic. Initially...

Contributors

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pp. 509-512

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 513-514

American Christianities began with a question. As scholars and citizens have become increasingly aware of the amazing religious diversity in the United States, how has that recognition altered understandings of the historically predominant American religion, Christianity? To help us think about that question and its many implications...

Index

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pp. 515-534