The musical The Book of Mormon portrays two naïve Mormon missionaries in Uganda proclaiming that “in 1978, God changed his mind about black people.” The joke isn’t mere whimsy; the LDS Church is widely perceived as racist. The irony is that had the church followed its initial trajectory, by now it likely would have become the most racially integrated and progressive church in America.
After Cloven Tongues of Fire is a collection of historian David Hollinger’s writings on 20th-century American Protestantism. Hollinger is interested both in pinpointing ecumenical Protestant influence on the United States and in tracking signs of its decline.
Given the talk about the decline of Christian identity in the United States, Marilynne Robinson suggests a standard is needed to define this change. She proposes that a marker is the general fearfulness in our culture, which is revealed by the obsession with and purchase of guns. “Contemporary America is full of fear,” Robinson says, but “fear is not a Christian habit of mind.” One of the markers of people who forget God is “that they make irrational responses to irrational fears” (New York Review of Books, September 24).