THE NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH: Political Religion in America by Cushing Strout

THE NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH: Political Religion in America

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In this mishmash survey of American religious thought and political thought about religion, Strout, a professor of American literature and intellectual history, tests the accuracy of de Tocqueville's prophecy that ""religious disestablishment"" would promote the growth of a non-sectarian secular religious ethos which would be a source of national cohesiveness and strength. Historically religious pluralism developed our propensity for voluntary association, allowed our secular leaders (the Founding Fathers, Lincoln) to affirm a sense of mission by quoting from Biblical texts, permitted church-inspired idealism to be enlisted in the cause of social reform (even if the goal was to legislate morality, a Sisyphean task). Lacking a monopoly the Puritan Establishment was forced into flexibility, admitting first the pietistic denominations, then Catholics, Jews, agnostics and even atheists to equal status in the social and economic order. But, alas, our moral consensus has been shattered by ""despairing left-wing radicalism"" and an ""angry right-wing reaction""; Martin Luther King has been replaced by Malcolm X as the Moses of the Black community, the Berrigans may have the stuff of early Christian martyrs but are not potential leaders of a healing mainstream movement. Strout never does get down to defining his terminology or his subject matter: the resulting potpourri is too genteel a treatment of the influence of religious moralism and privatism on politics and a very sketchy analysis of the social effects of the separation of church and state.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1973
Publisher: Harper & Row