Sometimes, history happens quietly, the accumulation of years of slow, subterranean change in the minds and hearts of men and women, in the society they shape together. Sometimes, we almost don’t notice how astounding the change is.

The Republican Party is now choosing among a Mormon, two Roman Catholics, and a Southern Baptist for the presidency — and the Baptist may be the longest shot for the nomination.

For anyone alive and aware 30 years ago and more, for anyone familiar with America’s religious history, it’s inspiring to witness this. Our history has been marked by religious bigotry, for sure, but also by the unique, propulsive American genius for religious pluralism.

“Unlike the other countries, this one/begins in houses,” the poet Douglas Crase once wrote. Not churches, he meant. Not palaces. Not tribes or races or blood or languages or barracks. But in houses, where people met, and talked, and shared their hopes and ideas and dreams. Conversation made the country as much as money or force of arms. Maybe more.

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