Leigh Eric Schmidt. _Restless Souls: The Making of AmericanSpirituality from Emerson to Oprah. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco,2005. 352 pp. Notes, index. $26.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-06-054566-6;$14.95 (paper), ISBN 0-06-085834-6.
Reviewed for H-Amstdy by Matthew S. Hedstrom, Postdoctoral Research
Associate, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University
A Usable Past for the Spiritual Left
The latest book from Princeton University's Leigh Eric Schmidt, newly
released in paperback, appeared at a propitious moment in the national
conversation about religion and public life in the United States. In_Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality from Emerson toOprah_, Schmidt writes about--and indeed champions--the Spiritual Left as a counterpoint to the Religious Right, and his book, first published in August 2005, emerged just as the connections between faith and political liberalism enjoyed a period of renewed media interest--interest that has continued into the present. A recent forum on faith and politics, for instance, hosted by the liberal evangelical organization Sojourners and featuring Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, drew nationwide attention to progressive Christianity as a political force. Not since the 1960s has the religious left been so visible in American public life. Schmidt's book augments this current conversation about the religious left (religion, here, meaning the institutional infrastructures of faith) with a broader historical examination of the Spiritual Left, encompassing all those facets ofindividual faith experience that give sustenance to public activism and private well-being.
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