God Needs No Passport: Immigrants and the Changing American Religious Landscape


A major new examination of the American immigrant experience, revealing how recent immigrants are transforming religion in America and around the globe.

"People who know how to live in more than one cultural world have mastered the art of living in this global age, which is good for this country and for their homelands."—from God Needs No Passport

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A major new examination of the American immigrant experience, revealing how recent immigrants are transforming religion in America and around the globe.

"People who know how to live in more than one cultural world have mastered the art of living in this global age, which is good for this country and for their homelands."—from God Needs No Passport

Thousands of Hindus fill the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City to worship with their guru from Gujarat, India. The Boston Garden plays host to a packed house of Brazilian Protestants, with ministers beamed in via satellite. Similar scenes are played out across middle America, where millions of new immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America have settled over the past decade. While many Americans expect that immigrants will trade in one membership card for another, sociologist Peggy Levitt's pathbreaking new account argues instead that many keep one foot in their countries of origin by participating in religious institutions—made possible by communications technology and the ease of international travel—that are a powerful but little-known force in today's world.

Immigrants are changing the face of religious diversity in the United States, Levitt argues, helping to make American religion just as global as U.S. corporations. In a book with stunning implications for today's immigration debates—where commentators routinely refer to a "clash of civilizations"—Levitt shows that the new realities of religion and migration are subtly challenging the very definition of what it means to be an American. God Needs No Passport reveals that American values are nolonger just made in the U.S.A. but around the globe.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Levitt (sociology, Wellesley Coll.; The Transnational Villagers) opens with the experiences of U.S. immigrants from a small city in interior Brazil and similar places in India, Pakistan, and Ireland, drawing from extensive surveys and interviews with 247 first-generation immigrants. Her charts and statistics give an excellent overall view of the results of her thorough on-site research; the illustrations show how immigration is affecting American values because of, e.g., migratory experiences, family ties, educational attainments, political participation, and social inclinations. Levitt describes specifically the way religion is being challenged and changed; "that it is alive and well"; and that it operates across cultures, much like today's global corporations. Finally, she suggests that robust pluralism may be an answer to the threats of future terrorism. General readers will appreciate the summary comments and charts in the appendix (though, by the same token, all the minute observations and examples may cause them to lose interest); sociologists will appreciate the specifics. Recommended for academic libraries.
—George Westerlund

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595581693
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 6/1/2007
  • Pages: 270
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Peggy Levitt is an associate professor and the chair of the department of sociology at Wellesley College. She is also a research fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She is the author of The Transnational Villagers and a co-editor, with Mary Waters, of The Changing Face of Home. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Prologue 1

1 Redefining the Boundaries of Belonging 9

2 Transnational Lives 27

3 Between the Nation, the World, and God 67

4 Values and Practices: "You Do Your Best and You Leave the Rest" 93

5 A New Religious Architecture 113

6 Getting to the Other Side of the Rainbow with Faith as the Car 137

Conclusion Tolerance in the Face of Terrorism 165

Appendix Demographic Characteristics and Transnational Ties: Similarities and Differences 175

Notes 201

References 235

Index 257

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2007

    Making sense out of what many refer to as nonsense

    Finally! A book that addresses both the immigration and religion issues, which are both current, hot topics in America. The writer, Peggy Levitt, steps right into the lives of various people and explores their perspectives on Americanization and religiousity. It is an interesting read, filled with diverse stories of the Irish Catholic in Boston to Brazilians in Framingham. Immigrants who come to America in hopes of becoming financially sound enough to return to their country to provide a better living for their families. Immigrants who come to America seeking political justice and have no desire of ever moving back. The author examines how these migrants adjust, maintain their interests in their mother country, and how Americans react to this influx in a post 9/11 society. I recommend this well-written book to everyone: Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, and especially college students, who themselves may be experiencing self-discovery of a person they are just becoming.

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