Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hoosier Faiths

It's a huge quirky book from 1995, back when it made sense to publish such books -- L. C. Rudolph's Hoosier Faiths: A History of Indiana's Churches and Religious Groups. The hugeness is obvious (710 pages), the quirkiness is buried a little deeper. According to Rudolph, about 40 percent of Hoosiers can be found in either Catholic or Methodist churches. For reasons not explained, they occupy about 5 percent of this book. Perhaps he judged there was enough material on Catholics and Methodists already, as compared to Rappites, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Anyone who undertakes a gigantic task of this sort can wind up force-fitting it into overly rigid categories. Rudolph keeps it loose. Many of the 52 chapters are conventionally denominational, as the above examples suggest. But when the subject spills out of those containers, he goes with it, producing chapters on Rationalists, Ethnic Catholics, Science and Religion, and Middletown (the pseudonym of Muncie in the Lynds' landmark work of 20th-century sociology).

A conventional element that serves genealogists well is Rudolph's focus on individuals in each of these movements. And you just don't know what you may encounter around the bend. If you're not a devotee of obscure century-old sociology, for instance, you may not know that Angola (Steuben County) was founded by the unchurched for the unchurched. (It didn't last.)


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Congratulations on Top 100 Recognition!

Bill ;-)
Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

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