“Saints for this Age”: Religion and Radicalism in the American Century
This essay argues that religion was an important factor in the transition in left politics from the Marxist framework of the 1930s to the existential, radical democratic politics of the New Left. It focuses on A. J. Muste, a leading figure in the Old Left, to show how he drew upon anti-Stalinist thought, Christian social and intellectual history, and Gandhian satyagraha to construct a new radical politics for the American Century. Against political consensus and militarism, he posited a “true church” of pacifists and nonconformists whose prophetic action would break through the alienation and oppression of organized society and power politics and make the beloved community possible. His ideas and example inspired a generation of Christian pacifists, and helped lay the groundwork for 1960s social movements.