Normalcy is one word that could be used to describe American life and culture, including religion, in the 1920s. In his 1920 race for the presidency Warren G. Harding used this word, which captures both the reality of the dramatic changes that were taking place in the United States and the efforts of many of its citizens to ignore the challenges these changes presented. Americans wanted both the future, which seemed to be limitless, and an idealized past, which moderated the terrors of rapid change. This same apprehension of threat and promise also affected the major American religious communities. While each religious group continually congratulated itself on its seeming successes, each also operated from strongly defensive positions.
Religion and Culture.
In understanding religion in American history it is essential to remember that the various faiths of the country were deeply fused with various cultures, and while one thinks and talks of churches and denominations, those official organizations were in large part manifestations of cultural communities that operated on both the local and national level. Religion was more than congregations, denominations, or even large bodies such as those composed of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, or Orthodox believers, and the actions of those groups reflected and affected the...
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