By Dan McKanan
Beacon Press, $34.95, 326 pages
The history of the American radical tradition is one of idealists, leaders and people who held a singular vision. What has been lost over the past twenty years is the story of the radical tradition and its relationship with religion in America. Many people believe that you could not be both radical and religious, that the two did not mesh with each other. In Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition Dan McKanan argues that religion and the radical tradition have had a long history from people who fought to end slavery, to Prohibition, to the anti-war demonstrations and the Civil Rights movements. Many of the leaders were influenced and involved in religion and helped to turn religion even more radical and bring it to the forefront for social change. Since the end of the Cold War religion has been hijacked by groups on the Right for their purposes and the role of religion and radical ideas has been lost.
Mr. McKanan does an excellent job weaving together the narrative that links radicals in the United States with different religious groups. His writing gets a bit academically dry at times, but he tells an important story.
Reviewed by Kevin Winter