The Colorblind Christian Myth: Evangelicals and White Supremacy in the Age of Civil Rights
By Jesse Curtis
New York University Press
Jesse Curtis, a historian at the University of Valparaiso, explores how white evangelical Christians gradually abandoned segregationist theologies in favor of a “gospel of color blindness” which, while not explicitly racist, often left racist systems undisputed. Curtis avoids the world of formal politics and shows how the gospel of color blindness was forged in more private spaces: homes, schools, and churches. Of particular interest is his discussion of how the church growth movement emerged from the context of the civil rights movement. CGM advocates like Donald McGavran and C. Peter Wagner insisted that racially homogeneous congregations were not racist but rather reflected the human desire to be with “our kind of people” (as Wagner titled the one of his books). Although not polemical, Curtis shows in painful detail how white evangelicals, when given the choice between confronting racism and ignoring it in the name of church unity, almost always choose the latter. .
Knowing the Soul of a People: Religion, Race, and the Making of Southern Folklore
By Jamil Drake
Oxford University Press
One of the fastest growing areas of American religious history is the history of those who study American religion. Jamil Drake, a religious studies scholar at Florida State University, makes an important contribution to this literature with this book, which examines how liberal social scientists have studied and interpreted (and, indeed, often misinterpreted) the religion of Southern blacks. These social scientists rejected racist stereotypes of black people and often advocated for reform of the Southern racial caste system. But, as Drake shows, their portrayals of black religion as emotional and primitive, along with their claims that this “otherworldly” faith impeded the process of modernization, refurbished older stereotypes with luster. social scientist. Drake argues convincingly that contemporary debates about “cultures of poverty” have deep religious roots.
Sincerely Held: American Secularism and Its Believers
By Charles McCrary
University of Chicago Press
What does it mean to believe something? In this challenging but rewarding book, Charles McCrary of Arizona State University examines how Americans, especially judges, lawyers, and scholars, have attempted to answer this question. Citing an eclectic cast of characters including Herman Melville, Paul Tillich, 19th century fortune tellers and 20th century pacifists, McCrary argues that the American legal system has impoverished our idea of religion by equating religion with a “belief sincere “. In doing so, he stripped religion of its communal elements. As he eloquently writes: “The test of sincerity is supposed to put everyone on an equal footing before the law, but it also makes them autonomous. It is an essential text for understanding the current struggles around religious freedom.
Adopt for God: The Mission to Change America through Transnational Adoption
By Soojin Chung
New York University Press
Soojin Chung of Azusa Pacific University has made significant contributions to a growing body of literature on the global connections of American Christianity. (See also Helen Jin Kim’s excellent film Race for Renewalreviewed in the June 29 issue of the century). Adopt for God deals with American Christians—both evangelical and ecumenical—who urged fellow Americans to open their hearts and homes to non-white adoptees, especially children in war-torn Korea. Although Chung is not unaware of the dark aspects of this story (for example, how depictions of Asian children as “ideal adoptees” have reinforced the myth of the model minority), she nonetheless convincingly demonstrates that this transnational adoption movement was not simply “absolute cultural imperialism”. Adoption evangelists like Pearl Buck, Bertha, and Harry Holt challenged, and to some extent undermined, white supremacist dominance in the United States, making possible a vision of a more equitable and multicultural society.
Separating Church and State: A History
By Steven K. Green
Cornell University Press
Building on his previous scholarship on Church-State Relations in the United States, Steven K. Green of Willamette University offers a masterful history of the concept of separation of church and state. ‘State. Green challenges scholars who have argued that separationism is a modern invention. By beginning his story in colonial times and bringing it to the present, he shows that Americans of all political and religious persuasions have invoked separation as a key principle of church-state relations. But, as Green notes, they often disagreed on what separationism means and what it should accomplish. Is it to protect the churches from the government? About the promotion of individual freedom of conscience? About the promotion of religious pluralism? This flexibility has given separationism its strength, but it has also left the concept vulnerable to concerted attacks, such as the Supreme Court’s recent efforts to redraw the lines between church and state in a way markedly favorable to the first. .
Before the Religious Right: Liberal Protestants, Human Rights, and the Polarization of the United States
By Gene Zubovich
University of Pennsylvania Press
Epic is a word rarely used in the same sentence as “ecumenical Protestantism,” but SUNY-Buffalo historian Gene Zubovich has written a truly epic account of how ecumenical Protestantism transformed American politics between the 1920s and 1970s. Zubovich describes how Protestants affiliated with the National Council of Churches fought to create a world order that would protect the rights and dignity of all human beings. These Protestants, many of whom held high positions in politics, law, and academia, were also active in domestic affairs, fighting against segregation and advocating for a fairer economy. As Zubovich shows, however, the ecumenical mobilization generated a backlash among more conservative secularists, helping to spur the rise of the Christian right. Ecumenical Protestants sought to make America fairer and more equal. They succeeded, at least to some extent, but their work also left the nation more polarized.
The Church of the Dead: The Epidemic of 1576 and the Birth of Christianity in the Americas
By Jennifer Scheper-Hughes
New York University Press
“Why shouldn’t we start with Tenochtitlan rather than Plymouth Rock as a starting point for thinking about the origins of North American Christianity? So asks Jennifer Scheper Hughes, a professor at the University of California-Riverside, in her examination and meditation on the mysterious cocoliztli epidemic that swept the Americas from 1576 to the early 1580s, killing millions of Indigenous people. Through careful reading of colonial and Indigenous sources, Hughes argues that this epidemic, for all the devastation it caused to Indigenous communities, nevertheless gave those same communities an opportunity to reassert their presence in the wake of the disaster. . Mexican Christianity, she concludes, “is not primarily the creation of Spanish missionaries, but rather of indigenous Catholic survivors” of the epidemic. This powerful book reorients American Christianity in time and space, rooting it firmly in the history of Indigenous peoples.