The role of liberalized, ecumenical Protestantism in American history has too often been obscured by the more flamboyant and orthodox versions of the faith that oppose evolution, embrace narrow conceptions of family values, and continue to insist that the United States should be understood as a Christian nation. In this book, one of our preeminent scholars of American intellectual history examines how liberal Protestant thinkers struggled to embrace modernity, even at the cost of yielding much of the symbolic capital of Christianity to more conservative, evangelical communities of faith. If religion is not simply a private concern, but a potential basis for public policy and a national culture, does this mean that religious ideas can be subject to the same kind of robust public debate normally given to ideas about race, gender, and the economy? Or is there something special about religious ideas that invites a suspension of critical discussion?
These essays, collected here for the first time, demonstrate that the critical discussion of religious ideas has been central to the process by which Protestantism has been liberalized throughout the history of the United States, and shed light on the complex relationship between religion and politics in contemporary American life. After Cloven Tongues of Fire brings together in one volume David Hollinger's most influential writings on ecumenical Protestantism. The book features an informative general introduction as well as concise introductions to each essay.
David A. Hollinger is the Preston Hotchkis Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former president of the Organization of American Historians. His books include Science, Jews, and Secular Culture: Studies in Mid-Twentieth-Century American Intellectual History (Princeton) and Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism.
Preface ix 1. The Accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment: An Old Drama Still Being Enacted 1 2. After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Ecumenical Protestantism and the Modern American Encounter with Diversity 18 3. The Realist-Pacifist Summit Meeting of March 1942 and the Political Reorientation of Ecumenical Protestantism in the United States 56 4. Justification by Verification: The Scientific Challenge to the Moral Authority of Christianity in Modern America 82 5. James, Clifford, and the Scientific Conscience 103 6. Damned for God's Glory: William James and the Scientific Vindication of Protestant Culture 117 7. Communalist and Dispersionist Approaches to American Jewish History in an Increasingly Post-Jewish Era 138 8. Church People and Others 170 9. Enough Already: Universities Do Not Need More Christianity 190 10. Religious Ideas: Should They Be Critically Engaged or Given a Pass? 199 Epilogue: Reinhold Niebuhr and Protestant Liberalism 211 Index 227