Religion in Nineteenth Century America.
Religion in Nineteenth Century America (Religion in American Life Series). By Grant Wacker. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 182 pp. $22.00
Religion in Nineteenth Century America, by Grant Wacker, an associate professor of the history of religion in America at Duke University's Divinity School, is part of Oxford's new seventeen-volume Religion in American Life Series. This series is primarily aimed at young adults but also would be beneficial to readers who have a limited background in American religions history.
In this brief book, Wacker offers an objective and yet compelling overview of the "ever-shifting landscape of the United States in the 19th century." Wacker takes on this task by dividing the book into brief chapters: "Founders,'' "Insiders," "Visionaries," "Restorers," "Outsiders," "Warriors,' "Immigrants,'' "Innovators," "Conservatives," and "Adventurers."
The arrangement and inclusion of materials in these chapters is, for the most part, well done. In the first chapter, "Founders," Wa&er defines and articulates a clear and well-argued rejection of civil religion. This first chapter is one of the strongest in the book and provides an excellent foundation for the remaining chapters.
The chapter "Outsiders" includes well-presented information on the religious traditions of Native Americans, Asians, Reformed, Orthodox, and Conservative Jews, and slaves. Two chapters later, in "Immigrants," Wacker spends all but two paragraphs discussing the struggles of the various ethnic groups of Catholic immigrants. While it is true that Catholics were for a period the majority of immigrants, readers may have been better served if he had combined these two chapters rather than "labeling" Catholics as "Immigrants" and all others who were also immigrants as "Outsiders."
The chapter title "Adventurers" is a bit deceptive in that this chapter includes a brief but intriguing overview of the healing movements of Ellen White and Mary Baker Eddy, the Social Gospel and Salvation Army movements, the temperance movement, and the mission movement. Perhaps a more accurate title would have been "Reformers."
Overall, however, the book has many strengths including the inclusion of interesting black-and-white photographs, handbills, and nineteenth-century cartoons. Also included are excerpts from primary documents such as Joseph Smith's account of his encounter with the angel Moroni, Frederick Douglass's analysis of the Christianity of the South, and Phoebe Palmer's explanation of the need for women preachers. These excerpts and other quotes throughout the book are not documented, but Wacker has included an excellent list of books for further reading at the end of the book. He also included a chronology listing the major religious events of nineteenth-century religion in America.
PAMELA ROBINSON DURSO Campbell University Divinity School Buies Creek, North Carolina
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|Author:||Durso, Pamela Robinson|
|Publication:||Journal of Church and State|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2001|
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