NO OFFENSE: Civil Religion and Protestant Taste by John Murray Cuddihy
Kirkus Star

NO OFFENSE: Civil Religion and Protestant Taste

Email this review


Cuddihy rides again, rumbling through the china shop of academic sociology. This lively, controversial thinker, whose Ordeal of Civility (1974) claimed that the thought of Marx, Freud, and Levi-Strauss was rooted in Jewish ""resentment"" of modernity, returns to study the conflict between religious communities and secularist society--this time in America. Cuddihy approaches the problem through the life and work of three major figures, Reinhold Niebuhr, Father John Courtney Murray, and Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. His thesis, briefly, is that European religion and politics too, though he treats this as an afterthought--undergoes a transformation, a ""taming and assimilation,"" beneath American skies. Our pluralist consensus rejects the idea of a supreme church or a chosen people, and insists that theologians accept denominational status for the groups they represent. The ""self-effacing modesty of puritan good taste"" makes religion a basically private affair, cloaking all our ethnic and doctrinal diversity with bland public ""civility."" This is no Substitute for brotherhood, but how else can we manage the centrifugal forces of an open society? Cuddihy is a dynamic, if messy, writer. His book overflows with quotations (too many), references, and gossipy stories. He has done a phenomenal amount of reading and digested almost all of it. He has a finely honed sensitivity to the religious mind and a refreshingly blunt way with ticklish issues, such as Zionism. Many critics ignored or tiptoed around Cuddihy's last book, but they'll have to come to terms with him now. An original, stimulating contribution.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Seabury