Book Culture and the Rise of LIberal Religion

Paul Harvey

Not too long ago, we ran a two-part interview with Matthew Hedstrom, whose book The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century was recently published by Oxford

Aside from the interview, here's a great way to get a bite-sized taste of Matt's work: "Book Culture and the Rise of Liberal Religion," published yesterday at Religion and Politics. A little excerpt:

The pluralist turn of American religious print culture by the 1940s further enhanced the importance of these alternative spiritualities. This story, then, is an ironic tale of initial resistance yet ultimate complicity in the transformation of American religious culture from Protestant dominance, in spite of sizable and significant minority traditions, to a much more open, democratic, even chaotic spiritual environment. The psychologically and mystically rooted cosmopolitanism that came to characterize much of American religion and spirituality after World War II first emerged as a popular reality from the liberal Protestantism and book-buying consumerism of the interwar years—but ultimately took on a life all its own.

The whole piece is a great introduction to his book; highly recommended. 


Tom Van Dyke said…
Paul, I thank you for this latest batch of posts although I don't know what "liberal religion" is or might be.

It was said back in the day that Reform Judaism's messiah looks a lot like FDR, and that its only difference from the Democratic Party is the holidays.

By extension, "liberal" Christianity now in the 21 century CE: Mighty Jehovah was [re-]incarnated as Barney the Dinosaur, the Bible is reducible to the Sermon on the Mount--- "Beatitudism," if you will.

Where some see liberal theology as progress, others see entropy.

Paul Harvey said…
Umm, "batch" of posts consists of just this one, since my other posts lately have dealt with conservative evangelicalism. Not even "posts," but just "links," my lazy man's blogging.

Anyway, the post is just to point folks towards Matt's excellent book, which gives a historically nuanced and informative view of the subject, not just "progress" or "entropy." Check it out.
Mark T. Edwards said…

You should read Matt's book. He's sensitive to the "entropy" charge; it's been levelled since the 1920s when Walter Lippmann repackaged the anti-liberal arguments of the fundies. And still, not only do "liberal" churches persist, but in Matt's estimation (not to mention David Hollinger and Christian Smith) we are in some ways all Barneys, er, liberals, now.

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