FitzGerald, “The Evangelicals”

This month, Simon & Schuster release “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America,” by Frances FitzGerald.  The publisher’s  description follows:

This groundbreaking book from Pulitzer Prize­–winning historian Frances FitzGerald is the first to tell the powerful, dramatic story of the Evangelical movement in America—from the Puritan era to the 2016 presidential election.

the-evangelicals-9781439131336_hrThe evangelical movement began in the revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, known in America as the Great Awakenings. A populist rebellion against the established churches, it became the dominant religious force in the country.

During the nineteenth century white evangelicals split apart dramatically, first North versus South, and then at the end of the century, modernist versus fundamentalist. After World War II, Billy Graham, the revivalist preacher, attracted enormous crowds and tried to gather all Protestants under his big tent, but the civil rights movement and the social revolution of the sixties drove them apart again. By the 1980s Jerry Falwell and other southern televangelists, such as Pat Robertson, had formed the Christian right. Protesting abortion and gay rights, they led the South into the Republican Party, and for thirty-five years they were the sole voice of evangelicals to be heard nationally. Eventually a younger generation of leaders protested the Christian right’s close ties with the Republican Party and proposed a broader agenda of issues, such as climate change, gender equality, and immigration reform.

Evangelicals have in many ways defined the nation. They have shaped our culture and our politics. Frances FitGerald’s narrative of this distinctively American movement is a major work of history, piecing together the centuries-long story for the first time. Evangelicals now constitute twenty-five percent of the American population, but they are no longer monolithic in their politics. They range from Tea Party supporters to social reformers. Still, with the decline of religious faith generally, FitzGerald suggests that evangelical churches must embrace ethnic minorities if they are to survive.

Banack, “God’s Province”

In June, the McGill-Queens University Press will release “God’s Province: Evangelical Christianity, Political Thought, and Conservatism in Alberta,” by Clark Banack (York University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Compared to the United States, it is assumed that religion has not been a significant factor in Canada’s political development. In God’s Province, Clark9780773547148 Banack challenges this assumption, showing that, in Alberta, religious motivation has played a vital role in shaping its political trajectory.

For Henry Wise Wood, president of the United Farmers of Alberta from 1916 until 1931, William “Bible Bill” Aberhart, founder of the Alberta Social Credit Party and premier from 1935 until 1943, Aberhart’s protégé Ernest Manning, Alberta’s longest serving premier (1943-1968), and Manning’s son Preston, founder of the Alberta-based federal Reform Party of Canada, religion was central to their thinking about human agency, the purpose of politics, the role of the state, the nature of the economy, and the proper duties of citizens. Drawing on substantial archival research and in-depth interviews, God’s Province highlights the strong link that exists between the religiously inspired political thought and action of these formative leaders, the US evangelical Protestant tradition from which they drew, and the emergence of an individualistic, populist, and anti-statist sentiment in Alberta that is largely unfamiliar to the rest of Canada.

Covering nearly a century of Alberta’s history, Banack offers an illuminating reconsideration of the political thought of these leaders, the goals of the movements they led, and the roots of Alberta’s distinctiveness within Canada. A fusion of religious history, intellectual history, and political thought, God’s Province exposes the ways in which individual politicians have shaped one province’s political culture.

“American Conservatism” (Levinson et al, eds.)

In May, the New York University Press will release “American Conservatism: Nomos LVI,” edited by Sanford V. Levinson (University of Texas), Joel Parker (University of Texas), and Melissa S. Williams (University of Toronto). The publisher’s description follows:

The topic of American conservatism is especially timely—and perhaps volatile.  Is there what might be termed an “exceptional” form of conservatism that is 9781479812370_fullcharacteristically American, in contrast to conservatisms found in other countries?  Are views that are identified in the United States as conservative necessarily congruent with what political theorists might classify under that label?  Or does much American conservatism almost necessarily reflect the distinctly liberal background of American political thought?

In American Conservatism, a distinguished group of American political and legal scholars reflect on these crucial questions, unpacking the very nature and development of American conservative thought. They examine both the historical and contemporary realities of arguments offered by self-conscious conservatives in the United States, offering a well-rounded view of the state of this field.  In addition to synoptic overviews of the various dimensions of American conservative thought, specific attention is paid to such topics as American constitutionalism, the role of religion and religious institutions, and the particular impact of the late Leo Strauss on American thought and thinkers.  Just as American conservatism includes a wide, and sometimes conflicting, group of thinkers, the essays in this volume themselves reflect differing and sometimes controversial assessments of the theorists under discussion.

Wuthnow, “Red State Religion”

From the well-known sociologist of religion, Robert Wuthnow, comes this new book, Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America’s Heartland (Princeton UP 2011).  The book looks like an interesting examination of the interaction of religion and politics in the state of Kansas, and potentially much more illuminating than other tendentious accounts.  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

No state has voted Republican more consistently or widely or for longer than Kansas. To understand red state politics, Kansas is the place. It is also the place to understand red state religion. The Kansas Board of Education has repeatedly challenged the teaching of evolution, Kansas voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage, the state is a hotbed of antiabortion protest–and churches have been involved in all of these efforts. Yet in 1867 suffragist Lucy Stone could plausibly proclaim that, in the cause of universal suffrage, “Kansas leads the world!” How did Kansas go from being a progressive state to one of the most conservative?

In Red State Religion, Robert Wuthnow tells the story of religiously motivated political activism in Kansas from territorial days to the present. He examines how faith mixed with politics as both ordinary Kansans and leaders such as John Brown, Carrie Nation, William Allen White, and Dwight Eisenhower struggled over the pivotal issues of their times, from slavery and Prohibition to populism and anti-communism. Beyond providing surprising new explanations of why Kansas became a conservative stronghold, the book sheds new light on the role of religion in red states across the Midwest and the United States. Contrary to recent influential accounts, Wuthnow argues that Kansas conservatism is largely pragmatic, not ideological, and that religion in the state has less to do with politics and contentious moral activism than with relationships between neighbors, friends, and fellow churchgoers.

This is an important book for anyone who wants to understand the role of religion in American political conservatism.

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