Chapter

Inventing Interfaith

Matthew S. Hedstrom

in The Rise of Liberal Religion

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195374490
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979141 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195374490.003.0006
Inventing Interfaith

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The notion of a shared Judeo-Christian national identity became a defining feature of American public life in the war and postwar years. The U.S. government called upon a private interfaith organization, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, to promote the Judeo-Christian concept to the American people. The NCCJ developed a second Religious Book Week, modeled on the endeavor of the 1920s, to advance a religious understanding of American values and interfaith civic cooperation. This reading campaign was promoted in schools, churches, the military and, most especially, public libraries across the nation. Yet the culture of Judeo-Christianity did more than foster a climate of intergroup civic cooperation. Interfaith reading in particular also opened new avenues for explicitly religious interaction and exchange. As revealed in the poster art used to market Religious Book Week, the war furthered the shift from character to personality in American cultural life and likewise promoted the emerging, related culture of spiritual cosmopolitanism. Indeed the wartime effort to promote Judeo-Christianity combined with the culture of middlebrow reading—especially the consumer notion of eclectic picking and choosing—to become the single greatest force in popularizing spiritual cosmopolitanism.

Keywords: National Conference of Christians and Jews; religious book week; interfaith reading; World War II; public libraries; character; personality; spirituality; spiritual cosmopolitanism; poster art

Chapter.  12635 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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