One paragraph precis

October 26, 2005

I went ahead and did it.

Chapters 3 and 4 had covered the same story and the same years, with one looking at the common law, the other at benevolent organizations.

I smushed them together and then cut them apart chronologically, breaking in 1828. Chapter 3b now looks at the search for commonalities, chapter 4b looks at how the commonalities splintered when put into practice.

New precis below the fold.

One paragraph Precis
My dissertation, "Civil Religion, Religious Groups, and the Early American Republic" is about how Americans created a multi-denominational civil religion that could compel citizens to good behavior without coercing obedience to any state church. The founding generation were all Christians or post-Christian Deists who appealed to Providence but chose not to define the nation in religious terms. More, while several states defined themselves as Christian Republics, none maintained that identity for long. By the 1820s, Americans had turned to civil Providence, treating the Constitution as Scripture and promising each other that the nation would prosper if only it held to its founding documents. Presidents served as high priests of American civil religion, using public pronouncements to frame the issues of the day, and claiming that the test of a nation was its ability to secure the civil and religious liberty of its citizens. Meanwhile, many Americans claimed that the nation shared a common Christianity, which they located in benevolent organizations, the doctrine that Christianity was part of the common law, and the civic faith that enforced oaths and good behavior. This common Christianity splintered and fell apart after 1828 because of arguments over Sunday Mails, Masons, and even the words of the Bible. This splintering accelerated in the 1840s under the pressures of Catholic immigration and sectional disagreements over slavery. By the 1850s, Evangelicals, liberals, Catholics and the other major groups of American Christians gave up on trying to appeal to or even define a common Christianity and instead resolved to live in a fully pluralist nation. Religion mattered, but civil religion took precedence in public life.

Posted by Red Ted at October 26, 2005 12:24 PM | TrackBack