In a six page conclusion to The Religion of Democracy, Kittelstrom surveys the influence of religious liberalism in the 20th century as liberalism became mostly a non-religious ideology (I'm really surprised that King isn't an eighth character for her, but maybe she thinks much has been written about the religious aspects of the Civil Rights Movement?). She also draws a few conclusions, one was that commercialism ended up being embraced as an expression of freedom and the concerns that Jane Addams developed were eclipsed.
This paragraph nicely summarizes much of the book:
For Addams, consumerism and the commercial interest were instead drags on freedom, the latest in a long line of determinisms that liberals challenged in defense of moral agency. John Adams had shied away from dogmatic religion and defied a government based on hereditary privilege rather than the consent of citizens. Mary Moody Emerson and William Ellery Channing also rejected autocratic government, extending democracy to religion by defending individual moral agency against the foregone conclusions of predestination and innate, total depravity. Slavery was a deterministic institution, and to a debatable extent so was patriarchy. After the Civil War, the new determinism of materialism, which William James called scientism, then threatened the free will of individuals with the explanatory power of biology that would make all social change the product of impersonal forces. James enlisted the power of the imagination, which Channing and the Emersons had already linked to religion, to restore moral agency. Thomas Davidson faced off against evangelical Christianity and socialism with a democratic deity of individual self-culture, which contested the determinism of class origin and ethnicity with a new social process of interdependent diversities, together producing a higher culture through their interactions. The fixed idea William Mackintire Salter challenged was the laissez-faire state, which pretended that the custom of not protecting laborers' rights was immutable, a natural law like gravity. Industrial capitalism also threatened liberty in the experience of Jane Addams, who saw the profit motive as a fixed idea that bore a haphazard relationship with human well-being, given that commercialism's quickest route to appeal was to play on desire, the basic human craving for pleasure.
In a sentence made sad by the recent election campaign, Kittelstrom wrote, "The discrediting of white supremacy may be the most significant parcel of liberal common ground cultivated in the twentieth century."
She does feel that many liberals became self-righteous dogmatists, which abandoned the core principles developed in the 18th century. "Once liberals became dogmatists, they were no longer pluralists." Of pluralism she writes:
Pluralism is a pillar of faith in the religion of democracy. It is not an easy faith and not suited to most people's minds. Pluralism takes a step past multiculturalism, which affirms the vitality and preciousness of every human culture. Pluralism forays beyond countable cultures into infinity, into the unknowable. It is essentially a religious attitude, whether pluralists avow a faith or not, because it includes an intangible something beyond what anyone already knows, what can be named or quantified. In this way it is supernatural. When William James asked his audiences to believe that this is "a democratic universe," he meant one that was both unfinished--infinite--and in need of individual's unique perspective on what is true and good.
And so she concludes the book by advocating a resurgence of the liberal virtues of "humility, sincerity, and openness."