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Orthodox Christians in America
by John H. Erickson
Oxford Univ. Press
141 pp.; $22
by Albert Raboteau
Oxford Univ. Press
142 pp.; $22
Harry S. Stout and Jon Butler, the American religion team at Yale University, have lined up an impressive roster of scholars to write books for their new series, Religion in American Life, projected to include 17 volumes when complete. Claudia and Richard Bushman are writing a book on Mormons, Randall Balmer on religion in twentieth-century America, Ann Braude on women and American religion, and Mark Noll on American Protestants, to name only a few of the distinguished historians who have agreed to contribute to the series.
These scholars are trying to do what most academics only talk about: reach beyond the walls of the ivory tower to a general audience—in this case, tenth graders, high schoolers more generally, and even the occasional adult reader, not to mention grad students cramming for comps. Expectations for the series are high: Oxford has demonstrated a commitment to such projects before, producing outstanding secondary school textbooks on American women's history and African American history.
Among the first volumes to appear are Albert Raboteau's on African Americans and John Erickson's on the Eastern Orthodox. Both manage to translate scholarship into a young people's lingua franca without compromising their intellectual integrity. Both try to show connections between religion and larger historical questions—immigration, slavery, urban development.
Most readers will come to Erickson's book with a virtually blank slate regarding Orthodoxy in early America, but a few may recall hearing of missionary activity and settlements on the Pacific Rim. For those readers, Erickson has a surprise in store: the story of an Orthodox settlement in Revolutionary-era Florida. Carrying the narrative forward, he introduces readers to indigenous Alaskans who adopted Orthodoxy, investigates the impact of the Russian ...