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History of Christianity in the U.S.

This course is a survey of the major thoughts, movements and personalities of American Religious History, from the colonial era to the present day. A special emphasis will be placed on Catholicism, and its place in the religious landscape of the United States. Among the topics to be explored during the course of the semester will be: the religious motives for settling the New World; Awakenings, Revivals and Reform; Immigration and Nativism (Protestant-Catholic tensions); twentieth century “Isms” (Fundamentalism, Liberalism, Modernism and the “heresy” of Americanism); the Post Work War II Religious Revival; the crisis of the Sixties and the Second Vatican Council; and “Civil Religion” (the Religion of the American Republic) as a persistent force in American life and politics.

From the particular perspective of Catholicism, two persistent and pervasive themes will predominate: Immigration and Americanization. Our focus will be on the internal evolution of American Catholicism as it met and absorbed divergent social and ethnic groups, and that of the external relations between the Catholic community and the greater Protestant national community. This focus will allow us to explore, with historical evidence, the more theoretical issues of diversity/pluralism/multiculturalism in American history, and the relations between elites and subordinates – Insiders and Outsiders. Few communities in American History have sustained in such large numbers and over such a long period of time the varieties of peoples as American Catholicism.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

Kathleen Riley

Ohio Dominican College

Private College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

American Studies, History, Theology

Catholic, Other Christianities, Protestant
Religous Tradition

Immigration/Refugees, Race/Ethnicity, Nationalism/War/Civil Religion, Theology/Liturgy

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