Gods of the City

Orsi, Robert A. Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Twentieth-century U.S. cities are the setting as Orsi (religious studies, Indiana Univ.) expands our understanding of religious life and sacred space through these compiled essays. Orsi provides an outline of the urbanization of America and the pluralism that resulted from diaspora nationalism set against the dynamic engagement of various religious traditions. As his selections show, city people live through their environment and create a distinct religious sense that is fluid and changing in terms of geography, architecture, and social issues. Karen McCarthy addresses the Haitian immigrants and their ability to recraft their Vodou religious in the middle of concrete jungles. Joanne Punzo Waghorne addresses the creation of the first Hindu Sri Siva-Vishnu Temple in Maryland and the associated problems in adapting the facility. Other essays address Afro-Cuban religions, Italian Harlem, the Japanese Presbyterian Church in Seattle, and the Church of the Open Air established by the Salvation Army. The essays provide insight into the cultural creativity, reinterpretation of worship and religious ingenuity of city people over the last 50 years.  This includes a long introduction essay, “Crossing the City Line,” on the study of urban religion in U.S. history.