Allen Richardson, Ph.D.
Professor of Religious Studies
Cedar Crest College Professor of Religious Studies Allen Richardson, Ph.D., has revised his 1988 work in a new edition titled, Strangers in this Land: Religion, Pluralism and the American Dream. The book, published by McFarland & Company of North Carolina, has a foreword by Diana Eck, Ph.D., director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and a foremost expert on the topic.
“When I first read Allen Richardson’s Strangers in This Land, it was exciting and enlightening fare. Richardson was far ahead of his time in calling attention to the growing religious diversity of the United States and the challenges it poses to the complex vision of America,” Eck wrote in the foreword. “It is timely to have this new version of Richardson’s provocative book to set our current questions in the context of a longer historical perspective.”
Richardson has been on the ground floor of researching a question that has existed since colonial times: What does it mean to be American? For some, America is a place where people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds can come to be free from oppression—with no strings attached. For them, the diversity that exists is to be celebrated and appreciated. For others, being American means assimilating into a Christian society that ascribes to a uniform set of values and practices.
This long-lasting national struggle with diversity is captured by two contradictory symbols both in view of the New York harbor, Richardson said. On one hand the Statue of Liberty welcomes people from all countries with the famous words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Meanwhile, the immigrants who came through Ellis Island often had their names “Americanized” and in many cases were encouraged to forget their old identities, he said.
The lasting societal debates of our day over free speech, alternative religions, and immigration continue to draw from the nation’s struggle with the question of what it means to be American, and these issues will only intensify as the population of the United States becomes increasingly diverse, Richardson said. Strangers in this Land traces the history of this debate and the continuing impact it has had on the questions of religion, pluralism, and the American dream.