RELIGIOUS OUTSIDERS AND THE MAKING OF AMERICANS by R. Laurence Moore

RELIGIOUS OUTSIDERS AND THE MAKING OF AMERICANS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Moore (History/Cornell) takes an unorthodox look at USreligious history in this challenging work. Rejecting the long-held view that ""mainline"" Protestantism was the dominant force in forging this country's values, he turns his attention to seven influential religious groups: Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Christian Scientists, Millennialists, contemporary Protestant Fundamentalists and Black churches, in an attempt to discover in their ""outsider"" status quintessentially ""American"" traits. His arguments are cogent and convincing; his language stimulating and frequently wryly skeptical. In discussing the gradual soft-pedalling of the millennial predictions of such faiths as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, Moore points out that ""The lamb-like beast of Revelation, which Adventists had linked to the United States, lost its dragon features and grew more to resemble the tame creature that followed Mary to school."" It is in just such ""adjustments"" to the American experience that Moore finds the worth of these outsider sects. By first fostering in their members the conviction of ""outsider"" and therefore ""chosen"" status, these religions enabled their members to discover a sense of stability and value in an unstructured society. As adjustment was accomplished, the ""Outsider"" label was less and less frequently invoked, and, as Moore states, ""Consensus as a myth became believable."" The process continues today in the sects that find their followers among the young and the disenfranchised. Moore's seven essay-like chapters make their points effectively and the major themes linking them are always clearly explicated. His organization is admirable; his writing smooth and happily free of jargon. Useful for anyone with an interest in the ways in which American religious impulses expressed themselves and how the resulting sects affected the course of this country's progress.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0195051882
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press