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Tri-Faith America How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise

ISBN: 9780195331769 | 0195331761
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: 4/6/2011

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Tri-Faith America explains how the United States left behind the idea it was "a Protestant nation" and replaced it with a new national image, one premised on the notion that the country was composed of three separate, equally American faiths, Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, all of which shared in America's newly invented "Judeo-Christian tradition." Tracing the origins of the tri-faith idea to the early twentieth century, when Catholic and Jewish immigration forced Protestant Social Gospelers to combine forces with Catholic and Jewish relief agencies, Tri-Faith America shows how World War II made the tri-faith idea America's "standard operating procedure" and propelled much of the nation to embrace the "three faiths of democracy" during the early Cold War. By the 1950s, everyone was celebrating the country's "religious triangle." After all, by affirming difference without forcing the nation to reckon too forthrightly with race, the tri-faith idea was the perfect salve in postwar America. More than just show the rise of this new national image, Tri-Faith America also shows how postwar Catholics and Jews used the new image to force the country to confront the challenges of pluralism. Should Protestant bibles be allowed on public school grounds? Should Catholic and Jewish fraternities be allowed to exclude Protestants? Should the government be allowed to count Americans by religion? What will Catholics and Jews do in the newly developing suburbs, now that they were allowed in? The answers to these questions are surprising, challenging the image of the conformist 1950s. Instead, Americans were vigorously debating the merits of recognizing pluralism, leaving a legacy that lives on today, and also paving the way for the civil rights movement just over the horizon.

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