The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century

Paperback | February 19, 2015

byMatthew S. Hedstrom

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Winner of the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Best First Book Prize of the American Society of Church HistorySociety for U. S. Intellectual History Notable Title in American Intellectual HistoryThe story of liberal religion in the twentieth century, Matthew S. Hedstrom contends, is a story of cultural ascendency. This may come as a surprise - most scholarship in American religious history, after all, equates the numerical decline of the Protestant mainline with the failure of religiousliberalism. Yet a look beyond the pews, into the wider culture, reveals a more complex and fascinating story, one Hedstrom tells in The Rise of Liberal Religion. Hedstrom attends especially to the critically important yet little-studied arena of religious book culture-particularly the religious middlebrow of mid-century-as the site where religious liberalism was most effectively popularized. By looking at book weeks, book clubs, public libraries, newpublishing enterprises, key authors and bestsellers, wartime reading programs, and fan mail, among other sources, Hedstrom is able to provide a rich, on-the-ground account of the men, women, and organizations that drove religious liberalism's cultural rise in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Critically,by the post-WWII period the religious middlebrow had expanded beyond its Protestant roots, using mystical and psychological spirituality as a platform for interreligious exchange. This compelling history of religion and book culture not only shows how reading and book buying were criticaltwentieth-century religious practices, but also provides a model for thinking about the relationship of religion to consumer culture more broadly. In this way, The Rise of Liberal Religion offers both innovative cultural history and new ways of seeing the imprint of liberal religion in our owntimes.

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Winner of the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Best First Book Prize of the American Society of Church HistorySociety for U. S. Intellectual History Notable Title in American Intellectual HistoryThe story of liberal religion in the twentieth century, Matthew S. Hedstrom contends, is a story of cultural ascendency. This may come as a su...

Matthew S. Hedstrom is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:290 pages, 9.21 × 6.1 × 0.79 inPublished:February 19, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190231238

ISBN - 13:9780190231231

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Enlarging the Faith: Books and the Marketing of Liberal Religion in a Consumer Culture2. The Religious Book Club: Middlebrow Culture and Liberal Protestant Seeker Spirituality3. Publishing for Seekers: Eugene Exman and the Religious Bestsellers of Harper and Brothers4. Religious Reading Mobilized: The Book Programs of World War II5. Inventing Interfaith: The Wartime Reading Campaign of the National Conference of Christians and Jews6. Religious Reading in the Wake of War: American Spirituality in the 1940sConclusionArchival CollectionsNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"An original and eye-opening study, planting liberal religion in the wider history of liberalism, including its middlebrow culture of print. Hedstrom shows how liberal religion keeps renewing itself by sidling up to secular culture, and by welcoming wave after wave of refugees from orthodoxyon the one hand and agnosticism on the other, all of them drawn to the premise of liberal spirituality that science and religion make excellent bedfellows." --Richard Fox, Professor of History, University of Southern California