American Pluralism(s): An Interview with and Lecture by Martin Marty

Paul Harvey

Over at the Newberry Library's Scholl Center for American History and Culture blog, friend-of-the-blog Christopher Cantwell interviews the renowned American religious historian Martin Marty, and notes there (for you Chicago-area people) a public lecture on "Pluralisms with a Big 'S': The American Versions," to be given by Marty on Tuesday, June 26, at 6:00 p.m., in Ruggles Hall at the Newberry. on June 26. We'd love to hear a report/account from anyone who is able to make the lecture. Below the fold is the lecture announcement and a little excerpt from the interview:

For many who are interested in American history, Martin Marty needs no introduction.For nearly half a century, Marty has explored the diversity of American religious life as an academic as well as an ordained Lutheran minister. The author of more than sixty books and over five thousand articles, Marty is currently the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. He is also a participating scholar in the Scholl Center’s ongoing “Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America” program, which is funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges grant. As a part of the “Out of Many” program, Marty will be delivering a public lecture in the Newberry’s Ruggles Hall on Tuesday, June 26 at 6:00 p.m. The talk, titled “Pluralisms with a Big ‘S’: The American Versions,” is free and open to the public, and no registration is required. You can find more information here. In advance of the talk, Marty agreed to talk briefly with the Scholl Center about how themes from the “Out of Many” program fit within his scholarly work.
Scholl Center [SC]: Throughout your career as an author, minister, and academic, you have paid considerable attention to the robust diversity of America’s religious history, as well as the specificities of your own religious tradition. What inspired this dual focus?
Martin Marty [MM]: New York Congressman John Canfield Spencer, soon after the nation’s founding, noted “the extreme division of sects [which is almost without limits].” If there were one religion, as throughout history elsewhere, he wrote, it would persecute dissenters. “If there were but two religions, we should cut each others’ throats. But no sect having the majority, all have need of tolerance.” James Madison argued that the security for civil and religious rights consisted “in the multiplicity of sects… .” So it has been. That takes care of that, in the American agenda. But people do not live by mere “diversity” or “tolerance” or “multiplicity.” Citizens have lives to live, deaths to fear, sacrifices to make, acts of love and justice to exercise, truths to seek. These are often and perhaps usually related to our ultimate concern, which for most is mediated through religious communities and texts. Figuring out how to live with both “the many” and “the one” by telling stories has struck me as a worthwhile life’s work.

Read the rest here. 


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