Religion: Britons Will Understand

The field of American life is as bare of the Church as a billiard table of a centerpiece. . . .

So wrote scornful Expatriate Henry James in The American Scene (1907). To him, as to most Englishmen, "the Church" meant the state-established Church of England; he was appalled by the ecclesiastical chaos of competing U.S. denominations.*

To explain America's unique religious situation in a book for British consumption, the Cambridge University Press picked the dean of Harvard's liberal, 300-year-old Divinity School, a New England Congregationalist with a B.A. from Oxford. Published last week, Dean Willard L. Sperry's Religion in America (Macmillan; $2.50)...