(Christian Century) Matt Hedstrom–When the mainline told us what to read

The Religious Book Club and the religion book lists of the American Library Association exemplify the broad cultural influence of liberal Protestantism in its mid-century heyday. Naturally, they tended to steer Americans away from evangelical or fundamentalist authors and toward the output of liberal professors and preachers.

But we live in a far different moment. No religious body or tradition has the social standing or cultural legitimacy to offer the nation a list of the “best” books in religion. Certainly the demise of liberal Protestant cultural stewardship represents a victory for religious freedom. Yet in the world of reading at least, it comes with a price. Book prizes””such as the Grawemeyer Award””and publications like the Century or Books and Culture still offer reading guidance to some. But more than ever, we are on our own. Is it any wonder that “spiritual but not religious,” the religious face of individualism and capitalism, is the order of the day?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Religion & Culture, Theology