Matthew S. Hedstrom

in The Rise of Liberal Religion

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195374490
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979141 | DOI:

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The conclusion opens with the story of Frank Laubach, an American missionary to the Philippines who became a noted mystic, bestselling author, and most famously, a hugely influential global promoter of literacy. Laubach's story illustrates many of the most important trends in liberal Protestantism in the twentieth century, especially the way its evangelistic energies became sublimated into social reform. But Laubach's story also reflects significant changes in American spirituality in the twentieth century, changes that undergirded the “cultural victory” of liberal religion. As a bestselling author on prayer and mysticism, he shows how religious reading and consuming became critical components of the lived religion of countless ordinary Americans. The conclusion considers the implications of reading as a religious practice for the field of religious studies. Laubach's encounter with Islam as a missionary, which prompted both a spiritual crisis and his shift from evangelism to literacy work, underscores another key facet of religious liberalism in the twentieth century: the spiritual and the ethical implications of religious cosmopolitanism. The conclusion then relates these mid-century developments to the wider religious environment of the 1960s and beyond, including the re-emergence of a more politically oriented evangelicalism and the increasing diversity of American religious life.

Keywords: Frank Laubach; liberal protestantism; religious liberalism; liberal religion; religious middlebrow culture; cosmopolitanism; Evangelicalism; religious reading; lived religion; spirituality

Chapter.  5044 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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