Religion and Memory in American Public Culture, 1890-1920
Nytroe, Sarah K. “Religion and Memory in American Public Culture, 1890-1920”, Boston College, 2009. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/1967.
This dissertation examines the ways in which Catholics, Mormons, Pentecostals, Lutherans, and Congregationalists repositioned themselves in American life and culture during the Progressive Era. Between 1890 and 1920, the place of these religious communities in American society became less secure as faith and religious practice became increasingly individualized. In response, churches reasserted their place in American society through deliberate reconstructions of the past to recreate their religious and historical identity. Through pageants, parades, poetry, and orations, they publicly displayed and celebrated their place in America and their contributions to the making of the nation. Specifically, they argued that religion and national progress went hand in hand. Progress needed religion. As such, the clerical and lay members of these communities constructed collective religious memories that strayed from historical reality in order to reinforce present needs and concerns. Perpetuating these often times misleading memories helped them to navigate the murky waters of modernity including theological change, societal prejudice, industrialization, and war by supplying them with the space to sustain the cultural legitimacy of their community. By examining religious experience via the lens of memory this dissertation illustrates how religious communities pursued an active role in America at a time when society increasingly disregarded the relevance of religion.