Cover image for Pluralism comes of age : American religious culture in the twentieth century
Pluralism comes of age : American religious culture in the twentieth century
Lippy, Charles H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 250 pages ; 24 cm
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BL2525 .L567 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This acclaimed work surveys the varied course of religious life in modern America. Beginning with the close of the Victorian Age, it moves through the shifting power of Protestantism and American Catholicism and into the intense period of immigration and pluralism that has characterized our nation's religious experience.

Author Notes

Charles H. Lippy is the LeRoy A. Martin Distinguished Professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Lippy argues that twentieth-century U.S. religious culture demonstrates that religious pluralism "does not undermine common life" but enriches it. His historical account describes diversity of practice and commonality of purpose--a seemingly contradictory dynamic, often encountered in U.S. histories, that impels communities and individuals toward diversity and homogeneity simultaneously, and that drives religion toward an interior world of personal spirituality and the construction of a common culture that minimizes local and historical doctrinal differences. Lippy provides an accessible introduction to religious diversity in the U.S. and an extensive bibliography for digging deeper than his short survey can. Readers will differ on whether the peculiar brand of pluralism that U.S. religious experience reflects is a positive contribution to "global religious life," and, consequently, on whether it has "come of age." But Lippy's survey should broaden the number of those ready to address that old difference in an informed conversation that goes beyond confrontation and fragmentation. --Steven Schroeder

Publisher's Weekly Review

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Lippy suggests that the increasing diversity of religious culture is the key to American religion in the 20th century. The groundwork for religious pluralism, he argues, was laid during the Victorian era, when Catholic and Jewish immigrants from all over Europe moved to American cities in record numbers; by 1955, sociologist Will Herberg could assert that most Americans accorded equal respect to Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. But Lippy never ventures far beyond Herberg's assessment. His cursory treatment of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists is squeezed into a chapter that's not even 20 pages long, and much of the book is derivative. Lippy doesn't have anything new to say about African-American religion, Native American syncretism, Vatican II, the lynching of Leo Frank or the culture of therapy. He gestures in the direction of originality when he touches on the Chicken Soup series, the What Would Jesus Do? craze and Generation X spirituality, but the few paragraphs we get on those subjects are too brief to amount to much. It is not just the recycling of familiar material that makes the book seem outdatedÄthe focus on pluralism itself seems pass‚. Herberg's book, though half a century old, is a more invigorating read. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this brief text, Lippy (religious studies, Univ. of Tennessee; Being Religious, American Style) displays the wide and wild diversity of American religious expression over the course of the 20th century. To do justice to its material, the book should be twice as long. It lacks a clear interpretive framework to move the material beyond a recital of detail, most of it sketchily, and sometimes misleadingly, presented. Successive chapters portray the diversity within mainstream Protestant, Catholic, African American, Jewish, and Native American communities and their development over the course of the century. Additional chapters address developments in personal spirituality, non-Western and new religions, and the changing role of religion in political life. The text is useful as a general overview and guide to the literature of the field surveyed in the excellent notes and bibliography. Readers, however, will hunger for expanded accounts of people and events that would bring the text to life and for evidence to back up the historical generalizations that sprinkle every page. Recommended for college libraries.DSteve Young, Montclair State Univ., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

At the birth of the US, religious differences led to a pragmatic decision to include the noninterference clause in the Bill of Rights. For over 200 years, this virtue born of necessity has demonstrated that when religion is a voluntary choice, it will flourish. In 11 chapters, Lippy (Univ. of Tennessee) explains that American religious diversity has always existed, identifies factors that amplified religious differences, and explores aspects of religious pluralism. He sketches history from Colonial times to now; describes how diversity characterizes American Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, and black and Native American traditions; identifies popular beliefs and practices that are independent of or on the fringes of religious traditions in contemporary society; explains how Euro-American interest in Asian religions has waxed and waned; and traces the recent rapid expansion of Islam. Lippy also examines how religion has sought to influence public policy in government practices, the courts, and in support of candidates for public office. He notes significant features of contemporary diversity, stressing the impact of immigrations, the enduring influence of ethnicity, and the constructs of spirituality. Information tends to appear in more than one place--reading the entire book may be tedious, but each chapter works independently. An extraordinarily useful resource for undergraduate papers on US history or religion in the US. R. A. Boisclair Alaska Pacific University

Table of Contents

1 Planting Pluralism in the United States
2 The Shifting Public Presence of Mainline Protestantism
3 Pluralism's Promise and Perils: American Catholicism in the Twentieth Century
4 The Paradox of Pluralism: The Jewish Experience
5 Religion and the Pride of a People: Black Religion in the U.S.
6 Syncretism and Pluralism: Native American Experiences in the Twentieth Century
7 Personal Religious Expression in a Pluralistic Culture
8 The Proliferation of Pluralism
9 The Politics of Religion in a Pluralistic Society
10 Pluralistic Turns in American Religious Thought
11 The Persistence of Pluralism