Murchinson
Reviews

Not What It Should Be

Yeah, it was a crisis—though few who, like the author, were sentient during the 50’s understood completely what was going on around us; viz., the erosion of the liberal intellectual order we had come, with notable encouragement, to take for granted.

When I say “take for granted,” I mean just that.  We had prayers before high-school football games?  Sure; why not?  There were prayers inside public schools?  Sure.  Societal acknowledgement of religion as a Very Good Thing?  Check.  It was the 50’s.  We followed the American Way of Life, of which religion, in a generic way, was a decided part.  It kept things sane and civil.  Even the eggheads—the Adlai Stevenson intellectuals—agreed in the main with that proposition.

George Marsden’s account of our turbulent descent from the mountaintop of consensus religion to the maelstrom of continuous contention over God’s place in our affairs merits careful study and reflection.  This is not least on account of the book’s tightness and brevity.  More to the point, it is because of Marsden’s stature as one of the country’s most respected historians of religion.  Pretty much everything Marsden writes about—fundamentalism, Christian scholarship, Jonathan Edwards—is worth noting, come to...

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