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date: 19 September 2017

Religion in Post-1945 America

Summary and Keywords

Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence Speech” of July 1979 was a critical juncture in post-1945 U.S. politics, but it also marks an exemplary pivot in post-1945 religion. Five dimensions of faith shaped the president’s sermon. The first concerned the shattered consensus of American religion. When Carter encouraged Americans to recapture a spirit of unity, he spoke in a heartfelt but spent language more suitable to Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency than his own. By 1979, the Protestant-Catholic-Jewish consensus of Eisenhower’s time was fractured into a dynamic pluralism, remaking American religion in profound ways. Carter’s speech revealed a second revolution of post-1945 religion when it decried its polarization and politicization. Carter sought to heal ruptures that were dividing the nation between what observers, two decades hence, would label “red” (conservative Republican) and “blue” (liberal Democratic) constituencies. Yet his endeavors failed, as would be evidenced in the religious politics of Ronald Reagan’s era, which followed. Carter championed community values as the answer to his society’s problems aware of yet a third dawning reality: globalization. The virtues of localism that Carter espoused were in fact implicated in (and complicated by) transnational forces of change that saw immigration, missionary enterprises, and state and non-state actors internationalizing the American religious experience. A fourth illuminating dimension of Carter’s speech was its critique of America’s gospel of wealth. Although this “born-again” southerner was a product of the evangelical South’s revitalized free-market capitalism, he lamented how laissez-faire Christianity had become America’s lingua franca. Finally, Carter wrestled with secularization, revealing a fifth feature of post-1945 America. Even though faith commitments were increasingly cordoned off from formal state functions during this time, the nation’s political discourse acquired a pronounced religiosity. Carter contributed by framing mundane issues (such as energy) in moral contexts that drew no hard-and-fast boundaries between matters of the soul and governance. Drawn from the political and economic crises of his moment, Carter’s speech thus also reveals the all-enveloping tide of religion in America’s post-1945 age.

Keywords: charismatic/neo-Pentecostal movement, civil religion, crisis of confidence/malaise speech, culture wars, Dwight Eisenhower, Evangelicalism, Jimmy Carter, Judeo Christian/Judeo Christianity, nones, pluralism (religious), religious right, secularization/secularism, Second Vatican Council, Tri-Faith America

On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter spoke to Americans in somber tones. Sitting rigidly at an oversized desk, gazing at viewers with worried eyes, Carter beseeched citizens to live more meaningful lives. Carter had originally planned to talk about the energy problem but instead focused on the nation’s “crisis of confidence.” “As I was preparing to speak,” he explained, “I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. . . . It’s clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper—deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession.” Ours is a crisis, he added, clenched fists tapping the desk, “that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will . . . We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and political fabric of America.”1

Carter offered reasons for the nation’s maladies and two possible responses. Regarding the former, he cited several concerns: an apathetic citizenry that no longer cared about voting, a workforce that no longer took pride in its labor, pervasive hopelessness that dampened people’s initiative, and an overriding selfishness that made personal satisfaction—not the common good—an ultimate end. “In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God,” the president summarized, “too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.” What was the answer to the problem? Americans faced two paths, Carter proclaimed, one that would take them into a deeper state of “fragmentation and self-interest,” a second that would guide them back to “common purpose and the restoration of American values.” He beseeched his audience to follow him on that second path. “With God’s help and for the sake of our nation,” he concluded prayerfully, “it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.”2

Carter wanted his “Crisis of Confidence Speech” (also known as “The Malaise Speech”) to be a turning point in the nation’s political life. It became that, but not entirely in ways he anticipated. At the heart of the issue was the oil crisis, yet a bundle of other political impulses weighed just as heavily on the president as he sought to nudge the nation from one existence to another. As David Horowitz writes, Carter’s homily was “the most important national address of his single-term presidency” because it encapsulated virtually all of the political touchstones of the era in one discursive flourish. “Energy consumption and conservation, presidential leadership, the connection between religion and politics, the relationship between the White House and Congress, the trade-off between economic growth and protection of the environment, and the transformation of the major political parties”: all of these were in play. Adding fuel to this political fire were equally vexing international developments that were forcing the White House to rethink its policies toward the Soviet Union and Middle East, on matters of humanitarianism and security, and in response to Islamic fundamentalism and a world no longer easily commanded by U.S. interests.3

Consumed by these worries, the nation did indeed turn toward a new future, one that would ultimately leave the president behind. Following his televised plea, Carter made a second gesture toward change, this one more jarring. In the days that followed the speech, Carter’s approval ratings soared; Americans, it seemed, had welcomed his tough love. Yet the favorable bump was short-lived and quickly negated by a new string of bad publicity. Carter contributed to the boomerang effect by carrying out a drastic reorganization of his own cabinet, which created a sense of accelerating chaos rather than optimism that things were improving. In a stunning move, the president asked some of his closest advisors to submit their letters of resignation. As word of the shakeup spread, Americans started to think once again that Carter’s leadership was scattered, his vision too abstract and absent of clear goals. By the end of July, merely two weeks after the speech, Carter’s approval rating had dropped below its prespeech level, to a point lower even than Richard Nixon’s at the moment of his resignation in 1974. For the next eighteen months, exacerbated by continued economic challenges and the Iran hostage crisis, Carter’s prospects for a second term grew grim, so too his chances to create a new political culture. In the 1980 election, Carter’s dreams withered in the face of the fantasies offered by his competitor, Ronald Reagan. In January of 1981, as Carter vacated the White House, Reagan entered, armed with a very different vision, one drained of the kind of self-criticism evidenced in the crisis of confidence address. With his buoyant optimism, the cowboy conservative from the West inaugurated a new age in U.S. politics, completing a turn that his predecessor helped encapsulate and, in no small measure, accelerate.4

Delivered in the late 1970s, at nearly the exact halfway point between the cessation of World War II and America’s passage into the 21st century, Carter’s malaise speech not only served as a pivot—real and illustrative—in the political life of the nation, but marked a key transition in its religious dynamics as well. When approached as a sermon as much as a speech, Carter’s televised plea can indeed be highlighted as the last gasp of one dispensation in sacred America and the striking onset of another. Five particularly crucial dimensions of faith in modern America, all of which shaped Carter’s prophetic utterances in July 1979, deserve closer scrutiny in broader chronologies of change over time.

Shattered Consensus

The first of these historical dimensions is the shattered consensus of post-1945 U.S. religion. When Carter encouraged Americans to recapture a spirit of unity he spoke in a religiously inflected language befitting the era of Dwight Eisenhower, yet one that no longer held traction in 1979. By this juncture the much-touted Protestant-Catholic-Jewish consensus of the 1950s had fragmented into a dynamic pluralism, which thanks to the proliferation of new spiritual practices and movements of dissent would completely recalibrate U.S. religion by century’s end.

The speed with which centrifugal forces decentered postwar religion is indeed striking when one considers the homogeneity of churchly identity and purpose that characterized the nation in the immediate postwar years—that period when Carter came of age. As Cold War struggles with the Soviet Union surfaced, and as Americans burdened with existential uncertainties about communism and the nuclear threat focused more intently on the secure community life that a postwar economic boom allowed, religion assumed fresh importance as a societal bond. America, one could say fairly, was awash in a sea of faith during the 1950s.

Statistics bore this out. Church membership increased substantially at this time, with Protestants, Catholics, and Jews all boasting dramatic gains. For instance, between 1945 and 1949, the Southern Baptist Convention saw a growth of 300,000 members, much of it coming in California and the Midwest, regions to which Southern Baptists had moved for wartime employment. Catholics, meanwhile, baptized 1,000,000 infants a year, while Methodism grew more rapidly in the half decade after war than at any point since the mid-1920s. By 1950, Protestant and Jewish seminary enrollment had doubled prewar totals, and Catholic schools were registering similar increases. Polling of individuals revealed other evidences of a postwar revival. Surveys found that two out of three Americans attended religious services at least once a month, nineteen out of twenty believed in God, nine out of ten prayed regularly, six out of seven saw the Bible as God’s word, and three out of four believed in a life beyond death. In each sector of organized religion, remarkable upswings and intensity were thus the norm, confidence that America would be God-fearing in the years to come a near-universal trait.5

Such confidence was not based on statistical upswings alone; politics played a crucial role as well, and in that regard no one was more instrumental than America’s president. Upon entering the White House in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower was confirmed in the Presbyterian Church, striking for a man raised outside the religious mainstream. Amid the fight with “atheistic communism,” everyone, he believed, needed to commit to citizenship attuned to the divine. Famously, he stated that “America itself makes no sense without a deeply held faith in God—and I don’t care what it is.” Eisenhower’s quip was an attempt to legitimize a Judeo-Christian value system as foundational to the United States. At a moment when a moral center was desperately needed, the moderate Eisenhower took bold steps to draw once-marginalized traditions such as Catholicism and Judaism into a “Tri-Faith” consensus. To be sure, the Protestant establishment still held center ground under this wider canopy of religious acceptance, but just as striking was the considerable authority now afforded Catholics and Jews. This is what led sociologist Will Herberg to write his treatise on 1950s America, Protestant-Catholic-Jew. Critical of the way Eisenhower’s civil religion drained faith traditions of their authenticity by stressing general commonalities at the expense of theological specificity and rigor, Herberg nevertheless highlighted how once-at-odds faith communities were together creating a creed called the “American way of life.” Watered-down or not, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism, Herberg acknowledged, were ascendant as America’s collective conscience and mode of existence.6

Just how ascendant is a question historians have revisited recently, in part to make sense of where American religion and politics stand today. What has emerged from illuminating books by Kevin Schultz, Jonathan Herzog, Kevin Kruse, and others is a compelling portrait of Eisenhower America that foregrounds the substantive role that religion played in framing its citizenry’s terms of identity and moral and political purpose and informing the nation’s fight with communism and atheism. As Kruse shows, among those eager to help Eisenhower cloak America in Christian nationhood were corporate leaders who feared socialism’s undermining of their authority. With their assistance, and the counsel of well-known clerics like Billy Graham, Eisenhower’s administration inserted “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, placed “In God We Trust” on currency, and formed the National Prayer Breakfast as a gathering of Washington’s elite. Eisenhower’s “triple melting pot” was in this way a product of political calculation, a conclusion that Herzog and Schultz draw in subtler degrees. The genius of this well-orchestrated agenda, Herzog asserts, was not that it was simply imposed top-down, but that it infused political culture in almost indecipherable ways. Eisenhower’s “spiritual-industrial complex” succeeded because it articulated America’s loftiest goal to fight communism as a natural extension of society’s “spiritual development” and quest for the ethical and true. Hence sacralizing the Cold War—not simply waging it—was the key to victory. With all of this Schultz agrees, yet he also paints the Eisenhower consensus as something that was reinforced by those whose welcome into the mainstream was so historic. Catholic and Jewish citizens assumed ownership of the Tri-Faith ideal and via court action and local activism ensured its wide reach. Through their labor in organizations such as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, “Protestant America” was transformed into “Judeo-Christian America.”7

If embedded in American public consciousness by the late 1950s, this Judeo-Christian ideal was faltering by the time Carter delivered his speech. Why? As Schultz demonstrates, two reasons for Tri-Faith America’s decline relate to the ideal’s open-endedness. First, by justifying legal action on behalf of religious pluralism, Tri-Faith advocates in fact paved the way for the courts to dismantle religious privilege altogether (by outlawing school prayer, for instance) and heightening the wall of separation between church and state. Indeed, many Judeo-Christian proponents of the 1950s entered the 1970s certain that Washington needed to refrain from propping up any requisite of faith, even the most generic. This shift toward a formal secularism was paralleled by a transition from “creed to color” as the nation’s political focus. By the 1970s, after a decade of activism led by black clerics like Martin Luther King Jr., whose reformist agenda stemmed from mid-century Judeo-Christian values of inclusion, justice, and brotherhood, the crusade for racial tolerance eventually came to trump religious tolerance as the nation’s priority. Moreover, by then, civil rights crusaders, some more radical and less religious than King, had heightened Americans’ sense that diversity, personal freedom, and group rights, not assimilation and consensus, were society’s highest ideals.8

This counter-establishment impulse only grew more intense in the wake of the 1960s upheaval and the Watergate crisis, leading to other factors in Tri-Faith America’s demise. One was the dismantling of Eisenhower’s spiritual-industrial complex in the nation’s pews. Due to the counter-cultural pressures of the 1960s, the religious establishment faced a new era of statistical decline, one that contrasted sharply with its condition during the immediate postwar years. By the early 1970s, pollsters were charting swift drops in the membership of the mainline religions. Between 1965 and 1985, for instance, the United Methodist church lost 2 million members, receding from 11 to 9 million total—an average loss of one hundred adherents per day. Once celebrated as the heart of the “American way of life,” Methodism and its peer denominations now faced criticism by a young, dissenting generation for being coercive, and the prospects of their utter collapse.9

Meanwhile, a range of grassroots movements emerged within longstanding Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish communities, spurred on by the democratizing urges of the period. One of the most striking evidences of this impulse at work stemmed from the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), which empowered the laity and brought parochial interests (such as the desire for English-spoken mass) to bear on the life of the Catholic Church. Out of this Catholic revolution emerged a new generation of devotees eager to adjust the Church’s practices to their liking and modern needs. This spirit of innovation, moreover, flowed between Catholic and Protestant constituencies, fusing faith communities in the process. By the 1970s, new phenomena such as the charismatic movement (or “neo-Pentecostalism”) were drawing Protestants and Catholics together in emotive religious practice. Less interested in institutional structures than individual devotion, this loosely coordinated movement, numbering an estimated 29 million people by the early 1980s, truly captured the spirit of the age.10

This age was also one of chronic fragmentation, suggesting an additional reason for Tri-Faith America’s collapse. According to Daniel Rodgers, in the post-1960s “age of fracture,” Americans lost the capacity to conceptualize “society and the self” in big-picture terms. What may have begun as a revolt against the conformity of Cold War America by the 1980s had morphed into an entirely different insurgency, a scattered one far less concerned with any type of civil society, less able to marshal shared intellectual resources for the common good, and far more captivated by the arbitrary desires of the self. Contemporary critics reported on such trends. Much as Will Herberg did for 1950s America, Robert Bellah placed his finger on 1980s America’s pulse when he published the foundational study Habits of the Heart (1985). In this text he described a very different America, one defined by highly individualistic and privatistic practices of faith. In the book’s most illustrative offering, Bellah reported an interview with a woman named Sheila, whose admissions of self-made religion provided the book’s synopsis. “I believe in God,” she offered; “I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice.” Sheilaism, Bellah suggested, was the new American mainline faith.11

Jimmy Carter’s plea for a spirit of unity thus faced insurmountable odds. The dreams of “one nation under God” that he continued to possess were products of yesteryear, a time at mid-century when he himself—a Protestant son of the Protestant-dominant South—could feel comfortable in the familiar environs of a churchgoing crowd. To be sure, Carter welcomed society’s diversification. As a progressive Baptist with liberal political convictions, he did not merely welcome it: he helped nurture it through policies of inclusion, which he began implementing in the early 1970s while serving as governor of Georgia and as a Christian believer who accepted the changes affecting his own faith tradition (Ruth Carter Stapleton, his sister, was one of charismatic Christianity’s most ardent evangelists). Yet the homogeneities of the Eisenhower era were hard for him to let go, so too the illusions of harmony among God-fearing citizens. As much as he yearned for Eisenhower’s consensus, his was a very different sacred milieu, a decentered and heterogeneous one that made American religion a patchwork of alternatives rather than a melting pot of shared belief.

Polarization and Politicization

Carter’s fruitless evocation of consensus points to a second related dimension of post-1945 religion: the polarization and politicization of modern American religion. As much as his nation was splintering into many factions, it was also regathering itself in rigid political camps, and with more intent using faith to spur political mobilization on both sides of the spectrum.

To be sure, America’s politics has never been completely drained of faith; nor has the church ever stayed quiet on matters of the state. Writing in the 1820s, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the degree to which U.S. politics was infused with otherworldly fervor. “Upon my arrival in the United States,” the French sojourner mused, “the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things . . . Religion in America,” he concluded, “must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country.” What this philosopher noted as a peculiar feature of the United States other public intellectuals and commentaries would eventually take for granted. Especially in the last half of the 20th century, pundits looking out at the electoral landscape were mesmerized but hardly surprised by how much leverage the church and church folk continued to wield at the polls.12

Still, Carter’s speech came at a time when American religion was beginning to animate politics in acutely divisive ways. True, the ramping up of religious politicking was not simply a U.S. phenomenon. Even as Carter looked in on the living rooms of America, he pondered the violence playing out in developing regions around the world, where religious fundamentalisms of various kind were triggering revolts by the people against elites, locals against foreign powers, and devout Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and their clerical classes against the “secular” ways of the modern west. Orchestrated by the Ayatollah Khomeini and radicalized Islamic students, the Iranian hostage crisis, already brewing during the summer of Carter’s malaise, would be but one clear global manifestation of political religion. But Carter’s greatest clash with politically charged religionists came at home over issues that were fueling a “culture war” that would have profound and lasting effects on his body politic.

The irony is that Carter’s own faith tradition played an especially important role in this battle royal. Raised in rural Georgia, Carter was also reared in his local Baptist church. “I accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized into the church at eleven,” he recounted later in life; “That was kind of a normal evolution.” Carter’s subsequent progressions were anything but normal, however; by the early 1970s, the churchman-statesman was more outspoken about his “born-again” faith than any high-profile politician had dared to be. During his years as governor of Georgia he regularly declared: “I’m a peanut farmer and a Christian; I’m a father, and I am a Christian. I am a business man and a Christian. I am a politician and a Christian . . . The single most important factor in my own life is Jesus Christ.” Though genuine, Carter’s proclamations were also politically driven. When approaching the 1976 presidential election, he wanted it known that his religious values were legitimate, his fellow evangelicals a rising force for whom he wanted to speak. As Randall Balmer recounts, Carter was “looking for the religious vote” thus “frequently invoked the vocabulary of evangelicalism . . . I’m a born-again Christian,” he repeated to the national press, “and I don’t want anything that’s not God’s will for my life.”13

Carter’s evangelicalism helped him win the White House, but his was a devil’s bargain. His wooing of evangelicals and role in raising their confidence as a voting bloc ultimately contributed to his demise. During his first two years in office, Carter’s political views grew distant from those of a rising conservatism that was becoming so dominant in evangelical pews. As Balmer observes, Carter “embraced the principles of progressive evangelicalism” and the social justice elements of the faith that he associated with scripture. As a result, and by virtue of his leadership in a liberal Democratic Party, Carter’s relationship with fellow born-again Christians grew strained. Touchstone issues like feminism, gay rights, and abortion, all of which placed him to the left of his peers, made the strain unmanageable. In 1980, Carter’s faith failed him. For the first of many presidential elections to come, a majority of evangelicals threw their support behind a GOP candidate who spoke in favor of a decidedly right-wing agenda. Henceforth evangelicals would form the backbone of the ascendant Republican Right.14

The struggles that made Carter’s presidency such a political turning point were about much more than the man himself. One of the liveliest subfields of post-1945 history has been the study of the post-1960s culture wars. Two sociologists were the first to identify this conflict. In 1988, Robert Wuthnow published The Restructuring of American Religion: Society and Faith Since World War II, which showed that religious citizens were no longer congregating in denominations but in “special purpose associations”—cross-denominational organizations structured by shared interests along liberal–conservative lines. These competing civil religions, Wuthnow explained, were steadfast in opposition to each other and in their opposing views of governance; while one (liberal) applauded more state power, the other (conservative) abhorred it. For Wuthnow, American religion was politically polarized beyond any easy repair. James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (1991) extended Wuthnow’s thesis by claiming that the current political hostilities stemmed from “different systems of moral understanding.” Rather than identify as “Catholic” or “Protestant”—or along denominational lines—citizens coalesced around worldviews that Hunter labeled “orthodox” (committed to “an external, definable, and thus transcendent authority”) and “progressive” (eager to “resymbolize historic faiths according to the prevailing assumptions of contemporary life”). Reproduction, sexuality and gender, media and the arts, education, church–state relations—these flashpoints, expressed in ultimate terms, separated civil society into two bitterly and unavoidably opposite parts. Wuthnow and Hunter’s renderings helped frame the defining paradigm for late-20th-century society. “For a period of about two decades [the 1980s and 1990s],” Andrew Hartman observes, “the culture wars, like a vortex, swallowed up much of American political and intellectual life.”15

Hardly immune to culture war obsessions, historians have built on Wuthnow and Hunter’s thesis by contextualizing recent tensions in broader, nuanced narratives—three in particular. The first illumines the rise and fall of the Georgian peanut farmer-turned-president and the rise of the Californian actor-turned-politician who succeeded him, in regional terms. Steven Miller, Darren Dochuk, and others attribute Carter and Reagan’s contrasting fortunes to the emergence of the “Sunbelt South,” the crescent of spectacular post–World War II economic growth stretching from Los Angeles to Atlanta. By the 1970s the Sunbelt South was the powerhouse of the U.S. economy, yet up for grabs politically. Carter’s presidency marked the short-lived aspirations of the post–Jim Crow, southern Democratic Party, Reagan the victory of the Sunbelt-based GOP. Evangelicalism, itself transformed into a southern-led movement, played an outsized role in the mobilization of this region’s resources for Reagan, then George W. Bush. A related thread modulates the southernness and newness of the post-1970s Religious Right, yet reaffirms the indelible connections between church and partisanship that made the GOP “God’s own party.” According to Daniel Williams, from the 1920s forward, a national evangelical constituency saw the GOP as an extension of itself, the surest mechanism for making traditional theologies count in the public sphere. The symmetry that evangelicalism has long enjoyed with the Republican Party is something Matthew Avery Sutton explores in his study of apocalyptic thought. Like Williams, Sutton stresses the deeply embedded ideological ties that have made the GOP home for evangelicals, but in his eyes it is eschatology and specifically premillennialism (a belief that Christ will soon return) that has served as the glue.16

Running parallel but also working in concert with these emphases on region and partisan politics is a cultural analysis that places the home and hearth at the heart of the story. Marie Griffith, Seth Dowland, Neil Young, and their peers prove that struggles to defend orthodox gender norms and “proper” roles of men and women, assert custodial control over marriage, and combat alternative moral conceptualizations of these domestic domains have always driven the Religious Right’s political agenda. To be a culture warrior in the late 20th century was to wage battle on behalf of the unborn, households headed by strong husbands and submissive wives, sex inside marriage between a man and a woman, and against any encroachment by the “liberal state” (be it through passage of the Equal Rights Amendment [ERA] or legislative support for gay rights and abortion). This potent “family values” political agenda is what allowed evangelicals and conservative Catholic and Mormon allies to band together against the liberal, Democratic, side. As Anthony Petro demonstrates in his look at religion and the AIDS crisis, the family values agenda remained resilient, but also flexible enough to allow the GOP’s warriors to ready their moral politics for the new millennium.17

So it is that Jimmy Carter, a man who proclaimed support for family values and traditional evangelical faith, succumbed to the culture wars waged unceasingly by his fellow believers. In one of the sharpest ironies of Carter’s presidential tenure, his support of the White House’s “Conference on Families” (held in the summer of 1980) helped guarantee his failure. Meant as a venue for citizens to address concerns with American home life, the conference played out as a feud between feminists and “pro-family” conservatives who worried that Carter’s intent was to redefine family life in loose, liberal terms (allowing for unmarried and homosexual couples) with greater allowances for state intervention. Led by anti-ERA leader Phyllis Schlafly, the “pro-family” crusaders refused to compromise. “There’s got to be a strong outcry against this,” one activist announced. “The executive power is not being checked.” Schlafly and her allies determined to act, not just speak on this point. Their strongest statement was made via the ballot in fall of 1980; Carter heard their cries, and suffered the consequences.18

Shocks of the Global

Hurt by the politicization of religion, a third feature of religious life in post-1945 America—shocks of the global—raised as many opportunities for Carter as challenges.19 When he delivered his crisis of confidence speech he implored Americans to exploit the virtues of the local. “The strength we need will not come from the White House,” he claimed, “but from every house in America.” Yet the local institutions (church, community, family) that Carter celebrated were tied up in global forces of change, and U.S. religion as a whole felt the effects. Even as world religions came to the United States by way of immigration, U.S. religion engaged the world through missionary and philanthropic endeavors, state and corporate activities, and the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In this exchange, American religion was enlivened and redefined by universal trends.

This redefining was precipitated by the demographic revolution brought on by immigration. Thanks to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished the national origins quotas that had been operational since the 1920s, Americans welcomed new migrants from new shores. Especially dramatic was the arrival of people from Asia, many of whom eagerly graphed their non-Western Judeo-Christian faiths onto U.S. soil. Mosques, temples, stupas, and gurdwaras dotted the landscape with a striking density that proved religious diversity was the nation’s new reality. As Diana Eck writes of this transformation, what once was heralded in the 1950s as a Protestant-Catholic-Jewish nation had, by the late 1970s, become a hotbed of “Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh” religiosity and a testing site for spiritualities of different intensity and flavor.20

Immigration did indeed transform American religion in the 1970s, making Carter’s era an awakening in multicultural faith. Between 1974 and 2000, the influx of people from non-Western European centers of the world steadily chipped away at the Protestant dominance once taken for granted. The percentage of Americans who claimed Protestant Christianity as their faith tradition dropped from 64.3 to 50.4 percent by the end of the century, while the percentage of Catholics stayed even at 25 percent. Meanwhile, though small, the total percentage of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other non-Christian faiths grew impressively, rising from 0.5 percent in 1974 to 8 percent by the century’s end. But it was not simply numbers that imposed a shift on America’s religious landscape. Even those who moved to the United States as Christians did so ready to recast this majority religion according to their own styles and practices. Charismatic Christianity experienced its boom during Carter’s day in part because of its ties to the Pentecostal fervor that linked Protestants in South, Central, and North America. Meanwhile, Latin American influences like liberation theology, which espoused Marxian critiques of capitalism, made their way into North American Catholicism, and in varying degree diversified (and divided) local parishes.21

These transmitted teachings meshed easily with the democratic flourishes of the period. Although culture-war political divisions were a major feature of faith and politics at this time, religious decentralization was every bit as essential to American society’s next steps. As historian George Marsden observes, one of the major manifestations of era “was the presence of a bewildering myriad of new religions that blossomed especially in the 1960s and 1970s and were a major established feature of the American scene by the 1980s.” “Sheilaism” may have enjoyed prominence in the 1980s, but it operated beside countless other countercultural spiritual commitments that drew support from the new immigrant religions and blended them with homegrown holiness. Zen, the Unification Church, Hare Krishna, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Spiritualism, Scientology, Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, and Rastafarianism: these “New Age” religions captured their share of attention amid the transnational flows of the time. Experimental, experiential, and expressive in orientation, they spoke to the needs and desires of an American populace thrust out of comfortable conventions by globalization.22

The shocks of the global were realized in other ways as well and during the last quarter of the century launched U.S. religious culture into a very different epoch. During the 1970s, and accelerating through the 1980s into the 1990s, missionary agencies and parachurch ministries aligned with evangelicalism turned with increased interest to worldwide humanitarian service as an outlet for Christian action. As David King writes with respect to World Vision, the largest evangelical relief and development agency to emerge in the post–World War II era, many conservative Protestants appropriated a “holistic gospel” that heralded “social action” in a quest to eradicate world poverty, fight AIDS, and bring health supplies in addition to Bibles to undeveloped countries. In doing so they helped create a vision of “evangelical internationalism” that self-consciously transcended the sectarianism and culture war politics of the domestic scene in favor of a “practical ecumenism” that promoted worldwide connection and cooperation.23

Evangelicals were, in a sense, merely integrating themselves in a wider phenomenon of humanitarian activism. Able to wield “soft power” outside formal diplomacy, NGOs helped make these impulses important to Americans. As Sarah Snyder writes, after the Helsinki Final Act, signed by Western governments and the Soviet Union in 1975, numerous transnational human rights networks emerged ready to lobby policies that guaranteed the protection of minority rights and freedoms (including religious freedom) in compliant nations and encourage reforms in societies where human rights were regularly abused. Andrew Preston notes that religious advocates from across the Protestant-Catholic-Jewish spectrum took the lead in ensuring large bodies such as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Council of Churches, and United Nations translated the spirit of humanitarianism into expansive programs of justice. “By promoting the cause of universal human rights,” he writes, “American Christians accepted the premise that people everywhere were bound by a common morality.” These devotees sought blessings in return: they “believed that the pursuit of justice nationally and internationally was reciprocal, that the promotion of liberty would see American democracy influenced and improved by people from abroad.” Of course, not all Americans appreciated universal humanitarianism completely; some conservatives viewed the initiative cynically, through a culture-war lens, as yet another extension of state power, or skeptically as a broad-scale operation that overlooked the essence of reform: the need to promote personal redemption. Whatever their preference, by end of the century and beginning of the next, when genocide in Kosovo, Rwanda, and Darfur demanded united action, international humanitarianism was a doctrine shared in remarkable measure by all.24

Recent histories of religion and the ricochets of a connected world have added yet another important qualifier to renderings of the recent past: notions of universalism were multi-lateral and flowed in multiple directions. Indeed, as much as predominantly white American Protestants, Catholics, and Jews started viewing the world as theirs to influence through assistance and aid, non-Western, non–Judeo-Christian Americans also laid claim to the new borderless world. Starting in the 1950s and accelerating into the 1980s, amid violent movements of national independence in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, religiously informed calls for universal brotherhood reverberated on all shores. Even as American missionaries and nongovernmental agencies penetrated distant societies with their doctrines of development, they were met with equally powerful voices for change that emanated from Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism and through media and migration made their way to America. As Edward Curtis demonstrates, the 1960s civil rights movement was itself shaped by Muslim impulses in the Middle East and a desire by many black Americans to be invested in a global Islamism. In subsequent years, blacks in the United States would continue to forge these international flows of Muslim faith, with notable appreciation of diversity and difference within their own ranks. “Greater transnational ties between African American Muslims and Muslims abroad,” Curtis writes, “have led to an even larger variety of Islamic religious expression in black America.”25

Even as President Carter delivered his crisis of confidence speech, then, and highlighted local virtues as a way forward, cross-flows of international faith-based service to which he himself subscribed were penetrating America. Indeed, if his speech marked his presidency’s nadir, the Camp David Accords, which he orchestrated with Israel and Egypt a year before, marked its apex. This is because it drew on his devotion to humanitarianism and the need to organize America’s role in the world around this universal endeavor. Carter’s quest to attach human rights to U.S. diplomacy would ultimately fail him while the “real politics” of a rising, hawkish neoconservatism—officially, at least—won the day. But as evidenced in his postpresidential career, Carter saw ultimate fulfillment and success in his role as champion of cooperation across borders of difference. Amid the crisis of the late 1970s, Carter accentuated local values as the source of salvation; thereafter his vision of redemption became explicitly global in scale.

Gospels of Wealth

A fourth dimension of religious life in post-1945 period was systemic to the globalization, politicization, and shattered consensus of American religion: new, emerging gospels of wealth. As much as he decried the mass consumption and materialism of his age, Carter was forced to play by the rules of a volatile marketplace. Carter’s warnings in this sense elided inconsistencies, for this born-again politician was himself a product of a “born-again” free-market capitalism that had awakened his beloved South and its Baptist entrepreneurialism, transformed laissez-faire Christianity into the new lingua franca of modern America, and synchronized church and commerce with the functions and demands of the postindustrial economy.

To be fair, Carter could not see the fiscal revolutions of his age through a wide enough lens, or with the benefit of hindsight: his own thinking as chief manager of the nation was very much clouded by his desperate grappling with a chaotic global economy in the throes of transition. His crisis of confidence speech was itself a desperate response to energy shortages but also the economic problems that produced them and plagued the nation: stagflation, debt, currency crises, de-industrialization, declining labor, and broken money markets. As Charles Maier writes, “the seventies brought visible breaks in the trend lines and shattered some of the complacent or naïve assumptions that had taken hold” in previous decades; Carter just happened to be at the controls when the dam broke. With the knowledge he possessed, the president tried to fix things, yet his solutions could not ease America’s transition from one economic system (industrial, Keynesian) to the next (postindustrial, free market). With some foresight, Carter designated Paul Volcker to head the Federal Reserve in 1979. Volcker would go on to serve Ronald Reagan in the same position and by the mid-1980s guide the national economy out of its doldrums by attacking inflation and debt. But amid America’s malaise in the 1970s, Carter’s assignment of Volcker seemed like just another last-gasp effort to stem the tide of fiscal ruin.26

At the micro-level, Carter’s answers to economic struggle stemmed from his Baptist bootstrap notions of money and his notions of Christian stewardship that highlighted frugality over extravagance. He came honestly to this pocketbook philosophy. Raised in relatively poor environs, surrounded by Christians with a puritanical bent, Carter saw saving and thrift as the way to godliness. Despite his place in the White House, now surrounded by the nation’s elite, he held tight to this thinking and spoke about it in several of his official speeches. His crisis of confidence speech certainly embodied these ideas, but so too did the energy address and accompanying legislative package that he delivered two years before in April 1977. Coming soon after assuming control of the White House, this speech presented a special opportunity for the president to open his era with a clear take on the conditions that worried the nation. It was a moral one that said Americans needed to face their dire circumstances of oil shortages and failing energy head-on, stamp out waste, button up the sweaters, and turn down the thermostat. His Depression-era, southern-bred parents could not have said it any better.27

Yet in this mode, too, Carter was out of touch with his times. Delivered with the combination of an “engineer’s rationality and a Baptist’s morality,” Carter’s message fell flat, in part because it was countered by another philosophy that was on the rise. Asked to offer a formal response to Carter’s 1977 energy speech, Michigan Republican Congressman David Stockman more than critiqued the president’s sermon; he eviscerated it. As Daniel Horowitz observes, Stockman “dissented from many of the premises of Carter’s speech.” In the first place, he disagreed with Carter that the energy crisis was as unusually dire as stated, that overreliance on oil was to blame, and that the federal government needed to step up to provide better planning. In the second place, he insisted that the solution to any problems was the “power of unfettered global markets to provide abundant energy.” Countering Carter’s “emphasis on stewardship, morality, and a comprehensive program,” Stockman highlighted “the ability of free markets to solve complicated problems such as those surrounding the provision of a steady flow of energy to the nation.” Whereas Carter looked back in time for ready-made solutions to financial crisis (save more, spend less, correct with diligence), Stockman saw the new economy for what it was: globally interconnected and free flowing, beyond government’s easy or (he believed) necessary grasp.28

As Carter came to learn, Stockman’s vision, not his own, represented the world economy’s next steps: despite his best efforts, American society was not as interested in buttoning up the sweater and holding tight to puritan teachings as it was in letting go, riding the waves of massive economic change, and enjoying the prospects of individual prosperity in an age of tumult and sharp transition. Carter, one could say, was a man who embodied Max Weber’s typology of the modern, bureaucratic, technocrat who managed money and functioned in the market out of logics of quiet efficiency and slow, steady gain. Yet between the 1970s and 1980s, Weber’s type gave way to a different economic scheme in which speculative capitalism, deregulation, the laissez-faire quest for sudden, spectacular gains, and spiritual enchantment with mammon characterized global trends. This new spirit of capitalism represented a boon for particular forms of religion and for the American market itself as the world shifted quickly and dramatically from a liberal and industrial to neoliberal and postindustrial political economy. Carter’s faith and politics were caught at the juncture.

Historians have written extensively about the conditions that Carter faced as he contemplated American religion and political economy’s rapid transformations. Bethany Moreton, Kate Bowler, and Kathryn Lofton are among those who have explored the religious dynamics of these transformations, tracing the macro- and micro-level changes that overwhelmed Americans in the Carter era and transformed America’s marketplaces of faith and finances into strictly free-market zones. Moreton’s is a stellar corporate history of the dominating corporate entity in the late 20th century. Through inspection of Wal-Mart and its fifty-year transformation from founder Sam Walton’s modest discount store to the mega-store of recent times, she shows how the evangelical entrepreneurialism of “Wal-Mart Country” (Missouri and Arkansas) spawned a movement of free enterprise business, labor, gender, and philanthropic practices that came to define the Sunbelt South. From out of the laissez-faire zone of this region arose a philosophy that provided justification for a postindustrial, “pro-family” conservative economic and political outlook that would transform the nation, then the globe. Whereas Moreton wonders how “faith in God and faith in the market grew in tandem” within Wal-Mart corporate culture, Bowler asks how this pairing flourished in the pews in the years after Wal-Mart’s ascent. In both white and black churches, many Americans have long considered material well-being a “blessing” from God and a sign of spiritual health. In the late 20th century, Bowler explains, this impulse turned into a hard-and-fast “prosperity gospel.” Sparked by numerous high-profile mega-church ministers, many of them rooted in communities comprised of African Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups, prosperity-gospel teachings proclaimed wealth as a gift offered by God to those with exceeding faith. Holistic in its attention to every aspect of life in the here and now, “prosperity theology,” Bowler observes, “turned to the cross as the solution to all human needs. Jesus’s death and resurrection abolished not only sin and disease but also poverty.” Gestating in Carter’s day, this gospel spread like wildfire through American evangelicalism’s ranks in the years that followed and, with the help of earnest believers who saw the economic tumult of their moment best addressed through personal quest to pray for and claim prosperity on one’s own terms, across the world. No mere sectarian eccentricity, this gospel of self-realization, Lofton suggests in her study of Oprah Winfrey’s media empire, was synchronized to a broader spiritual revolution of marketplace dynamics in the postmodern age. What Oprah did is seize on universal longings of advanced capitalist societies and their consumers to find sacred meaning and the divine amid the violent unsettledness of deregulated, decentered, free-for-all economics.29

Cut from the cloth of plain-folk modesty, Jimmy Carter could hardly fathom let alone embrace the prosperity gospels that swirled around him as he tried to right the failing U.S. economy. Even as preachers and parishioners within his own evangelical tradition scoured the New Testament for promises of health and wealth, the president held firm to a gospel of restraint that seemed more Old Testament in its muted tone. Carter’s faith and politics of money were, in this way, better suited to a worldview that by 1979 seemed antiquated and irrelevant.

Paradoxes of the Secular

Carter’s struggle to synchronize his faith and politics with the fiscal happenings of his time, yet refusal to quit talking about structural matters like economics in spiritual terms, reveal yet a fifth dimension of post-1945 American religion: the paradoxes of the secular. Carter’s crisis of confidence speech indeed illustrates the thinning and uncertain divide between “sacred” and “secular” that perplexed his fellow citizens. While Carter himself held to principles of religious disestablishment, his homily framed mundane issues in moral and political expression that drew no solid boundaries between matters of the soul and the state or desires of material and spiritual redemption. Carter’s attempt to shore up church–state separation and speak freely as a public official about his faith was a conundrum that society at this time faced writ large.

Students of contemporary religion and society agree that the Carter era served as a pivot in the way Americans broached secularization. Prior to this, most religious citizens of the United States could assume that certain religious values would continue to organize their society. They remained convinced, in other words, by Tocqueville’s assessment that America’s “religious aspect” was its most striking and enduring character and that, unlike other Western nations in the post-Enlightenment, its entrance into modernity would not negate its respect for the divine. Well into the Eisenhower era, Americans maintained that Tocqueville got it right; the most modern nation in the world could also be the most devout. Yet, as scholars of the Eisenhower years have revealed, behind the confidences of the majority Tri-Faith consensus quietly emerged judicial initiatives that sought to extend religious pluralism to its logical legal end by impelling stricter separation of church and state and legally dismantling any assertion of privilege by one faith over another, be it Protestant over Catholic, or religious over nonreligious. Ironically, then, in the air of fervent Eisenhower religiosity was borne an assertive secularism.

As Carter entered the political arena, secularization was playing out in even more complex ways. America had always been “secular” in a formal sense. From its founding forward, it endorsed the disestablishment of religion, which prevented any denomination from enjoying state sanction and the state from exercising power over religious institutions. This was the essence of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees religion’s nonestablishment and free exercise. Yet amid the countercultural revolutions and cries for the protection of individual rights in the 1970s, a second manifestation of secularization—privatization of religion—gathered momentum. Secular liberals started chipping away at the assumptions that undergirded Eisenhower’s America by asking the courts to outlaw any and all demonstrations of faith of in the public sphere. America’s courts responded by outlawing such practices as Bible reading and prayer in public schools and at the same time endorsing freedom for activities (abortion, for instance) that countered many religious citizens’ beliefs. Angered, conservative religionists fought back, decrying procedures that seemed to be exhausting society of all signifiers of God. Historian David Sehat cautions that religious disestablishment and freedom principles had always encouraged citizens to fight to impose their morality on the public sphere. In Darwinian fashion, religious democracy meant that power went to the most aggressive faiths. Yet as the battle over privatization heated up in the post–World War II years, warring sides made the combative elements of this uniquely American arrangement all the more pronounced: the battle to define if and how religion would be cordoned off from the public realm, and at what cost to which groups in society, proved to be a bloody and lasting one.30

Today, historians like Sehat, along with social and political theorists such as Robert Putnam, David Campbell, Charles Taylor, John Rawls, Richard Rorty, Jeffrey Stout, and Talal Asad, continue to wrestle with the terms of privatization and secularization. One could say that the debate about what to think and do with religion in public is as lively and consequential as ever. In vigorous prose, political theorists have questioned each other about the desirability of faith remaining an active participant in liberal, democratic society. While Rawls and Rorty say individuals “should restrain themselves from injecting religiously based argumentation into public discussion of political and legal policies,” Stout states “a religion-free public sphere is neither possible nor desirable.” In his mind, a truly robust pluralism requires religious people to inject their religious reasoning into public discourse in order to nurture healthy debate about society’s profoundest issues. This process, he adds, requires religious people to listen and consider opposing views respectfully and jettison knee-jerk culture-war stands. A less optimistic Asad cautions that such generous engagement is impossible, that the public sphere is by nature a place for power struggle, not exchange, all the more for public spheres animated by faith.31

Whatever the case may be going forward, Putnam, Campbell, and Taylor agree that America has arrived at a state when the secular actually operates alongside and in conjunction with the sacred. According to Taylor, the United States has moved from “a society in which belief in God is unchallenged and indeed unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be one option among many, and frequently not the easiest option.” In Putnam and Campbell’s view, this shift has occurred in part because of the actions of the religious themselves; tired of the politicization of institutional religion, once-devout citizens have in some cases abandoned the pews for a personal spirituality, in others left religious affiliation behind altogether to become nonreligious. According to polls, “none” (“nonreligious”) now represents the second largest “religious identification” in the United States. As Matthew Hedstrom and Leigh Schmidt show, this group has its own history in American life, for skeptics, skepticism, and unbelief have always been as active as their opposites. Yet the recent climb of the “nones” to prominence is clearly another blow to persisting ideas that America was once and can still be a “nation under God.”32

Coming at the complexities of modernity and faith from different angles, all of these scholars agree on one thing: that the straight-line declension narratives associated with secularization theories first propagated by Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber are insufficient in explaining the tangled realities of the recent American experience. Rather than a linear weakening of religion, recent American history has been witness to remarkable resilience and adjustment by moderns on both sides of the murky sacred-secular, religion-nonreligious divide. While in some instances spheres of secular power (the state and science, for instance) have been carved out of and differentiated from orbs of once-dominant religious influence, in other cases a hearty religiosity (for example, sacred discourses of health, wealth, and success) has managed to maintain custodianship over society’s quotidian routines as well as the nation’s ultimate dreams. Secularization, in other words, has been no sure or predestined thing in contemporary American life, but rather a contingency realized in fits and starts and haphazard fashion.

Jimmy Carter was caught in the paradoxes of the secular over which students of American religion now stew. A card-carrying Democrat and Southern Baptist, Carter served in office as a man who in principle could and did uphold strict church–state separation and religious freedom: government, in his opinion, had to stay out of the work of the church and not privilege one faith over another, while the church had to focus its energies on saving the lost souls of the world and making that world a better place to occupy. His politics of reform in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, women’s and gay rights, peace in the Middle East, and racial, gender, and religious inclusiveness demonstrated the sincerity of his position. So too his willingness to see the Internal Revenue Service take tax-exempt status away from private Christian schools that did not protect civil rights. These stands put him at odds with fellow evangelicals, who lambasted him for playing by the secularist’s rules. Following a 1980 White House meeting with the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, Reverend Bailey Smith, Carter was on the receiving end of such chastisement. “We are praying, Mr. President,” Smith submitted, “that you will abandon secular humanism as your religion.” What Smith meant, and what an emerging Religious Right believed, was that amid legal and political challenges to the Judeo-Christian foundations of their nation, Carter was letting liberals have their way; worse yet, he was preaching their doctrines.33

Dismayed by condemnations from religious conservatives, Carter faced vexing criticism from secular liberals as well, leaving him feeling trapped in the middle. Although he abided by the disestablishment requirements, the president was unwilling to keep his faith out of the spotlight or his political discourse. For Carter, religion still needed to perform key public roles, serving as a conduit of sincerity in times of cynicism, an impetus for collective action on behalf of good causes, and a higher calling amid the drudgeries in a modern age. This is why he soaked much of his political rhetoric and policy decisions in talk about God. A Christian first, statesman second, Carter was uncompromising when it came to making the public aware that his consideration of political ways was steeped in prayer. If charming when delivered to a broken nation on the campaign trail, such viewpoints were worrisome to liberals when delivered by the president.

Carter thus found himself speaking as a prophet without a home. He was caught in between parties and shifting and competing notions of where, why, and how much religion U.S. society should allow on public and political display and to what degree the God-factor still operated at the heart of the American way. Deep and persistent struggles to help his fellow citizens navigate a path through their nation’s fractured consensus, fluctuating and unclear global aspirations, and troubled politics and economy merely added weight to his extant worries. His malaise speech of July 1979 bore the marks of this multifaceted and unmitigated existential crisis.

Discussion of the Literature

In his state-of-the-field essay published in the Journal of American History in 2004, historian Jon Butler bemoaned the absence of sustained treatment of religion in U.S. history. A decade later, historians, it appears, have done more than answer Butler’s call for fuller integration of religion in the chronicles of modern America. They have tipped the balance so sharply that it is now fashionable to be a “religious historian.” A recent poll conducted by the American Historical Association found that more historians identify themselves as religious historians than as social, cultural, or political historians. Since 2000, the number of scholars who signal any interest in religion has doubled. And “religious history” is one of the top fields of study for graduate students, suggesting that its momentum will accelerate in years to come.34

Considerable energy behind religious history’s rise stems from religious studies, the programmatic home for investigation of religion on its own terms. Religious studies scholars have spent the past decade reassessing the dynamics of lived belief and practice, spirituality and modernity, secularization and the secular, and testing new approaches to these myriad phenomena. Led by Robert Orsi, Thomas Tweed, Kathryn Lofton, and other innovators (a list of which is too long to cite here), they have probed what religion is. Historians of religion whose professional homes are in history departments, and who see their scholarship as contributing primarily to the historical guild, have borrowed crucial insights from religious studies and learned how to interrogate religion on its own terms. Their focus, however, has tended to be on a related query of what religion does. This second line of analysis is the one that has particularly impacted broader study of post–World War II U.S. history. Four vital threads, illustrated in the account of Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech, have emerged from a decade of labor in this area.35

The first weaves together the study of religion and politics. Although an interest of those studying earlier periods, religion and politics has been a special concern for those focused on the post–World War II era, in part because historians want to explain why the Republican Right has been so resilient. Culture-war politics has indeed inspired historians to foreground religion in the up-with-conservatism narrative. Since Lisa McGirr’s groundbreaking Suburban Warriors (2001), historians of conservative religion have found ample opportunity to embed their particular subjects—evangelical Protestants, conservative Catholics, neoconservative Jews—in the core narratives of late-20th-century U.S. politics. They have also used the moment to examine particular components of the culture wars, particularly “family values” struggles over education, sexuality, reproduction, and gender. Though important for their stand-alone insights on religion and each of these cultural phenomena, the works of Seth Dowland, R. Marie Griffith, Anthony Petro, Heather White, Neil Young, and others have offered particularly keen analysis of why and how U.S. politics itself has been so consumed with battles over the body. Stellar works of intellectual history by Molly Worthen and Michael J. McVicar have added yet another invaluable lens through which to view the emergence of late-century conservative anxieties and ideals.36

The study of conservatism has revitalized focus on theological and political liberalism. Following the lead of David Hollinger, whose scholarship and mentorship of graduate students virtually created the subfield, most historians of the liberal side have focused on the early Cold War period, when the liberal consensus seemed so essential to the nation’s identity. Their curiosities have stretched from the role of print media in dispersal of liberal values to the impact of missionaries, NGOs, and religious-minded statesmen on the conceptualization of American internationalism. Three offshoots of this historiography have been renewed study of religion and foreign policy, church–state relations, and the religious life of the American mind. With Andrew Preston and William Inboden’s help, students of the Cold War era have drawn important connections between the theologies of liberal and “neo-orthodox” Protestantism and Washington’s ever-expanding ambitions on an international stage. Several scholars of legal history, meanwhile, have shed crucial light on the rapid transformations in church–state relations that came via crucial Supreme Court rulings between the late 1940s and late 1970s that redefined the parameters of private and public religion, religious liberty, and divisions between the sacred and the secular. Andrew Finstuen, Mark Hulsether, Mark Edwards, and others have been part of an exciting renewal of an intellectual history that takes theological ideas seriously, particularly in Cold War contexts, when theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr held such sway.37

Closely related to emerging literatures on religion and politics across the spectrum has been a fresh focus on faith’s role in American notions of race, ethnicity, and human rights in a world transformed by global exchange. The first part of this equation—investigation of religion, race, and rights—has followed its own dynamic trajectory. Inspired by studies such as David Chappell’s A Stone of Hope and the work of Paul Harvey, Edward Blum, Charles Marsh, and others, historians have carefully charted the role of religion in civil rights crusades during the postwar period. Theology and religious practice, preachers and the laity all inspired African American activists and those who joined them on the front line against Jim Crow. Recent studies of Cesar Chavez and the civil rights and labor activism he helped spark among Mexican, Mexican American, and Latino workers in the postwar West have begun to foreground the similarly vital role of religion in the fight for “La Causa.” Other scholars underscore that similarly vital dimensions of faith were also instrumental in generating backlash against civil rights advances in the South, West, and North. More recent texts by Zareena Grewal, Ussama Makdisi, and others have looked increasingly outward, beyond American borders and beyond Christianity, both to make sense of U.S. trajectories in race and religion and to contextualize them in transnational movements of people, interests, and concern. Missionaries, NGOs, and migrants from many shores have been foregrounded in recent accounts of American religion in an age of modernization and ever-broadening global exchange.38

A fourth popular line of inquiry connects with the first three by highlighting the reciprocating relationship of religion and capitalism in the advancing global age. Borrowing from and collaborating with the “new history of capitalism,” religious historians have illuminated the thick ties between corporate and Christian interests and their shared impact on money management, fiscal policies, and the state. These scholars demonstrate how the late-century marketplace, where an enchantment with mammon seemed prevalent, was in fact a boon for particular forms of Christianity—evangelicalism and Pentecostalism in particular. One of the pathbreaking studies, in this regard, is Bethany Moreton’s examination of Wal-Mart and its roots in the radical evangelicalism of Arkansas and the western South. Adding to this ever-expanding literature are works by Darren Grem and Kevin Kruse, which stress the economic and political dimensions of the story, and Kate Bowler and Kathryn Lofton, whose ethnographies of Oprah and the prosperity gospel movement reveal the ways religion itself was shaped and redefined by market logics in the late 20th century.39

Even with the recent flourish in religious history, much remains to be said about faith and society in the modern age. Several paths of inquiry could shed even brighter light on the subtle and at times surprising workings of the sacred in American life. As much as the culture wars have generated scholarship on religion and politics, they have also obscured areas of religious influence that deserve further attention. Religion and the politics of environmentalism, farming, and resource management, for instance—areas in which liberal-conservative binaries have not always held—is primed for deeper study. So too the politics of faith and development in regions of the world (South America, Saudi Arabia, Africa), where missionaries and philanthropists, engineers and agriculturalists expanded their presence during the Cold War years to ward off communism and in the post–Cold War years to promote growth and democracy and fight for health care and human rights. Tracing the work of these subjects could open U.S. religious history to even wider international systems of contingency, reciprocity, and change. Historians working in this vein should also reconsider north–south lines of exchange, and with more emphasis stress the unique hemispheric forces that made these patterns of migration, intellectual and theological transmittance, and flows of financial, human, and institutional resources especially critical to American religious developments. Pentecostal worship in Texas and Guatemala, Mennonite farming in Kansas and Paraguay, Quaker and Catholic peace activism in Philadelphia, Chile, and Peru: these ricochet dynamics can occupy greater space in future texts.

As they write this history forward, scholars might direct their attention away from the “usual suspects” of Protestant politics and power and highlight underrepresented religious communities. Pentecostals and Catholics should, of course, be featured in postwar religious history in ways that they currently are not. Catholicism especially still needs to “mainstreamed” in U.S. history. Many of the dominant themes of the postwar period—urban transformations, Vietnam and anti-war activism, family values politics and the U.S. economic and military ventures in Latin America, civil rights and the Cold War, leisure and consumerism—cannot be evaluated fully without Catholicism occupying the center rather than margins of the story. Judaism warrants the same increased attention, so too Mormonism, whose rich 19th-century past has received far more coverage than its late-20th-century past. Considering its meteoric national and international rise in the post–World War II years, Mormonism’s unbalanced history demands correction. Other understudied groups also warrant treatment, including Mennonites and Quakers, whose quieter roles in global service ventures were essential to the expansion of American influences at mid-century, and confessional churches (Lutheran and Reformed), whose presence in the Midwest is worth studying in part to shift recent focus on the South and West back to Middle America, which still wielded considerable power in the late 20th century.40

There are several other lines of investigation (too many to list here) that might also be considered when accounting for American society’s late-20th-century transformations. Religion and capitalism have been examined, but largely from the corporate side. What about religion and lived experiences of work in Cold War America’s military industrial complex, or religion and organized labor amid deindustrialization? Although some advances in the study of postwar religion and labor have been facilitated by Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Ken Fones-Wolf’s recent book, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South, workplace piety is woefully understudied. And what about the charitable side of capitalism: the transformed nature, culture, and influence of faith-based philanthropy in the free-market age? Historians would do well to bring their expertise to bear on these types of discussions, which sociologists, political scientists, and ethnographers currently dictate. The same goes for discussion about religion’s place in the military and war and the rise of the supermax prison system and Silicon Valley. Recent and soon-to-be released studies by Joshua Dubler, Kendrick Oliver, and Ronit Stahl shed fresh light on the place of faith in the American prison, NASA, and American military, while emerging studies by scholars such as Lerone Martin, Michael McVicar, and Matthew Avery Sutton are connecting religion to national and international surveillance, policing, security, and the state; yet these areas remain ripe for more investigation. Religion’s links to technology and applied science, engineering and medicine similarly deserve the rigorous long view that historians can provide. Aided by new interdisciplinary research methods, strategies, and technologies, and the opening up of records revealing the technological revolution of the late century, historians are ready to supply that critical perspective and measure American life on the cusp of the new millennium.41

Finally, historians should continue to pursue lines of questioning and investigation that they and especially their colleagues in religious studies, anthropology, and sociology have already opened up to scrutiny. Contemporary study of religion and race and the exigencies of urban space, incarceration, immigration and international engagement, and wars with radical Islam are fields of concern with which historians need to be engaged. The ideas that frame these and other late-20th-century encounters and the legal mechanisms that have brought them to the forefront of public awareness likewise demand close attention. The same is true of secularization, secularism, and the rise of the “nones” in American life, and recent evolutions in the way “religion” itself is conceptualized and applied by different publics, for different political ends. Having done well to saturate recent U.S. historiography with interrogations of what religion does—particularly when paired with politics or economics, popular culture or global trends—historians may want to pause again to ask with more caution (as colleagues in religious studies recommend) just what religion actually is and what we actually mean by it when tracking its practices and influences in all corners, hidden and otherwise, of American society.

Primary Sources

This is a heady moment in religious history, with archives, online data and documents, and a plethora of primary sources becoming available at a dizzying rate. Such abundance of resources affords but also demands a greater range of investigation, both in the traditional strongholds of religious history (church, denominational, and diocesan records) and in more expansive (and ever-expanding) local and national, public and private archives charting religion’s connections to American cultural, economic, and political life.

Scholars of American religious history should still prioritize the vast holdings of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish institutions. In Catholic history, one can pursue research in the diocesan archives located in the country’s major cities. Significant ones include the Archives of the Archdiocese of Boston, Archives of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Archives and Records Center, Archdiocese of Chicago, and the Archives of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, housed at the Archival Center at San Fernando Mission in Mission Hills, California. Considering the rich and still relatively untapped history of Catholicism in the continental west—spanning the development and life of Spanish missions in the 18th century to the outsized role of Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, Archbishop of Los Angeles during the mid-20th century—the latter archives might be of special interest to researchers.

There are numerous Protestant denominational archives that function like their Catholic diocesan counterparts. The mainstays—well funded and lively centers of scholarly exchange—include the Presbyterian Historical Society, which houses papers related to the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., located in Philadelphia, the American Baptist Historical Society Archives in Rochester, New York, and especially the Southern Baptist Historical Library Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. The Southern Baptist Convention’s repository has become popular recently due to its support of both junior and senior researchers and its importance as one of the few centralized locations to conduct research on Protestantism in the South, a region that has captured much attention as of late from religious, social, and political historians. Those interested in Methodism should consult the United Methodist Archives & History Center located at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, which houses an array of personal and institutional papers dealing with bishops, denominational leaders, missionaries, and churches. Slightly smaller but no less vital to the “mainline” in the U.S. Protestantism is the Archives of the Episcopal Church USA, based at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. As is the case with several other denominational archives, the Episcopal Archives has a useful online database that allows direct access to key primary materials related to this church’s history. Of equal importance is the Congregational Library in Boston, Massachusetts, which houses sources pertaining to the life of the Congregational, Congregational Christian, Christian, and United Church of Christ in the United States and throughout the world. Andover Newton Theological School also contains substantial holdings related to the history of Congregational and Church of Christ history. The history of the black church, meanwhile, is accessible through the records of its “mainline” denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, whose archives are held at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Researchers interested in black Christianity will also want to consult records at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Historical Society, and New York Public Library, located in New York, as well as at the Stuart Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

For study of other communities in the Protestant orb, whose histories parallel but for theological, ethnic, and cultural reasons also depart from mainline Protestantism in illuminating and significant ways, researchers should account for Lutheran, Calvinist, and Mennonite sources. Regarding the first, researchers would be well served by examination of records at the Archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), based in Chicago, and the Concordia Historical Institute Department of Archives and History in St. Louis, which houses the papers of the more conservative Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Those interested in German religious influences in American history should also consult the Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society at Lancaster Theological Seminary, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The two main branches of the Reformed Church, conveyances of the Calvinist tradition, also maintain accessible archives. The Archives of the Christian Reformed Church in North America are housed at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the records of the Reformed Church of America at the Gardner A. Sage Library of New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The history of the Mennonite tradition can be accessed at the Mennonite Church U.S.A. archives based at Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana, and Bethel College in Newtown, Kansas.

Shifting away from these established Protestant traditions, historians would do well to consider the following for their investigation of religious movements that have become rather “mainstream” global forces in the modern period. Pentecostalism has flourished like no other, and for researchers interested in this sprawling, interracial, and international network of charismatic Christianity, a first visit should be made to the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in Springfield, Missouri, headquarters of the Assembly of God (the largest Pentecostal denomination). Other archives important to white and black Pentecostal and Holiness church history include the Anderson University and Church of God Archives, located in Anderson, Indiana, and the Holy Spirit Research Center at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Researchers who are seeking insight into modern evangelical Protestantism as a whole should focus on several college-based and interdenominational repositories that have grown in size and importance during the past thirty years. The most of important is the Billy Graham Center Archives, connected to the Wheaton College Archives, based in Wheaton, Illinois. In addition to charting the expansive work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, this center holds key materials pertaining to virtually every aspect of 20th-century evangelicalism. Scholars wanting further insight to this sprawling movement may also want to visit Fuller Seminary archives in Pasadena, California, and the Moody Bible Institute archives in Chicago. Nondenominational and interdenominational associations are also key to the history of this diverse religious community, and in this vein, researchers should consider archives of organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, housed at the Francis Willard House Museum and Archives in Evanston, Illinois, the American Bible Society Library and Archives in New York, and the Salvation Army National Archives in Alexandria, Virginia. Scholars working on evangelical topics have also worked inventively at the grassroots level to piece together religious histories out of the records of corporations, charitable organizations, private schools and school associations (those overseeing home schools, for instance), as well as key nonprofit organizations, labor unions, political lobbies, civic and community agencies, and state and national political administrations (such as Jimmy Carter’s). This type of research in “nonreligious” sources will be increasingly valuable to historians of all faith traditions as they move closer to the fragmenting and decentering realities of the late century.

Primary source materials related to Catholic, Jewish, and other non-Protestant faith communities have also become featured in various university and seminary based research centers. For a wider expanse of Catholic sources—clerical and lay, official and organizational—researchers should consult special collections at the University of Notre Dame, St. Louis University, Georgetown University, and Marquette University. The Catholic University of America, home to the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, located in Washington, D.C., is an essential destination for scholars working on any aspect of Catholicism, as is the Jesuit Archives in St. Louis, Missouri. Jewish history comes alive in extensive sources housed in a number of centralized repositories, including the American Jewish Historical Society and Center for Jewish History in New York, and The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Other access points to the religious, cultural, and political activities of American Judaism in the modern period can be found in the papers of the Anti-Defamation League, based in New York, and records housed in the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections at Brandeis University.

Other educational institutions should be consulted when pursuing broader themes and trajectories in Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish history. At Princeton Theological Seminary and University libraries researchers will find collections related to Presbyterianism but also to three hundred years of development in white and black Christianity. Andover-Harvard Theological Library at Harvard Divinity School holds institutional records of the Unitarian Universalist tradition but also possesses the papers of numerous ministers, congregations, and key religious figures and organizations. No less vital are records housed at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Yale Divinity School, the Graduate Theological Union Archives in Berkeley, California, and the Union Theological Seminary, managed by Columbia University in New York. Rich in their coverage of developments in mid-century mainline Protestantism, these archives have become important lately as historians have shifted slightly from focused study of evangelical religious groups (particularly those tied to the late-20th-century Religious Right) to investigation (once again) of more liberal religious dynamics at mid-century. Researchers interested in this “liberal turn” may also want to inspect the Christian Century archives held at the Morris Library, at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.

Three other movements that have garnered attention are Adventism, Quakerism, and Mormonism. Those interested in Adventism and its 19th- and 20th-century strands should consult the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and Statistics in Silver Spring, Maryland, and special collections and archives at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California. Highly decentralized, Quakerism (the Society of Friends) has always been a spiritual home for illustrious thinkers, activists, and business leaders. Its records, charting the life of the movement from the 18th century to the present day, can be located in the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, Philadelphia, and the Special Collections and Quaker Collection of Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Researching Mormonism can be a bit more difficult, as church records are generally inaccessible. But study of this global movement is becoming possible thanks to increasingly available sources at the Family History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, both located in Salt Lake City, Utah.


The author would like to thank Philip Byers and Suzanna Krivulskaya for help with identifying key archival and primary sources related to post-World War Two religious history.

Further Reading


Butler, Jon. “Jack-in-the-Box Faith: The Religion Problem in Modern American History.” Journal of American History 90.4 (2004): 1357–1378.Find this resource:

McGreevy, John T. “American Religion.” In American History Now. Edited by Eric Foner and Lisa McGirr, 244–260. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Schultz, Kevin M., and Paul Harvey. “Everywhere and Nowhere: Recent Trends in American Religious History and Historiography.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78.1 (2010): 129–162.Find this resource:

Edited Volumes

Griffith, R. Marie, and Melani McAlister, eds. Religion and Politics in Contemporary United States (Special Issue of American Quarterly). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Sutton, Matthew Avery, and Darren Dochuk, eds. Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.Find this resource:


Berman, Lila Corwin. Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Grewal, Zareena. Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority. New York: New York University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Hartman, Andrew. A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Hollinger, David A.After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern American History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Inboden, William. Religion and American Foreign Policy, 19435–1960: The Soul of Containment. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

McGreevy, John T.Catholicism and American Freedom: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003.Find this resource:

Moore, Deborah Dash. G.I. Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Belknap, 2004.Find this resource:

Moreton, Bethany. To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Petro, Anthony. After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Savage, Barbara Dianne. Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Sullivan, Winnifred Fallers. The Impossibility of Religious Freedom. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Wacker, Grant. America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2014.Find this resource:


(1.) Jimmy Carter, “Energy and National Goals,” July 15, 1979, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1977–81 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1979), 2: 1235–1241.

(2.) Carter, “Energy and National Goals.”

(3.) Daniel Horowitz, Jimmy Carter and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s: The “Crisis of Confidence” Speech of July 15, 1979 (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005), 1.

(4.) Horowitz, Jimmy Carter, 25–27.

(5.) Mark Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1992), 437; and Robert Wuthnow, The Restructuring of American Religion: Society and Faith Since World War II (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 16–17.

(6.) Will Herberg, Protestant-Catholic-Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955).

(7.) Kevin Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (New York: Basic Books, 2015); Jonathan P. Herzog, The Spiritual-Industrial Complex: America’s Religious Battle Against Communism in the Early Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 85; and Kevin Schultz, Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(8.) Schultz, Tri-Faith America, 197.

(9.) George M. Marsden, Religion and American Culture (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1990), 258.

(10.) Marsden, Religion and American Culture, 261.

(11.) Daniel T. Rodgers, Age of Fracture (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2011), 2–3.

(12.) Alexis de Tocqueville, Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy, Revolution, and Society: Selected Writings, ed. John Stone and Stephen Mennell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 93.

(13.) Quoted in Randall Balmer, Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter (New York: Basic Books, 2015), 5, 39, 40–41.

(14.) Balmer, Redeemer, xviii.

(15.) Wuthnow, The Restructuring of American Religion; James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (New York: Basic Book, 1991), 44–45; and Andrew Hartman, A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 7.

(16.) Steven P. Miller, Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009); Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011); Daniel K. Williams, God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 9; and Matthew Avery Sutton, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2014).

(17.) R. Marie Griffith, God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); Seth Dowland, Family Values and the Rise of the Christian Right (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); Neil J. Young, We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015); and Anthony M. Petro, After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 2.

(18.) Victoria Irwin, “Factions Seek Control of Family Conference,” Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 1980. On Carter’s dilemma as an evangelical politician, see J. Brooks Flippen, Jimmy Carter, the Politics of Family, and the Rise of the Religious Right (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011).

(19.) Niall Ferguson, Charles S. Maier, Erez Manela, and Daniel J. Sargeant, eds., The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2010).

(20.) Diana L. Eck, A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Now Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation (San Francisco: Harper, 2001), 4.

(21.) Statistics charting the rise of religious pluralism are taken from the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), cited and quoted at length in the Introduction to R. Marie Griffith and Melani McAlister, eds., Religion and Politics in Contemporary United States [Special Issue of American Quarterly] (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 14–15. See also Marsden, Religion and American Culture, 249.

(22.) Marsden, Religion and American Culture, 253, 254–255.

(23.) David King, “The New Internationalists: World Vision and the Revival of American Evangelical Humanitarianism, 1950–2010,” Religions 3 (2012): 922.

(24.) Sarah B. Snyder, Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Andrew Preston, “Universal Nationalism; Christian America’s Response to the Years of Upheaval,” in The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective, ed. Niall Ferguson, Charles S. Maier, Erez Manela, and Daniel J. Sargeant (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2010), 313–314.

(25.) Edward E. Curtis, IV, “Islamism and Its African American Muslim Critics: Black Muslims in the Era of the Arab Cold War,” in Griffith and McAlister, eds., Religion and Politics in Contemporary United States, 178.

(26.) Charles S. Maier, “‘Malaise’: The Crisis of Capitalism in the 1970s,” in The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective, ed. Niall Ferguson, Charles S. Maier, Erez Manela, and Daniel J. Sargeant (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2010), 26.

(27.) See Jimmy Carter, “The Energy Problem,” April 18, 1977, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1977–81 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1977), 1: 656–662.

(28.) Horowitz, Jimmy Carter and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s, 33–35.

(29.) Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-Mart; The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 5; Kate Bowler, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 95; and Kathryn Lofton, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).

(30.) David Sehat, The Myth of American Religious Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 5.

(31.) Griffith and McAlister, eds., Religion and Politics in Contemporary United States, 9–10, 12, 14.

(32.) Charles Taylor, Robert Putnam, and David Campbell, quoted and paraphrased in John T. McGreevy, “American Religion,” in American History Now, ed. Eric Foner and Lisa McGirr (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011), 244–245. On “nones,” see, for instance, Matthew S. Hedstrom, “Rise of the None,” in Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics, eds. Matthew Avery Sutton and Darren Dochuk (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 250–268; and Leigh Eric Schmidt, Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality (New York: HarperOne, 2005).

(33.) As quoted in Balmer, Redeemer, 123.

(34.) Jon Butler, “Jack-in-the-Box Faith: The Religion Problem in Modern American History,” Journal of American History 90.4 (2004): 1357–1378; and McGreevy, “American Religion,” 242.

(35.) See, for instance, Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880–1950 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988); Robert Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006); and Thomas A. Tweed, Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).

(36.) Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). See Murray Friedman, The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006); R. Marie Griffith, God’s Daughters and Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004); Michael Lienesch, Redeeming America: Piety and Politics in the New Christian Right (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); D. Michael Lindsay, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Heather Rachelle White, Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); Daniel K. Williams, Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016); Molly Worthen, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); and Michael J. McVicar, Christian Reconstructionism: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

(37.) David A. Hollinger, After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern American History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013); William Inboden III, Religion and American Foreign Policy, 1945–1960: The Soul of Containment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); and Andrew Preston, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (New York: Anchor, 2012). See also Elesha J. Coffman, The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Mark Thomas Edwards, The Right of the Protestant Left: God’s Totalitarianism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Matthew S. Hedstrom, The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); and Doug Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). On church-state relations, note Noah Feldman, Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem—and What We Should Do About It (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006); Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2010); Winnifred Fallers SullivanThe Impossibility of Religious Freedom (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005); and Sehat, The Myth of American Religious Freedom. On intellectual influences see Andrew S. FinstuenOriginal Sin and Everyday Protestants: The Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, Billy Graham, and Paul Tillich in an Age of Anxiety (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009); and Mark Hulsether, Religion, Culture and Politics in the Twentieth-Century United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

(38.) David L. Chappell, A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Paul Harvey, Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War Through the Civil Rights Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014); Joseph Kip Kosek, Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009); and Charles Marsh, God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997). On religion’s role in sparking civil rights campaigns by Mexican, Mexican American, and Latino workers, see, for instance, Alan J. Watt, Farm Workers and the Churches: The Movement in California and Texas (College State: Texas A&M University Press, 2010); Felipe Hinojosa, Latino Mennonites; Civil Rights, Faith, and Evangelical Culture (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014); and Luis D. Leon, The Political Spirituality of Cesar Chavez: Crossing Religious Borders (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014). On religion and white resistance against civil rights mobilization, see, for instance, Lila Corwin Berman, Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015); Joseph Crespino, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007); Carolyn Renee Dupont, Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945–1975 (New York: New York University Press, 2015); and John T. McGreevy, Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). See, for instance, Ussama Makdisi, Artillery of Heaven; American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007); and Zareena Grewal, Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (New York: New York University Press, 2013).

(39.) In addition to Bowler, Blessed; Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-Mart; and Lofton, Oprah; see Darren E. Grem, The Blessings of Business: How Corporations Shaped Conservative Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

(40.) Exceptions to the rule of Catholic marginalization include Mary J. Henold, Catholic and Feminist: The Surprising History of the American Catholic Feminist Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008); Amy L. Koehlinger, The New Nuns: Racial Justice and Religious Reform in the 1960s (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Mark S. Massa, The American Catholic Revolution: How the Sixties Changed the Church Forever (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Mark S. Massa, Catholics and American Culture; Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1999); James P. McCartin, Prayers of the Faithful: The Shifting Spiritual Life of American Catholics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); John T. McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom: A History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003); and McGreevy, Parish Boundaries.

(41.) See Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Ken Fones-Wolf, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015); for broader overview, see Christopher D. Cantwell, Heath W. Carter, and Janine Giordano Drake, Pew and the Picket Line: Christianity and the American Working Class (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016). See Joshua Dubler, Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison (New York: Picador, 2014); Kendrick Oliver, To Touch the Face of God: The Sacred, the Profane, and the American Space Program, 1957–1975 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012); and Ronit Stahl’s forthcoming book-length study of the U.S. military chaplaincy (Harvard University Press, 2017).