Religion has played a protean role in the lives of America’s workers. Matthew Pehl focuses on Detroit to examine the religious consciousness constructed by the city’s working-class Catholics, African American Protestants, and southern-born white evangelicals and Pentecostals between 1910 and 1969.
Pehl embarks on an integrative view of working-class faith that ranges across boundaries of class, race, denomination, and time. As he shows, workers in the 1910s and 1920s practiced beliefs characterized by emotional expressiveness, alliance with supernatural forces, and incorporation of mass culture’s secular diversions into the sacred. That gave way to the more pragmatic class-conscious religion cultures of the New Deal era and, from the late Thirties on, a quilt of secular working-class cultures that coexisted in competitive, though creative, tension. Finally, Pehl shows how the ideology of race eclipsed class in the 1950s and 1960s, and in so doing replaced the class-conscious with the race-conscious in religious cultures throughout the city.