America's Heirloom Comfort Song

"Amazing Grace"


  • Kevin Lewis University of South Carolina



Iconic, Song, Comfort, Secular Culture, Crossover


An historical, sociological, theological, cultural inquiry into the popularity of Newton’s hymn across the racial (and class) lines that divide North Americans. This “heirloom,” this “cultural icon,” functions widely and continually, primarily as a “comfort song” (like “comfort” food). The religious and non-religious alike return again and again to (the first three stanzas of) “America’s most beloved song”: a staple of funerals, preserved in over a thousand recordings, most of them in the “popular” realm. This article explores the continuing nature of its long-proven appeal to a diverse breadth of Americans, in increasingly secularized times. The article notes, however, its apparent failure to energize reconciliation of the black and white races, both of which remain deeply devoted to it.

Author Biography

Kevin Lewis, University of South Carolina

Pofessor of Religious Studies


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Ragen, Brian Abel. 1994. “A Wretch Like Who?” America. January 24, Vol. 170, no.3.

Turner, Steve. 2002. Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Song. New York: Ecco



How to Cite

Lewis, K. (2013). America’s Heirloom Comfort Song: "Amazing Grace". Implicit Religion, 16(3), 277–288.