25 Years Later: President Hatch’s Book on American Christianity

Christianity-Democratization-headerA quarter century after it was published, scholars are still talking about the award-winning book, “The Democratization of American Christianity,” written by Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch.

To mark the book’s 25th anniversary, Wake Forest will host a half-day symposium Feb. 6 featuring seven of the country’s most distinguished scholars of early American religion reflecting on the influence of the book.

The event will run from noon to 4:30 p.m. in Farrell Hall’s Broyhill Auditorium and is free and open to the public. Registration is not required. A detailed schedule is posted on the symposium website.

Described as one of the three most significant books on American Christianity in the last century, President Hatch’s book argues that the empowerment of ordinary people wrought by the American Revolution has been as central to the history of American religion as it has been to American political history.

“People often ask why America is so much more ‘religious’ than her Western European counterparts,” said Jay Ford, professor and chair of Wake Forest’s religion department and one of the organizers of the symposium. “Dr. Hatch’s book remains significant because it uncovers the very seeds, planted in the early republic, to the rich vibrancy of American Christianity still evident today.”

Author and religion scholar Stephen Prothero named the book one of the five best books on religion and politics in a 2012 Wall Street Journal article. The landmark work was regarded as a classic before most people had a chance to read it. It won the Albert C. Outler Prize from the American Society of Church History while still in manuscript form. Once published, it went on to earn awards from “Christianity Today”, the American Studies Association and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. Reviewers praised the breadth of Hatch’s research, the insightfulness and ambition of his argument and the book’s readability.

After a welcome and introduction, two discussions led by a panel of distinguished scholars will address the influence and impact of “The Democratization of American Christianity” and highlight more recent scholarship and critical assessments of the book.  The event will conclude with a response from President Hatch.

The following professors will participate:

  • Catherine Brekus, Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America, Harvard Divinity School
  • Sylvester Johnson, Associate Professor of African-American Studies and Religious Studies, Northwestern University
  • Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
  • Seth Perry, Assistant Professor of Religion, Princeton University
  • Amanda Porterfield, Robert A. Spivey Professor of Religion, Florida State University
  • Harry Stout, Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity, Yale University
  • Grant Wacker, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian History, Duke Divinity School

The event is sponsored by the Wake Forest School of Divinity, the departments of history and religion, the Humanities Institute, and the Office of the Provost. For more information, email fordj@nullwfu.edu or call (336) 758-4191.

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