In light of the comments on my post on John Courtney Murray and John Ford, and Tim’s post on Rick Santorum’s Catholicism, I thought of all the various books I have read and read about and skimmed through having to do with the rise of the Christian Right. Having just completed a book that deals with debates over war among religious intellectuals, I realized how lopsided the scholarship seems to be on recent American religious history. And so, I have a query for our community: what books, essays, lectures capture this history of the religious LEFT since the 1970s?
Where is the historiography of the New Religious Left?
Let me provide some context for my question. I have referred in the past to a comment that Martin Marty made on Krista Tippet’s APM show (now called ‘Being’) in which he suggested that rarely had a religious group given up so much power with so little resistance as the liberal Protestant establishment had in the post-WWII period. Marty illustrated his point by explaining that when he began to write for the Christian Century in the late 1950s he was told to avoid saying much that was positive about Catholics, yet by the early 1960s, that editorial policy had been reversed as the U.S. slid into an ecumenical awakening. As Robert Wuthnow documented in his useful history, The Restructuring of American Religion, by the early 1970s, the liberal religious establishment no longer had coherence and in its wake a conservative surge had taken its place.
We have had many fine examples of scholarship on the rise of the New Christian Right, among such works are those by Dan Williams (a participant at the S-USIH conference), Bethany Moreton, Darren Dochuk, Lisa McGirr, Kim Phillips-Fein, Patrick Allitt, Michael Lienesch, and even Gary Wills, to name just a few. There are books by leaders of the Christian left–Stanley Hauerwas, Jim Wallis (pictured above being arrested), William Cavanaugh, Cornel West–that serve as examples of their critique of the right, of the nation-state, of war, but were are the historical assessments of their work? James Davison Hunter has recently produced a book, To Change the World, which I have not yet read and it seems to survey and critique Hauerwas’s position on issues of church and state interaction, but I consider Hunter as much a participant of the era he surveys as anything else.
Again, where are books about the religious left that are comparable to those on the religious right?