Marty, Martin (1928– ), Author, Scholar, and Editor

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Marty, Martin
(1928– ), author, scholar, and editor.

Martin Marty is Fairfax M. Cone distinguished service professor emeritus of history of modern Christianity at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. Born and raised in West Point, Nebraska, he was ordained to the ministry in 1952 and served for a decade as a Lutheran pastor. In 1963 he joined the faculty at the University of Chicago Divinity School. From 1956 to 1998 Marty was associate editor and later senior editor for Christian Century magazine. He was one of the founders of the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith, and Ethics, where he is the George B. Caldwell senior scholar-in-residence.

Possessing a seemingly unlimited amount of energy that is channeled into a hectic but well-organized daily routine, Marty has been able to write fifty books and more than forty-three hundred articles, essays, and reviews. In 1972 he won the National Book Award for Righteous Empire. His major work, Modern American Religion, is a four-volume study of religion in twentieth-century America. Marty has also written a spiritual classic, A Cry of Absence: Reflections for the Winter of the Heart, a meditation occasioned by the death of his first wife, Elsa, in 1981. He has written other spiritual books, illustrated by the photographs of his son, Micah, that reflect on the Christian journey through life. A pastor as well as a scholar, Marty preaches regularly in various houses of worship, mainly in the area around Riverside, Illinois, where he lives with his second wife, Harriet.

In 1986 Time magazine called Marty "the most influential living interpreter of religion" in the United States. He is regularly featured in the media as the master analyst of the nation's religious landscape. Marty can best be described as a public intellectual who has a unique ability to popularize historical scholarship in an energetic and polished style. Because of this gift he is in great demand as a speaker, giving as many as one hundred talks a year throughout the country. In these talks he regularly examines a theme central to his thought, religious pluralism and the nation's search for the common good. He has described this as his life quest—to understand and explain the place of religion in the public sphere of the nation.

In addition to his role as a national public voice for religion, Marty has also distinguished himself as an acclaimed scholar. His major work, Modern American Religion, evidences a breadth of vision not found in the work of many other historians of American religion. Marty's ecumenical spirit shines through the work as he examines the diverse ways in which the forces of modernity have shaped the nation's three major religions—Protestantism, Judaism, and Roman Catholicism. His gift is the ability to synthesize large amounts of material in a readable narrative that incorporates telling quotes and anecdotes.

From 1988 to 1994 Marty served as the director of the Fundamentalism Project. Sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, this was an interdisciplinary public policy study that examined the place of religious fundamentalism in the modern world. The results of this study were published in six volumes, which Marty coedited with R. Scott Appleby. They represent one of the most exhaustive studies of religious fundamentalism ever published. Like all of Marty's work, these volumes of essays, written by scholars from numerous countries throughout the world, offer a balanced and unbiased view of the global resurgence of religious fundamentalism.

Marty's many honors include fifty-nine honorary degrees, the National Humanities Medal (1997), and the Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995).

See alsoJournalism, Religious; Publishing, Religious; Religious Studies.


Marty, Martin. Modern AmericanReligion. 3 vols. to date. 1986–1996. (A fourth, final volume is in preparation.)

Temple, Kerry. "With a Grin and a Prayer." Universityof Chicago Magazine 90, no. 6 (August 1998): 22–27.

Jay P. Dolan

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Marty, Martin (1928– ), Author, Scholar, and Editor

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