- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 6, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199938598
- ISBN-13: 978-0199938599
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #891,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline 1st Edition
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"[An] outstanding history of The Christian Century..." --John Turner, George Mason University
"Ms. Coffman's research has uncovered a great deal of material about the rise and decline of mainline Protestantism, and she tells its story well..." --Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal
"[An] elegantly crafted and subtly witty account... [Coffman] makes a theoretically sophisticated contribution to the growing scholarship on religious media in the postwar United States." --The Christian Century Take and Read
"The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline is happily distinguished by its sustained attention to the character and dynamics of the great gap between an educated elite and a mass population of churchgoers." --The Christian Century
"A fascinating, well-documented tale." --CHOICE
"Far more than the history of a magazine, Elesha Coffman's elegant, insightful book shows how The Christian Century grew from obscure beginnings as a Disciples of Christ publication to become the most enduring icon of liberal Protestantism. For anyone sympathetic to the ecumenical vision of the Protestant mainline, Coffman's tale makes for poignant, even haunting, reading. Her account also demolishes the recent scholarly fashion of dismissing mainline Protestantism as lifeless or irrelevant. An essential volume for historians and church people alike." -- Peter J. Thuesen, Professor of Religious Studies and Department Chair, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
"America's religious history travels, to a great extent, along the networks that religious media provide. Anyone who is interested in this story needs to know about The Christian Century, one of the greatest national Protestant conversation starters of the twentieth century. Elesha Coffman has written a sensitive and often witty account of The Century's first half-century, and it has much to tell us about the rise and decline of mainline Protestantism." -- Joel Carpenter, Professor of History and Director of the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity, Calvin College
"Elesha Coffman provides an illuminating portrait of The Christian Century in the days when it was in its prime. She recounts evenhandedly and with insight its strengths and weaknesses, its identity crises, aspirations, accomplishments, and controversies as the leading liberal voice in the Protestant establishment." -- George Marsden, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
"Not only does Coffman show that the Century itself mattered in defining the mainline, but that the Protestant establishment was not simply a historical given. Establishments can be hard to explore, precisely because, almost by definition, they present themselves as given and inevitable. Yet as Coffman argues, the Protestant establishment was not a given but a historically contingent creation of an elite group of (almost exclusively) well-educated white men... Coffman's work, then, gives us insight into the complicated nature of today's Protestant mainline." -- Sarah E. Rule, Associate Professor of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College
"Coffman's work is clearly written and highly accessible."-HNet
About the Author
Elesha J. Coffman is Assistant Professor of Church History at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.
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First of all, the Century began as a publication deeply rooted in the publishing traditions of the Stone-Campbell movement, the most obvious manifestation of which is the modern denomination known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Under the leader of Disciple Charles Clayton Morrison, the magazine pressed the Disciples plea for a Christianity that was rational, ecumenical, and mission-focused. Though the Disciples no longer emphasize these things so much, there is still very much a place for them in the life of American Protestantism. This is why the modern Century advertises itself as an ecumenical journal that takes seriously the role of rationality in the faith and mission of Christians.
Second, if there was any doubt before, Coffman's narrative makes clear the overwhelming influence of conservative, even Fundamentalist, Christianity in the United States. If there had been any doubt, the incredible success of Billy Graham beginning in the 1950's and the rise of the Century's rival, Christianity Today, around that time removes it. Billy Graham is considered one of the greatest Americans of all time, while Martin Marty is a hero to few. That CT occasionally asks permission to quote CC stories does not obscure its essentially antithetical position vis a vis its Chicago-based rival. The circulation of CT has always hugely outstripped that of CC, simply because conservative Christians, led by pastors with educations far removed from the university-based divinity schools favored by my generation, overwhelmingly outnumber its readers.
Third, the minority status of progressive, or "liberal," Christianity in the United States definitely limits its influence--but so has the fact that it has not always spoken with a unified voice. The obvious example Coffman cites is the falling-out between Reinhold Niebuhr and Morrison in the twenties. Niebuhr turned down an invitation to become Morrison's second-in-command and eventually went on sharply to criticize liberal Christians for what he considered naivete in the face of the persistence of sin and evil. Niebuhr even founded his own magazine, Christianity and Crisis, to speak with what he considered to be a more realistic tone toward the issues of the day. ( By the 1980's, when I was submitting articles to both magazines, I found C&C's editorial response to be muddled and unfocused. Not long after, the magazine folded.)
It is beyond the focus of Coffman's book to provide answers for these questions/dilemmas. That's for those of us who embrace the progressive label. She ends her narrative at 1960 because, she says, that was the time that the Protestant mainline began to decline. She may be right, but other writers, such as Richard Hamm, have placed the date closer to 1970. At any rate, the history of CC since, say, 1980, deserves another book. In 2013, it is both true to its roots and very different.
The Christian Century began in 1884 as The Christian Oracle, a publication of the Disciples of Christ denomination. It was renamed The Christian Century in 1892. It was on December 6, 1917 that The Christian Century officially declared itself "An Undenominational Journal of Religion." With the advent of Christianity Today in 1956, TCC envisioned a "great struggle for the soul of American Protestantism" as well as a "great struggle to win the soul of America."
The term "mainline" came into use in the 1960s and was used to denote seven denominations that constituted the moderate to liberal wing of American Protestantism. 1960 was chosen for the end of this study because the author traces the decline of the mainline to that year.
I found this book fair and informative and would recommend it.
For the rest of my review see here: http://usreligion.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-mainlines-main-magazine.html