Head and Heart: American Christianities

Front Cover
Penguin, 2007 - History - 626 pages
18 Reviews
A landmark examination of Christianity's place in American life across the broad sweep of this country's history, from the Puritans to the presidential administration of George W. Bush.

The struggle within American Christianity, Garry Wills argues, now and throughout our country's history, is between the head and the heart: between reason and emotion, Enlightenment and Evangelism. Why has this been so? How has the tension between the two poles played out, and with what consequences, over the past 400 years? How "Christian" is America, after all? Garry Wills brings a lifetime's worth of thought about these questions to bear on a magnificent historical reckoning that offers much needed perspective on some of the most contentious issues of our time.

A religious revolution occurred in America in the 18th century, one that saw the emergence of an Enlightenment religious culture whose hallmarks were tolerance for other faiths and a belief that religion was a matter best divorced from political institutions-the proverbial "separation of church and state." Wills shows us just how incredibly radical a departure this separation was: there was simply no precedent for it. To put this leap in perspective, Wills provides a grounding in the pre-Enlightenment religion that preceded it, beginning with the early Puritans. He then provides a thrillingly clear unpacking of the steps, particularly Madison's and Jefferson's, by which church-state separation was enshrined in the Constitution, and reveals the great irony of the efforts of today's Religious Right to blur the lines between the two. In fact, it is precisely that separation that has allowed religion in America to flourish since the disestablishment of religion created a free market, as it were, and competition for souls led to the profusion of denominations across the length and breadth of the land.

As Wills examines the key movements and personalities that have transformed America's religious landscape, we see again and again the same pattern emerge: a cooling of popular religious fervor followed by a grassroots explosion in evangelical activity, generally at a time of great social transformation and anxiety. But such forces inevitably go too far, provoking a backlash as is happening right now with the forces of Creationism and the anti-abortion fundamentalists.

Garry Wills closes with a penetrating dissection of the Religious Right's current machinations and the threat they pose to the enlightened religion that has proved to be such a fertile and enduring force throughout American history. But in the end, Wills's abiding message is to be vigilant against the triumph of emotions over reason, but to know that the tension between the two is in fact necessary, inevitable, and unending.
  

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Review: Head and Heart: American Christianities

User Review  - William Korn - Goodreads

A very well-written review of the history of Christianity in the US, both in its entirety and in the separate histories of the "intellectual" and "emotional" versions of Christianity. Willa is at his ... Read full review

Review: Head and Heart: American Christianities

User Review  - Mikesawin Sawin - Goodreads

I really loved this author's two books What Jesus Meant and What Paul Meant, and I was prepared to like this one as well. But wowzers...dry as my mother's meatloaf, this was. It's an examination of ... Read full review

Contents

Puritans
17
Samuel Sewall Roger Williams
85
The Great Awakening
100
Against the Awakening
123
Quakers
137
Disestablishment
177
Transcendentalism
265
The Second Great Awakening
287
The Social Gospel
383
Reversals
399
The Great Religious Truce
451
The Rights Revolution f6y
465
Evangelicals Counterattack
480
FaithBased Government
497
Ecumenical Karl
515
Life After Rove
531

Schisms over Slavery
303
God of Battles
316
Religion in the Gilded Age
336
SecondComing Theology
357
SecondComing Politics
368
Separation Not Suppression
547
Acknowledgments
554
Jeffersons Virginia Statute
599
Index
610
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

GARRY WILLS has written many acclaimed works, on religion and on American history, including Lincoln at Gettysburg, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment, What Jesus Meant, and What Paul Meant. His works have received many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. He studied for the priesthood and took his doctorate in the classics. He is now professor of history emeritus at Northwestern University. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and other publications.

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