The Quakers in America (Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series) Info

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The Quakers in America is a multifaceted history of the
Religious Society of Friends and a fascinating study of its culture and
controversies today. Lively vignettes of Conservative, Evangelical,
Friends General Conference, and Friends United meetings illuminate basic
Quaker theology and reflect the group's diversity while also
highlighting the fundamental unity within the religion. Quaker culture
encompasses a rich tradition of practice even as believers continue to
debate whether Quakerism is necessarily Christian, where religious
authority should reside, how one transmits faith to children, and how
gender and sexuality shape religious belief and behavior. Praised for
its rich insight and wide-ranging perspective, The Quakers in America is
a penetrating account of an influential, vibrant, and often
misunderstood religious sect.
Known best for their long-standing
commitment to social activism, pacifism, fair treatment for Native
Americans, and equality for women, the Quakers have influenced American
thought and society far out of proportion to their relatively small
numbers. Whether in the foreign policy arena (the American Friends
Service Committee), in education (the Friends schools), or in the arts
(prominent Quakers profiled in this book include James Turrell, Bonnie
Raitt, and James Michener), Quakers have left a lasting imprint on
American life. This multifaceted book is a concise history of the
Religious Society of Friends; an introduction to its beliefs and
practices; and a vivid picture of the culture and controversies of the
Friends today.
The book opens with lively vignettes of
Conservative, Evangelical, Friends General Conference, and Friends
United meetings that illuminate basic Quaker concepts and theology and
reflect the group's diversity in the wake of the sectarian splintering
of the nineteenth century. Yet the book also examines commonalities
among American Friends that demonstrate a fundamental unity within the
religion: their commitments to worship, the ministry of all believers,
decision making based on seeking spiritual consensus rather than voting,
a simple lifestyle, and education. Thomas Hamm shows that Quaker
culture encompasses a rich tradition of practice even as believers
continue to debate a number of central questions: Is Quakerism
necessarily Christian? Where should religious authority reside? Is the
self sacred? How does one transmit faith to children? How do gender and
sexuality shape religious belief and behavior? Hamm's analysis of these
debates reveals a vital religion that prizes both unity and
diversity.

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Reviews for The Quakers in America (Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series):

3

Jan 21, 2014

A good basic introduction to Quakerism in America- The different bodies and views of different branches as well as descriptions of services and practices. Nothing too in-depth, however.
3

Sep 17, 2010

It's good... it's informative, but... why did I think reading about Quakers would be any more *interesting* than actual Quakers?
4

Mar 18, 2019

A very helpful overview of the history and present of Quakers in North America, including thematic chapters on Quaker worship, Quaker beliefs and practices, contemporary debates, interactions with the world, and women and marriage, as well as chronological sections.
4

Apr 19, 2019

4.5 stars - a wonderful and fairly comprehensive look at American Quakerism. Enjoyable written and nuanced.
3

Dec 13, 2010

I generally don't enjoy histories that are part of a series put out by a university as a general work on a broad area; they're usually too dispassionate, too removed from their subjects to be engaging. This was a pleasant exception. Thomas Hamm seems genuinely intrigued by his subject, and sincerely appreciative of Quaker traditions and influences. Those feelings energize this book, as general as it is.He presents Quakerism as a diverse tradition (which it is) and takes care to differentiate I generally don't enjoy histories that are part of a series put out by a university as a general work on a broad area; they're usually too dispassionate, too removed from their subjects to be engaging. This was a pleasant exception. Thomas Hamm seems genuinely intrigued by his subject, and sincerely appreciative of Quaker traditions and influences. Those feelings energize this book, as general as it is.He presents Quakerism as a diverse tradition (which it is) and takes care to differentiate between the various strands of the faith, noting their distinctives and placing each in their historical context, briskly and efficiently. No new history is revealed, but all the high points are hit with economy and usefulness.

The really enjoyable part of this book is Hamm's report on contemporary meetings of Friends and his research of modern Quakerism as practiced by contemporary Friends. He shows that Friends have established a special and unique part of modern American culture, rescuing Quakerism from mere historical oddity and showing it for the vibrant and significant spiritual practice that it is. Indeed, he also addresses the postmodern aspects of the faith, touching on how it relates to contemporary social issues like feminism, pacifism, the place of LGBT politics in current Quaker discourse, and the debate between theological conservatism and liberalism as it specifically relates to Quakerism. I particularly enjoyed that he recognized the commonalities between Quakerism, veganism and Christian anarchism.

Given the diversity of this tradition, it's perhaps unreasonable to expect more emphasis on the distinctives of Quakerism, but I wanted it. Quakerism is a decided minority, uninterested in proselytizing or watering down what makes them unique. While acknowledging the similiarities between Quakerism and mainstream liberal Protestantism has its place, this book might have celebrated the distinct spirit of Quakerism a little more exuberantly.

That's a minor quibble with a book that gives rightful respect and sober analysis of a truly fascinating and important part of American religion. ...more
4

Jun 24, 2012

A good book that is insightful, informative, illuminating and in some instances affirming as one who left an Evangelical meeting last year. I felt as though the author, a Quaker historian, had been a fly on the wall of my particular meeting. Thus far in the book, he hasn't mentioned that particular meeting, so I can only assume in his 30 years of research that what occurred in the meeting I was a part of was not an isolated event. One quote in particular that struck me and that describes this A good book that is insightful, informative, illuminating and in some instances affirming as one who left an Evangelical meeting last year. I felt as though the author, a Quaker historian, had been a fly on the wall of my particular meeting. Thus far in the book, he hasn't mentioned that particular meeting, so I can only assume in his 30 years of research that what occurred in the meeting I was a part of was not an isolated event. One quote in particular that struck me and that describes this meeting well was, "Some congregations have been so riven by unresolved conflicts that they are effectively dysfunctional, 'the perpetrators of generations of corporate pain. With each new pastor the congregation hopes that he or she will be the 'miracle worker' who will make the pain go away" (p. 94).

I know some reviewers of Pink Dandelion's book, The Quakers, stated that they found the book confusing. I did not, but if they thought Dandelion's book was confusing, they may find Hamm's book confusing as well. However, I don't believe the authors themselves are to blame. The Quakers have a complicated history what with all the splits named primarily for the main players: Gurney, Wilbur, Hicks. To compound matters is the task of keeping the particular movements matched up with their modern-day descendants: Liberal, Conservative, Evangelical and the various groups within each of these camps.

In Hamm's book, one will get a detailed outline of the distinctives of each group such as worship practices and doctrinal views that might lend itself it to demystifying an often hard-to-understand group. After reading the book, one might even want to visit a Quaker meeting. In some instances, reading ahead may serve as preparation for what one can expect to experience, particularly in some of the liberal or conservative churches whose worship styles are vastly different from what one may be accustomed to encountering in many Protestant evangelical churches. ...more
4

Aug 22, 2008

Recently I have decided to finally sit down and learn some Quaker history. I've been involved a bit with the Society of Friends for about 7 years now, and am getting more seriously into it... just about ready to call myself a convinced Friend, a big deal for someone like me who's never been much of a joiner.

The Quakers in America is an overview of... just what the title would indicate... specifically focused on the 20th century, though of course of bit of historical information is required to Recently I have decided to finally sit down and learn some Quaker history. I've been involved a bit with the Society of Friends for about 7 years now, and am getting more seriously into it... just about ready to call myself a convinced Friend, a big deal for someone like me who's never been much of a joiner.

The Quakers in America is an overview of... just what the title would indicate... specifically focused on the 20th century, though of course of bit of historical information is required to explain what Quakers are and how they got to America, having their roots in England as they do.

Hamm covers the major divisions in the body of Quakers early on and in each section devotes time to the different views and experiences of they various factions on subjects such as faith and practice in meeting (or church), the role of women, education, and service in the broader world.

Scholarly and fair in its treatment, this book is a good resource for those such as myself who have heard of some of the names of individuals and groups of import in the Quaker world, but want to know a bit more, and probably it is also a good introduction to Quakers in general, though hanging out with some is a better one I would say. Having been exposed primarily to the liberal, unprogrammed Friends tradition I found the information on other branches particularly enlightening. My reading will carry on into further contemporary writings as well as delving deeper into the history, so look for John Woolman's journal to pop up here at some point. ...more
4

Jun 06, 2008

If you should be interested in the history of Quakers in America, this is the book for you. It is surprisingly well-written--I thought it would be dry, it wasn't. It describes the history from England to the Colonies, to the U.S., to the present. Who knew there were so many different types of Quakers.
3

Oct 05, 2007

Thorough, informative account of the Quakers in America, including origins, divisions, international outreach, and contemporary debates.

On the history of the name "Quakers:"

Founder George Fox to Justice Gervase Bennett (in response to charges of blasphemy): Tremble in the fear of the Lord.

Bennett to Fox: And quake, thou quaker, before the majesty of the law.
3

Jan 01, 2010

A nice overview of Quakers in America - as the title implies. Nothing fancy about it (plain if you will - sorry couldn't help myself) but definately touches upon some key points and people. I particularly enjoyed reading about the various splits as it was new information for me.

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