A valuable contribution to the conversation surrounding faith in America.

AMERICAN GRACE

HOW RELIGION DIVIDES AND UNITES US

Impressive study of American religious diversity.

Putnam (Public Policy/Harvard Univ.; Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, 2001, etc.) and Campbell (Political Science/Univ. of Notre Dame; Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life, 2006, etc.) begin with the obvious assertion that America is and has always been a religiously diverse nation, and seek to learn in what ways this is true today, and also why this diversity is not particularly problematic in modern America. The authors draw much of their data from the recent, comprehensive Faith Matters surveys, along with previous statistical surveys on faith in America. They punctuate the narrative with in-depth vignettes of particular congregations, ranging from a conservative Lutheran megachurch in Houston to a Reform synagogue near Chicago. The authors are interested in the entire religious history of America, but they focus primarily on the last half-century, using statistical research and anecdotal information to explain the decline of mainline Protestantism, the rise and leveling off of Evangelical Christianity, the demographic transformation of Catholicism and the recent rise of innovative movements such as the Emerging Church. Putnam and Campbell also examine religion in politics (and vice versa), the changing role of women in America’s faith landscape and religious activity as an indicator of civic involvement. The text is highly readable, and the authors are not afraid to come to clear conclusions. In describing the rarity with which partisan political views are actually trumpeted from the pulpit, the authors state bluntly, “Most people come to church to hear about God, not Caesar. Too much talk of Caesar risks driving them away.” The authors’ conclusion describes why, despite America’s religious diversity, “America is graced with the peaceful coexistence of both religious diversity and devotion.” Since Americans are intimately acquainted with others of diverse backgrounds more today than ever before, these relationships lead to acceptance of individuals as well as of groups of people.

A valuable contribution to the conversation surrounding faith in America.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6671-7

Page Count: 680

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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