CULTURE WARS by James Davison Hunter

CULTURE WARS

The Struggle to Define America

KIRKUS REVIEW

 America's ``identity'' is seen as a history of religious strife in this probing yet somewhat slanted study. Hunter (Sociology and Religious Studies/Univ. of Virginia; American Evangelicalism, 1983) uses historical references to religious battles throughout American history to show how yesterday's ecumenical divisions among Catholics, Protestants, and Jews have become realigned in recent years. Through debates about slavery, the Scopes trial, and the influence of deism on the Constitution, he elaborates on the ``new lines of conflict'' through the eyes of both clergy members and the more ``humanist'' intelligentsia. Hunter is adept at demonstrating how the battles are now between ``orthodox'' and ``progressive'' camps within faiths, and how political mine fields like gay rights, Roe v. Wade, and the ordination of women into the priesthood prompt a nagging concern over the roles of churches and synagogues in American life. The author has a pervasive regard for the role of family--possibly ``the beginning and end of contemporary culture'' since its dissolution may prove fatal to our social order. He also illustrates how the classic dualism between God and Satan has been transformed into an often unscrupulous intrigue between traditionalists and ``secular humanists.'' But Hunter betrays a possible bias regarding homosexuality. Here, the anti-gay ``convictions'' of a Jerry Falwell are treated as more worthy of serious debate than the fulminations against the ``evils'' of race- mixing or ``the Jewish Menace.'' In the end, Hunter seems to favor religious thinking over nontranscendental doctrines. Though giving short shrift to the secular viewpoint, Hunter still provides an informative look at America's ambiguous spiritual character.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1991
ISBN: 0-465-01533-6
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991




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