Readings in 20th Century American Religion (Summer 2015)

Approach and Goals

During the semester we will investigate the ways that historians have attempted to account for experience with and influence of religion in 20th century America. Needless to say, this will lead us to consider socio-economic status, gender, culture, belief, and politics. Given these goals, I suggest that we concentrate on answering a set of questions about the history and a set of questions about the methodology and historiography.


  • How do the historical actors in these texts go about the work of representing their religion and its significance to themselves and others? How do they see their world and their place in it?
  • How are power and authority negotiated in this context? What difference does religion make?
  • Do the historical actors more or less align themselves with a version of social roles that is based on claims of equality or difference? How does this impact their experience?

Method and Historiography

  • What is the methodological approach of the author? What are his/her assumptions about religion?
  • What is the scope of the research? What materials/elements have been excluded?
  • What is the significance of the work in the larger field of American religious history?
  • How does this work change our understanding of both religious history and the larger field of 20th century American history?
  • How does is this work in conversation with other texts in the field?


Week 1 (June 10): Class and Economics

  • Kruse, Kevin M. One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. New York: Basic Books, 2015.
  • Moreton, Bethany. To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise. 8.8.2010 edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Week 2 (June 16): Mainline and Liberal Protestantism

  • Coffman, Elesha J. The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  •  Hedstrom, Matthew. The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  •  Ruble, Sarah E. The Gospel of Freedom and Power: Protestant Missionaries in American Culture After World War II. Univ of North Carolina Pr, 2012.

Week 3 (June 23): Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

  • Sutton, Matthew Avery. American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2014.
  • Worthen, Molly. Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Week 4 (June 30): Religious Geographies

  • Orsi, Robert. The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950, Third Edition. 3 edition. New Haven, Conn. ; London: Yale University Press, 2010.
  • Winston, Diane. Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of The Salvation Army. New edition edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Week 5 (July 7): Judaism

  • Ariel, Yaakov. Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to Jews in America, 1880-2000. Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina Pr., 2000.
  •  Prell, Riv-Ellen. Fighting to Become Americans: Assimilation and the Trouble between Jewish Women and Jewish Men. 1 edition. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2000.

Week 6 (July 28): Catholicism

  • Cummings, Kathleen Sprows. New Women of the Old Faith: Gender and American Catholicism in the Progressive Era. The University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
  • Kane, Paula M. Sister Thorn and Catholic Mysticism in Modern America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

Week 7 (August 10): Culture and Lived Religion

  • Bivins, Jason C. Spirits Rejoice!: Jazz and American Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Wacker, Grant. Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003

Week 8 (August 18): Segregation, Civil Rights and African American Religion

  • Chappell, David L. A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina Pr., 2004.
  • Fones-Wolf, Ken, and Elizabeth A. Fones-Wolf. Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie. 1st Edition edition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.
  • Shattuck, Gardiner H. Episcopalians and Race: Civil War to Civil Rights. University Press of Kentucky, 2000.

Week 9 (August 25): West/Borderlands and Imperialism

  • Leon, Luis D. La Llorona’s Children: Religion, Life, and Death in the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands. Berkeley: U. of California Pr., 2004.
  • McCullough, Matthew. The Cross of War: Christian Nationalism and U.S. Expansion in the Spanish-American War. 1 edition. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.