John Wilson has posted a rejoinder to my post on his original Wall Street Journal column on incorporating religion into the story of the 1960s.
It makes for good reading. When I emerge from my grading cave, I'll respond a bit further.
Suffice to say for now, part of our disagreement stems from referring to different kinds of books. If we look at some standard textbooks and major synthetic surveys (such as that of Patterson), and probably some popular literature like some of the Summer of Love books coming out (a singularly overrated event in my view), Wilson's laments make sense. If we instead analyze the monographic scholarship and the general "direction of the field" based on what younger scholars are writing and many senior scholars are incorporating into their work, I think the picture is brighter than he makes it out to be, and this will eventually find its way into the texts and synthetic surveys. On the two specific examples he mentions in his piece, I agree with his assessment of Patterson (see the article for details), and also am in accord with his original assertion that "when the revisionist dust has settled, we'll have an understanding of that tumultuous time that is richer and more capacious." I will argue with him on McGirr, whom he sees as condescending and I see as, mostly, on target.
And note that we have not yet gotten into discussing myriad other books, some self-proclaimedly in "religious history" and some not, that feature religion centrally. Obviously, civil rights movements books generally do that; in that field, religion's central role is in fact an entrenched orthodoxy, to the degree that those who argue with it are staking out deliberately contrarian positions. And, for my money, the CRM stands as far, far more important than much else that was evanscent about that decade, including a good deal of the counterculture that draws too much press and historical attention.
Then, of course, there are works on Catholics, Mexican migrants and C. Chavez, the explosion of Asian immigration and religions, Vatican II in America, the evolution of ideas of freedom among Catholics (a la John McGreevy), as well as the religion of the truly radical right (Christian Identity and others).
Stay tuned! Or, run screaming, if you're already bored. At any rate, thanks to Wilson for his tough but thoughtful response.B
Update: Randall Stephens lists some other important major texts in the comments section; that list could be extended a long ways further, and represents the kind of works I had in mind in my original post.