The Politics of Conscience: Religious Activism and Social Change in Postwar America

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The Politics of Conscience: Religious Activism and Social Change in Postwar America

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Title: The Politics of Conscience: Religious Activism and Social Change in Postwar America
Author: Bohlen, Casey
Citation: Bohlen, Casey. 2016. The Politics of Conscience: Religious Activism and Social Change in Postwar America. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: This dissertation is a history of the post-World War II United States religious left, from its birth in the early Cold War through its twilight in the mid-1970s. Although the study of religion and politics is flourishing, recent scholarship has overwhelmingly focused on the Christian right and the resurgence of American evangelicalism. Yet Jewish, Catholic, and ecumenical Protestant activists were key players in the mid-century political left, from nuns staging interracial sit-ins in the middle of Chicago’s busiest intersections to rabbis and ministers running the nation’s largest illegal abortion referral network. Focusing on the work of activist clergy and religious youth, this project explains why such a diverse group of believers took to the streets in the name of conscience, what impact their activism had on public life, and why their influence withered in the last third of the twentieth century. It locates the origins of the postwar religious left - counterintuitively - in the Cold War religious revival of the 1950s; demonstrates how interfaith activism helped to transform postwar liberalism from a technocratic project to a moral crusade; and shows how mass disaffiliation in the 1970s undermined the religious left’s national resources at the same moment that Christian conservatives were experiencing a renaissance, leading to their eclipse in the public eye. In the process, it reveals how deeply interfaith activism has shaped left-liberal politics and policy-making in the modern United States, as well as how movements for social justice have transformed American faith traditions in turn.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33840751
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