Sack, Daniel (Edward) 1962-
SACK, Daniel (Edward) 1962-
Born February 27, 1962, in Dayton, OH; son of Robert Jeremy and Ann (Chamberlain) Sack. Education: Northwestern University, B.A. (history), 1984; McCormick Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1989; Princeton University, Ph.D. (religion), 1995.
Religious historian. United Campus Christian Ministry, Chicago, IL, 1988-89; ordained to the ministry of the United Church of Christ, 1989; Austin College, Sherman, TX, assistant chaplain, 1989-91; Associated Colleges of the Midwest, Chicago, IL, program officer; Material History of American Religion Project, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, associate director. Trustee of McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL, 1986-87. Served on the board of directors of the United Ministry of Pennsylvania State College, 1987-88; taught at Hope College, Holland, MI, and Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA.
Society for Values in Higher Education (fellow), American Academy of Religion, United Church of Christ Ministers in Higher Education.
Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Contributor of articles and reviews to Anglican and Episcopal History, American Presbyterians, Religious Studies Review, Christian Century, Church History, Pro Ecclesia, and Princeton Seminary Bulletin.
Daniel Sack wrote Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture as associate director of the Material History of American Religion Project, a private research group. Julie Finnin Day wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that in this study, Sack "skips theology and goes straight to the centerpiece of Protestant community: the table. More than a meditation on the moral properties of cheese casserole, his book explores the relationship of mainline American Protestants to food—that is, to social causes, personal ethics, and world hunger."
Whitebread Protestants begins with a discussion of communion and notes that beginning in the 1830s, temperance reformers asked that grape juice be substituted for wine in ceremonies. When the Women's Christian Temperance Union advocated the use of unfermented wine in communion, Charles Welch invented a bottled product and sold the juice through religious publications. A second debate evolved over the idea that germs could be spread through the use of the communal chalice, and doctors advocated the use of individual cups.
Next the volume considers the social events at which eating was the central activity. In the early days of America, these were important to communities in which, except for attending church, families lived in comparative isolation. Such events were also the only decision-making opportunities for the women who were responsible for the planning and execution of potluck suppers and coffees. When large numbers of women began entering the workforce in the 1950s, their unpaid labor at these community activities was, by necessity, replaced with that of paid workers.
In the 1960s, churches began ministering to the hungry. One chapter of Whitebread Protestants studies the soup kitchen, where both physical and spiritual hunger could be satisfied. The next chapter discusses feeding the hungry outside of the direct influence of the church, through national and international relief programs. "In both cases," wrote Shelly McKenzie in American Studies International, Sack illustrated "how food acted as a vehicle to propel church-based interests into the political sphere. Domestically, involvement in hunger relief prompted church members to investigate the larger social causes of hunger and initiate other kinds of relief activities. Internationally, hunger relief efforts mobilized to provide surplus American agricultural products to Europeans after World War II." The Church World Service and other agencies carried their activities to Europe and beyond, becoming activists for causes in Chile, Taiwan, Nigeria, and other countries. Sack noted the campaigns of the Church World Service aimed at American youth and the use of their printed materials in Sunday school programs. Christian Century contributor Christopher H. Evans wrote that Sack "notes that changing perceptions of food in the twentieth century caused Protestants to think less of their own personal affluence and, instead, to contemplate larger justice issues related to domestic and global hunger. At the same time, changing perceptions of what it means to follow the biblical injunction to feed the hungry have caused rifts between churches over questions of theological identity, the practice of ministry, and the church's mission." Booklist's Steven Schroeder maintained that Sack's "tendency to sometimes separate theology from practice can be puzzling."
The final chapter is a discussion of American eating habits, food reform movements, and a look at self-indulgence. Sack noted that two reformers who felt Americans ingested too much meat and grease were Sylvester Graham, who invented the Graham cracker, and Will Keith Kellogg, a Seventh-Day Adventist who came up with the corn flake. McKenzie wrote that Sack "sees in voluntary fasts and meatless potluck dinners a trend toward a 'new asceticism' that developed out of growing solidarity with the inhabitants of developing nations and environmental concerns." "Sack has assembled a feast of understudied topics here," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "seasoned by the emerging fields of food studies and the material history of religion." George Westerlund commented in Library Journal that Sack "covers a lot of ground in considerable detail."
Lauren F. Winner wrote in Christianity Today that "even if mainliners aren't witnessing over their spaghetti dinners, food still plays an important role in shoring up faith. When people eat together, they also talk to each other, they develop relationships. Friends who eat together, Whitebread Protestants suggests, pray together: clever churches, explicitly evangelistic or not, use food to lure people inside. This is especially true when it comes to teenagers; savvy youth group leaders know the secret to a high turnout is free pizza." New York Times writer Alexandra Hall wrote that Sack "has rearranged a culture most often viewed as mainstream and boring and effectively served it up as a complex and even exotic morsel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Studies International, February, 2002, Shelly McKenzie, review of Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture, p. 89.
Booklist, November 1, 2000, Steven Schroeder, review of Whitebread Protestants, p. 496.
Choice, April, 2001, review of Whitebread Protestants, p. 1480.
Christian Century, January 3, 2001, Christopher H. Evans, review of Whitebread Protestants, p. 33.
Christianity Today, May 21, 2001, Lauren F. Winner, review of Whitebread Protestants, p. 91.
Christian Science Monitor, December 28, 2000, Julie Finnin Day, "Macaroni and Cheese? Praise the Lord!," p. 17.
Library Journal, October 15, 2000, George Westerlund, review of Whitebread Protestants, p. 77.
New York Times, November 25, 2000, Peter Steinfels, "A Divinity School Historian Turns to the Role of Food among His Fellow 'Whitebread Protestants,'" p. B17.
New York Times Book Review, March 11, 2001, Alexandra Hall, review of Whitebread Protestants, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2000, review of Whitebread Protestants, p. 69.
Sociology of Religion, winter, 2002, William Ramp, review of Whitebread Protestants, p. 546.*