George Marsden is one of several great Evangelical historians of American religion (a group that also includes the likes of Mark Noll and Nathan Hatch) who has made major contributions to the study of Christianity as a historiographically seriously American phenomenon. Indeed, it strikes me that Noll’s important The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind was written in 1990, and since then the community of serious Evangelical scholars in history and elsewhere has become very rich and interesting. Here is a new book by Marsden, Religion & American Culture: A Brief History (Eerdmans) which looks like it could serve as a useful introduction to his work more broadly.
While Americans still profess to be one of the most religious people in the industrialized world, many aspects of American culture have long been secular and materialistic. That is just one of the many paradoxes, contradictions, and surprises in the relationship between Christianity and American culture. In this book George Marsden, a leading historian of American Christianity and award-winning author, tells the story of that relationship in a concise and thought-provoking way.
Surveying the history of religion and American culture from the days of the earliest European settlers right up through the elections of 2016, Marsden offers the kind of historically and religiously informed scholarship that has made him one of the nation’s most respected and decorated historians. Students in the classroom and history readers of all ages will benefit from engaging with the story Marsden tells.