David L. Holmes, A Brief History of the Episcopal Church, Call Number 283.73 Hol 1993, is a readable history of the Episcopal Church USA from its origins in the seventeenth century Church of England and its colonial missions, through the founding of an American-governed Protestant Episcopal church in1789, the schisms of the nineteenth century and the issues facing twentieth century Episcopalians. Holmes is helpful in sorting out “high church,” “low church” and evangelical divisions which continue to perplex contemporary members. He also explains the Oxford Movement, the American development of “ritualism,” Anglo-Catholicism, late twentieth century liturgical reforms, and preoccupation with social issues. Unfortunately, Holmes’ history stops in 1990, leaving the reader in the dark about twenty-first century developments, such as the contemplative movement and the search for the historical Jesus. Knowledge of where we came from is helpful in facing issues of the future. Can anyone recommend a history which continues the story of the Episcopal Church to the twenty-first century?
Kevin M. Kruse, One Nation Under God : How Corporate America Invented Christian America, Call Number 322.10973 Kru 2015, argues that the use of religious symbols to promote political positions was invented by corporations opposed to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal social legislation in the 1930s. The corporate leaders supposedly plotted to convince religious leaders that big government and social legislation were enemies to Christianity, in order to promote unregulated capitalism. Kruse argues that Christian clergymen bought into the corporate argument without considering its source. While it is true that the reference to “under God” was put into the flag pledge in the 1950s and that Presidential religious practices have become more public in the last sixty years, Kruse completely ignores the colonial sectarian religious groups of the seventeenth century, the Great Awakening religious movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and religious-driven causes such as abolitionism and prohibition in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Even if corporate America did revive the political use of religion in the mid twentieth century (a questionable proposition), it was only possible because of America’s long history of mixing religion and politics. Professor Kruse needs to look at the “whole story” before attributing the rise of conservative Christianity solely to the influence of the moneyed classes.
Remember, it was Republican Dwight Eisenhower, in his farewell address as President, who first warned us about the “military industrial complex.”
Keith H. Thomson, Private Doubt, Public Dilemma : Religion and Science since Jefferson and Darwin, Call Number 201.65 Tho 2015 represents an English scholar’s reflections on the conflict between religion and science. It is published as part of the Terry Lectures Series from Yale University and was probably written some years ago. The continuing debate over creation and evolution in England has apparently produced a sharper division between religious “believers” and atheists than in the United States. The author is concerned that “92 percent of the population” of the United States “professes to believe in God.” He seems to assume that all of this 92 percent are anti-intellectual fundamentalists, who reject modern science in its totality. In fact, many American scientists are loyal church members, as well as advanced scientific researchers. The author further believes that religious objections to family planning represents a rejection of the scientific method, rather than a dispute over “family values.” Professor Thomson notes that non-scientific religious positions can be used for political purposes in order to obtain governmental authority and funds. He might apply this insight to American religious adherents. Ann Bowler