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The Quiet Hand of God

Faith-Based Activism and the Public Role of Mainline Protestantism

Robert Wuthnow

Publication Year: 2002

Robert Wuthnow and John H. Evans bring together a stellar collection of essays that paints a contemporary portrait of American Protestantism—a denomination that has remained quietly, but firmly, influential in the public sphere. Mainline Protestants may have steered clear of the controversial, attention-grabbing tactics of the Religious Right, but they remain culturally influential and continue to impact American society through political action and the provision of social services.

The contributors to this volume address religion's larger role in society and cover such topics as welfare, ecology, family, civil rights, and homosexuality. Pioneering, timely, and meticulously researched, The Quiet Hand of God will be an essential reference to the dynamics of American religion well into the twenty-first century.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

In 1998 the Religion Division of the Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia, under the guidance of Director Luis E. Lugo, initiated a series of projects called Religious Communities and the Public Square, the aim of which was to further both the understanding and the effectiveness of religion’s role in strengthening and preserving civic life in America. The Public Role of ...

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pp. 1-24

Since 1970, the United States has experienced a large number of social developments that have brought religion face to face with government and with the wider community in often unanticipated and sometimes conflictive ways. These developments include the mobilization of religious forces on the abortion issue following Roe v. Wade in 1973; Jimmy Carter’s ...

Part I. History, Organization,and Activities

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1. The Logic of Mainline Churchliness

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pp. 27-53

In his classic study, The Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929), H. Richard Niebuhr denounced the “denominational self-consciousness and inertia” that had frustrated a united ethical witness in American Christianity. The theological differences among Christian groups, he believed, tended to obscure the social origins of denominationalism in modern prejudices ...

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2. Mainline Protestant Washington Offices and the Political Lives of Clergy

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pp. 54-79

Despite the official separation of church and state in the United States, clergy have always played public roles in American politics. Reverend John Witherspoon of New Jersey signed the Declaration of Independence, and Reverend Abraham Baldwin of Georgia was one of the framers of the United States Constitution. Countless other clergy have shaped the course ...

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3. The Generous Sideof Christian Faith

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pp. 80-107

Laywomen’s organizations have long played an important role in American Protestantism and in modern civic life more widely. During the nineteenth century, churchwomen within and across denominational boundaries worked together for slave emancipation, temperance, and female suffrage, to name only three of the most notable issues.Women’s mission ...

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4. Religious Variations in Public Presence

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pp. 108-128

Religion and religious organizations are enjoying (or, perhaps, enduring) renewed attention from scholars and public officials. This renewed attention probably does not represent increased appreciation of religion qua religion—spirituality, theology, ritual, worship, or other core religious operations or concerns. Rather, it is largely driven by interest in what ...

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5. Connecting Mainline Protestant Churches with Public Life

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pp. 129-158

The terms mainline and civic have long been seen as nearly synonymous. As earlier chapters in this volume have shown, churches in the historic Protestant “mainstream” have drawn on both their theological heritage and their position at the center of American culture to make unique contributions to the well-being of our society.1 That legacy—and possible ...

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6. The Changing Political Fortunes of Mainline Protestants

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pp. 159-178

In the first two decades after WorldWar II, the political worlds of mainline Protestants were remarkably stable. Mainline voters regularly provided a large and stable bloc of votes for Republican candidates in national elections. In particular, they provided key support for the Eisenhower/Nixon/ Rockefeller “liberal” wing of the Republican Party, with its characteristic ...

Part II. Involvement in Public Issues

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7. Furthering the Freedom Struggle

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pp. 181-212

About ten years ago Old Northbury Congregational, a church with anexclusively white membership located in a wealthy Connecticut suburb,entered into a partnership with Mt. Pisgah, a black Baptist church servinga poor community in Hartford. John Biggs, chair of Old Northbury’ssocialaction committee, was in on it from the beginning. The partnership was ...

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8. The Hydra and the Swords

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pp. 213-236

Religious institutions took center stage in the rhetoric of America’s fight against poverty in the 1990s. Over the course of the decade, both political liberals and conservatives increasingly came to view churches and other faith-based organizations as uniquely effective providers of social services for the poor. In their first major policy speeches of the 2000 presidential ...

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9. Caring for Creation

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pp. 237-264

Prominently displayed inside the Episcopal Church’s famous St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City is a huge quartz crystal. A plaque says the crystal is “200 Million Years Old” and is placed there “To Honor the Beauty of God’s Creation and Our Sacred Stewardship of Planet Earth.” Such a display celebrating a Christian role in preserving the environment ...

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10. Vital Conflicts

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pp. 265-286

For the past thirty years, the mainline churches have been thinking about, talking about, and quite often arguing about homosexuality. In the past ten years, the debates have increased in intensity and been broadcast on the front pages of religious and secular newspapers across the country. The upswing in mainline churches’ activities around homosexuality come at a ...

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11. For the Sake of the Children?

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pp. 287-316

The dramatic demographic shifts that have marked the last three decadeshave occasioned sustained public interest in the nature, health, and pros-pects of the family. Thischapter, whichfocusesontherelationshipbetweenmainline Protestantism and the family from 1950 up to the present, sug-gests that this interest is well deserved: changes in the American family...

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12. From Engagement to Retrenchment

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pp. 317-342

On 16 February 1984, President Ronald Reagan sent a letter to approximately five hundred American religious leaders extolling the progress being made in the U.S. Congress toward the passage of a voluntary school prayer amendment. One can only imagine the president’s astonishment when, just two weeks later, twenty-three prominent American clergymen ...

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13. Doing Good and Doing Well

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pp. 343-363

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the mainline churches, as institutional investors and advocates, are slowly changing the way a significant percentage of American dollars are invested. Through shareholder activism at the annual meetings of major corporations, lay members and clergy demand changes in corporate policy on many issues, ...

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14. Love Your Enemies?

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pp. 364-380

The teachings of Jesus—who insisted that his followers love their enemies— raise serious questions today, as they did in the early church, about war, human rights, and economic justice in a nation’s foreign policy. These questions may be rarely discussed in Congress or the news media, but they are the focus of considerable activity on the part of religious institutions, ...

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15. Beyond Quiet Influence?

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pp. 381-403

Judging from newspaper headlines and television advertising, the American public is preoccupied with shallow materialistic pursuits—eating at gourmet restaurants, shopping and trading stock on the Internet, and splurging on cruise vacations and sports utility vehicles. On the rare occasion when religion becomes newsworthy, its message appears to be preoccupied ...


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pp. 405-409


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pp. 411-429

E-ISBN-13: 9780520936362
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520233126

Page Count: 440
Publication Year: 2002