Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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Originated by Jean Miller Schmidt, popularized by Martin Marty in Righteous Empire (Dial 1970); an interpretation of the historical development of American Protestantism based on analogy to U.S. politics (Democrats and Republicans).

Protestants are identified as either progressive, reform oriented (often currently termed liberal ) or pietistic and personalistic (now, in shorthand, either conservative or evangelical ). Although the thesis provides a convenient heuristic device for addressing major trends in the dominant, white, Protestant traditions, it also misses many nuances and tends to ignore minority traditions. It rightly signals, however, the ironically close connection between religious and political developments in a nation that pioneered the formal "separation of church and state." Robert Wuthnow's The Restructuring of American Religion (Princeton University Press 1987) represents perhaps the best example of both the strengths and the weaknesses of this type of analysis in the current case. Taken to an extreme, from which Marty himself has dissented, this view can be said to be a precursor to the Culture Wars model of James Davison Hunter (Basic Books 1991).

William H. Swatos, Jr .


J. M. Schmidt, Souls or the Social Order (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson, 1991).

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