Schulman and Dumenil Comparison/Contrast Essay

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¶ … Schulman & Dumenil

Comparison/Contrast of Schulman and Dumenil

According to Dumenil's The Modern Temper, the 1920s resulted in a "modern" society because of the culmination of late nineteenth century industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. Far from monolithic, a burgeoning working class rose alongside the new era of middle class women. Individualism heightened as the private sphere expanded in suspicion of government. Perhaps most significant was the emergence of full-blown consumerism that she argues served as "an antidote to the loss of power in the modern world" (Dumenil, 58). New technologies such as the assembly line and innovative management techniques geared toward efficient routines reorganized the social fabric, even as leisure and entertainment (sports and movies) came to occupy more time in citizens' lives. Sexuality underwent revolution as films, bohemian attitudes, and contraception poked holes in Victorian morality. The modern society was hammered to coalescence through the participation of minority groups. Religious transformations occurred as well "that resulted in denominational upheavals for the churches and spiritual crises for individuals" (Dumenil, 5).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Essay on Schulman & Dumenil Comparison/Contrast of Schulman and Assignment

Like the 1920s, the 1970s were a time of great change. Schulman's The Seventies captures many of these cultural transformations. Like Dumenil, he looks at the important ideological shifts that occurred and pays close attention to the areas of race relations, pluralism, and multiculturalism as they played out in discourse on integration and cultural nationalism. A new form of musical expression, disco, sprang up and was criticized heavily by those from both sides of the integrationist debate (black power and white suburbia) (Schulman, 73). Overall, the national image shifted from being a melting pot (stew) to a tapestry, a salad bowl, or a rainbow. Diversity received widespread endorsement in place of integration (Schulman, 68). As in the roaring twenties, religion experienced profound changes under the force of the new decade. It saw the explosion of Pentecostalism and the rise of New Age belief systems.

In comparing Schulman's portrait of religion in the 1970s to Dumenil's in the 1920s, similarities and differences will become apparent. The evangelistic turn in the 70s parallels in many ways the fundamentalist debate in the 20s. The greatest contrast between the two decades is that between the secularization that challenged the church in the earlier decade and the return to spirituality in the latter decade in a new personalized form. This essay will aim to understand the religious milieu in the 1920s and 1970s using a comparison of these two historical portraits.

Dumenil paints a picture of religious diversity in the 1920s. On the one hand, she describes a pervasive secularization that came in response to changed attitudes. Protestant faith was questioned not just from the influence of Freudian notions (the unconscious) or artistic experimentation (e.g., in the Harlem Renaissance), but from the new discipline of the comparative history of religions. She writes, "The growing interest in the history and sociology of world religions not only further weakened Protestantism's special position in the culture but also promoted the view that religions were not divinely ordained but were socially constructed" (Dumenil, 171). As evidence for the decline, she points to poor church attendance, the decline of missionary activities, and the increased commercialization of church (Dumenil, 170). She educes the crumbling of social reform as well that was a turn away from church moral imperatives (Dumenil, 171). There were also changing sexual standards signified in the rise of divorce and the decline of male church attendance (Dumenil, 172). Moreover, she says, "In addition to the competition of secular attractions and the disaffection with the institutional churches and the ministry, spiritual considerations are equally significant in understanding religion's slipping hold on many Americans" (Dumenil, 173).

This sketch points to the lost grip of church influence during the 1920s. Yet that was only half the picture. Large pockets of traditionalism remained and conflicted with the modernists. Not much change happened in Roman Catholic parishes, and a new conservative strain of Judaism rose. Furthermore, urban migrant Pentecostalism experienced an upsurge that was egalitarian for women, as McPherson's charismatic success demonstrated (Dumenil, 181). Among African-Americans, storefront Holiness and Pentecostal churches gathered flocks. These gatherings used blues and jazz music in their worship, accompanied by dancing. According to Dumenil, "Storefront worship thus drew upon both sacred and secular African-American cultural traditions and in the process helped to create new religious and musical styles" (Dumenil, 183). The allure of music as well as leisure activities meant a general religious decline, but in the migrant and minority communities especially there was a ferment of religion.

The corrosion of religious faith came under the impetus of the Darwinian revolution. This was epitomized in the circus-like hysteria surrounding the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" trial. This trial was an important symbol of the malaise of traditional religion at the time, which had lost its sacred aura (Dumenil, 187-88). In describing the fundamentalist controversy, Dumenil depicts the fundamentalists as resistant to modernist cultural adaptation. The mainstreamers were worried about declining moral and spiritual values, as well as the diminishing role of the church in defining culture. She says, "Tracing immorality and irreligion to the changing worldview brought about by Darwinian science, they directed their greatest animosity toward leaders within the churches -- 'modernists' and liberals who had modified their religious views to conform to new knowledge and ways of thinking" (Dumenil, 185). As a result, they were militant in challenging evolution, which wanted to throw into disrepute the Genesis story of creation. But ultimately fundamentalism fell into disrepute. She writes, "Not only were anti-evolutionists associated with antiquated ideas, but the extensive publicity given scientific explanations of Darwinian science undoubtedly made it easier for many Americans to question traditional religious belief" (Dumenil, 189-90). This damaged the fundamentalist position.

Perhaps just as significant as downplaying traditional creeds, the modernist religion incorporated psychological training and drew from business models. Dumenil says, "In their quest to make religion relevant, Fosdick and other modernists also turned their attention to individual personal and spiritual adjustment" (Dumenil, 193). This mimicked the personal development movement in business. Others adapted to the new mindset through "businesslike methods" like visitation campaigns rather than evangelistic revivals (Dumenil, 194). Pastors adopted business techniques. She explains the spiritual and commercial fusion: "Just as churches had copied business techniques, businessmen drew upon religious ideas" (Dumenil, 195). For instance, Barton claimed Jesus as a business model for organization.

Schulman's The Seventies picks up a similar thread in the 1970s New Age movement, or the Third Great Awakening. Schulman describes a turning to individualistic religion, anti-institutionalism, and business-religion fusions. His general assessment of religion in the 70s is of journeys of discovery: "The personal odysseys of white ethnics, the elderly, racial minorities, and ecologists also fed into a widespread religious revival -- an outpouring of enthusiasm and spiritual experimentation that ran the gamut of American religious life" (Schulman, 92). As in the 1920s, Catholicism remained little affected, but "mainstream, moderate and liberal Protestant churches suffered heavy losses" (Schulman, 92). By contrast, there was an evangelical explosion (Pentecostal) in which fundamentalism flourished. This is in contrast to Dumenil's depiction of the 1920s. This revival emphasized scriptural sanctity, apocalyptic expectation about end of world (Hal Lindsey), and personal conversion. It spawned commercialized religious music, televangelism (e.g., Bakker), and bookstores, going beyond what occurred in the 20s. Looking at the two images of conservative religion, one is tempted to say that Schulman's 1970s view shows a more vibrant religion than Dumenil's 1920s view.

On other hand, Schulman sees the spread in the 1970s of a new religious form not present in the 1920s. This was the personal awareness movement, whose practices included yoga and tai chi and whose doctrines were contained in the writings of Spangler, Ferguson, and Fox. The movement was centralized at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, with its visiting gurus and hot tubs. Est seminars, Zen, transactional psychology, and group trainings multiplied, showing a similar pattern to the business-religion fusion of the 1920s. As Schulman says, "Spangler sought to reorganize American business and politics around New Age principles" (Schulman, 99). In Schulman's interpretation, this new religious conglomerate had some shared common features. They abandoned religious traditions, which were considered spiritually bankrupt. They lacked any precise doctrine other than self-discovery, which was the unifying theme for religious consumers. They spun around the notion of transformation (new vitality, health, meaning). All of these show parallels with Dumenil's 1920s, including the heightened consumerism and the turn to more personal experience. One sees similarity here with the 1920s modernist pastors who sought to reinterpret religion in culturally relevant ways. The same individualistic emphasis presides. Likewise, social responsibility faded into the background, at least as Schulman describes it, just as in the 1920s Dumenil saw a de-emphasis in religion on social reform.

However, the 1970s inner transformation is not mediated, as in the modernist religion, through Jesus or the church. The seventies New Age went much farther in terms of working on oneself and internalization. Both decades challenged traditional religion, but the 1970s went farther in its contempt for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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