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Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promiseby Kevin M. Schultz
"After he was elected president in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower made a famous statement of belief that nicely summarized the mid-century American creed: 'Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is.' There is something absurd about the way the second part of the sentence casually annuls the first: If you don't care what people believe about God, how 'deeply felt' can your own beliefs really be? What Eisenhower really seems to be saying is that religious people make good citizens — more bluntly still, that fear of God is needed to keep people in line." Adam Kirsch, Tablet (Read the entire Tablet review)
Synopses & Reviews
President Franklin D. Roosevelt put it bluntly, if privately, in 1942 — the United States was "a Protestant country," he said, "and the Catholics and Jews are here under sufferance."
In Tri-Faith America, Kevin Schultz explains how the United States left behind this idea that it was "a Protestant nation" and replaced it with a new national image, one premised on the notion that the country was composed of three separate, equally American faiths-Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Tracing the origins of the tri-faith idea to the early twentieth century, when Catholic and Jewish immigration forced Protestant Social Gospelers to combine forces with Catholic and Jewish relief agencies, Tri-Faith America shows how the tri-faith idea gathered momentum after World War I, promoted by public relations campaigns, interfaith organizations, and the government, to the point where, by the end of World War II and into the early years of the Cold War, the idea was becoming widely accepted, particularly in the armed forces, fraternities, neighborhoods, social organizations, and schools.
Tri-Faith America also shows how postwar Catholics and Jews used the new image to force the country to confront the challenges of pluralism. Should Protestant bibles be allowed on public school grounds? Should Catholic and Jewish fraternities be allowed to exclude Protestants? Should the government be allowed to count Americans by religion? Challenging the image of the conformist 1950s, Schultz describes how Americans were vigorously debating the merits of recognizing pluralism, paving the way for the civil rights movement and leaving an enduring mark on American culture.
"As Kevin M. Schultz demonstrates in this insightful and highly judicious study, Tri-Faith America represented far more than an interfaith celebration of the postwar nation's 'new religious sociology.' Catholics and Jews pressed their own visions of pluralism with an often militant fervor that changed everything from collegiate fraternity life, manuals of social etiquette, and even America's public education system. This is a timely and important book." James T. Fisher, Fordham University
"Kevin Schultz has placed the history of American religion squarely at the center of political history and, in this insightful and deeply researched book, he has pinpointed the origins of America's embrace of religious pluralism. He has located these fundamental changes in the early decades of the twentieth century and has shown how the emergence of 'tri-faith' rhetoric involved much more than just talk. Rather it reflected a tectonic shift in the life of the nation, and Kevin Schultz deserves our applause for teaching us about it." Hasia R. Diner, Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History, New York University
"Nicely illuminates the pre-World War II origins of contemporary ideals of tolerance and inclusion. Riveting reading." Balkinization
About the Author
"As Kevin M. Schultz amply demonstrates in this fresh, absorbing, and admirably nuanced study, the central drama of twentieth-century American religion was the tense, complex, but ultimately successful path to mutual accommodation traveled by American Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Many authors from Will Herberg onward have treated this theme in various ways, but none has done so with more subtlety and insight, balancing the achievements of 'tri-faith America' against its weaknesses and liabilities. Schultz has given us a book we will need to learn from, and contend with, in the years to come, as we make our way through a very different landscape of religious complexity." Wilfred M. McClay, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Table of Contents
Part I: Inventing Tri-Faith America, Ending "Protestant America"
Chapter 1: Creating Tri-Faith America
Chapter 2: Tri-Faith America as Standard Operating Procedure
Chapter 3: Tri-Faith America in the early Cold War
Part II: The Effects of Tri-Faith America
Chapter 4: Communalism in a Time of Consensus: Postwar Suburbia
Chapter 5: A Secular Rationale for Separation: Public Schools in Tri-Faith America
Chapter 6: Choosing Our Identities: College Fraternities, Choice, and Group Rights
Chapter 7: Keeping Religion Private (and Off the U.S. Census)
Chapter 8: From Creed to Color: Softening the Ground for Civil Rights
Conclusion: The Return of Protestant America?
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