Material History of American Religion Project

Daniel Sack

Whitebread Protestants:
Food and Religion in Mainline American Culture

Americans love to eat, and they are religious. In this book I argue that these practices are tightly interwoven, and that the study of food practices provides a helpful lens for seeing the rich variety of American religious life. While most anthropologists and folklorists who study food and foodways have focused their work on exotic or ethnic traditions, however, this book looks at white mainline Protestants--"whitebread" Protestants--and the role that food has played in their religious lives. It examines the mainline as a particular religious tradition instead of as an all-encompassing American church.

This history of eating in church looks at five topics, moving from food events to food ideology.

The study of American religion, often obsessed with ideas and doctrines, could be grounded through the study of food, a very material substance. The study shows how food has been--and is--a carrier of religious meaning for mainline Americans.

Daniel Sack, the associate director of the Material History of American Religion Project, is now program administrator for the Border Crossing Project at the University of Chicago Divinity School--another project supported by the Lilly Endowment. His book for the project, Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in Mainline American Culture, was published by St. Martin's Press/Palgrave in October 2000. Sack received a doctorate in religion from Princeton University in 1995; his dissertation was on the Buchman religious movement among American college students during the 1920s. He is working on an expansion of the dissertation, also for Palgrave. He has published related articles in Anglican and Episcopal History and American Presbyterians, and book reviews in Religious Studies Review, the Christian Century, Church History, Pro Ecclesia, and the Princeton Seminary Bulletin. He has taught at Hope College and Columbia Theological Seminary.

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