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The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

por Frances FitzGerald

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424758,426 (3.89)26
The 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, Pat Robertson, and other southern televangelists 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. 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.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 7 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Understanding That Old Time Religion

Readers who are not evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, who are not religious at all, or who merely pay lip service to the idea, will learn a lot from Frances Fitzgerald’s new, and at times numbingly detailed, history of these two groups, as well as their many splinters.

Perhaps the most intriguing and, when considered carefully in the light of reality, is the thorough infusion of religious mysticism into the world, as if God and the eternal were palpable participants in our physical world, or something like a parallel dimension separated by a most porous, frequently traversed membrane. Writing a sentence like the preceding, however, does little to capture how disturbing (yet also insightful) many will find the manifestations of an overarching, other worldly belief system, because whether or not you believe, it impacts your life. Fitzgerald illustrates how when she reaches “Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority” (just short of halfway) and proceeds through most of the high points of recent history, with particular concentration and insight into the theologizing, philosophizing, and politicizing not visible to non, marginal, and true believers. For this reason, for its practical value, many will find this an invaluable history and resource.

While readers will find it tempting, given the length and density of this history, to sprint or just leap to current times, spending time with the first half of the history will help you frame current times. After all, the belief systems, some of which feel simplistic, spring from some deep thinking, particularly in the era when religion dominated the landscape. Thus, Fitzgerald takes readers through the First (1730-40s) and Second (1800 through the 1830s) Great Awakenings, the days of Calvinist Jonathan Edwards and the personalization of the religious experience, and Charles Finney’s “burnt-over district,” a period marked by the rise of revivalism and the jettisoning of rationalism in favor of emotion. Then follows the Civil War and wrapped around it from antebellum to post reconstruction the splintering over slavery and other issues related to the experience of religion. Finally, in the run up to current days, readers walk through the preaching of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, from Dwight Moody to Billy Sunday, until they reach the days of the influential Falwell, the scandalous Jim and Tammy and Jimmy Swaggart, the monumentally influential Billy Graham, and, regardless of what you think of him, the immense influencer, the game changer extraordinaire, Pat Robertson.

The ground Fitzgerald tills here is a truck farm of religion, politics, business; of larger than life personalities; of theologies and philosophies that will strike nonbelievers as bizarre. You’ll learn much that may surprise you, too, such as the fact that before our days of politicalized religion, Protestants in their various manifestations agreed in steering clear of politics. How things have changed, indeed. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Understanding That Old Time Religion

Readers who are not evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, who are not religious at all, or who merely pay lip service to the idea, will learn a lot from Frances Fitzgerald’s new, and at times numbingly detailed, history of these two groups, as well as their many splinters.

Perhaps the most intriguing and, when considered carefully in the light of reality, is the thorough infusion of religious mysticism into the world, as if God and the eternal were palpable participants in our physical world, or something like a parallel dimension separated by a most porous, frequently traversed membrane. Writing a sentence like the preceding, however, does little to capture how disturbing (yet also insightful) many will find the manifestations of an overarching, other worldly belief system, because whether or not you believe, it impacts your life. Fitzgerald illustrates how when she reaches “Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority” (just short of halfway) and proceeds through most of the high points of recent history, with particular concentration and insight into the theologizing, philosophizing, and politicizing not visible to non, marginal, and true believers. For this reason, for its practical value, many will find this an invaluable history and resource.

While readers will find it tempting, given the length and density of this history, to sprint or just leap to current times, spending time with the first half of the history will help you frame current times. After all, the belief systems, some of which feel simplistic, spring from some deep thinking, particularly in the era when religion dominated the landscape. Thus, Fitzgerald takes readers through the First (1730-40s) and Second (1800 through the 1830s) Great Awakenings, the days of Calvinist Jonathan Edwards and the personalization of the religious experience, and Charles Finney’s “burnt-over district,” a period marked by the rise of revivalism and the jettisoning of rationalism in favor of emotion. Then follows the Civil War and wrapped around it from antebellum to post reconstruction the splintering over slavery and other issues related to the experience of religion. Finally, in the run up to current days, readers walk through the preaching of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, from Dwight Moody to Billy Sunday, until they reach the days of the influential Falwell, the scandalous Jim and Tammy and Jimmy Swaggart, the monumentally influential Billy Graham, and, regardless of what you think of him, the immense influencer, the game changer extraordinaire, Pat Robertson.

The ground Fitzgerald tills here is a truck farm of religion, politics, business; of larger than life personalities; of theologies and philosophies that will strike nonbelievers as bizarre. You’ll learn much that may surprise you, too, such as the fact that before our days of politicalized religion, Protestants in their various manifestations agreed in steering clear of politics. How things have changed, indeed. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
A sweeping and comprehensive history of the evangelical movement from its earliest days to the brink of the 2016 presidential election. My interest in evangelism stems in part from living in upstate New York where the fiery evangelism of the Second Great Awakening flourished from the 1820's on. Charles Grandison Finney got his start in 1826 in the village of Westernville, NY that led to naming the region the "burned over district". Finney preached in our village church and even in our home as recounted in dramatic passages in his memoirs. The area was a hotbed of abolitionism, notable in one respect by the Oneida Institute, a religious training academy founded by Rev. George Gale, a pastor in our village church. (The institute is one of the first to offer training for black as well as white students.) Finney is identified as promoting the "new theology" that broke from traditional Calvinist doctrine to a pathway to salvation by individual choice of will.

Fitzgerald recounts the schism between the modernists and fundamentalists that erupted over the the challenges that Darwin's and others' science posed for the biblical view of origins. The modernists, to a great degree, moved away from biblical literalism as the complete explanation of origins. The fundamentalists held fast to the inerrancy of the bible as the only means to know history. While it seemed for a time that fundamentalism might fade, she points out that in many forms and through diverse acolytes it continued to be held widely across the nation, particularly, but not only, in the South. One aspect of evangelism that did change in the 20th century was the notion that evangelicals should maintain a separation from the secular world, that the realms of politics and culture were not within their purview. This began to be seen in the pronouncements of Billy Graham in his crusades and identification with presidents and other politicians. Engagement in politics grew substantially in the 80's and beyond by national religious organizations led by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson. Under the "pro-family" banner these leaders brought their followers deeply into political advocacy and became closely identified with the Republican party. Two issues drove these efforts and alliances: abortion and same-sex marriage/non-discrimination against homosexuals. (Fitzgerald terms these "below-the-belt issues). Courting leaders like Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush, the evangelicals were frustrated by the tepid results of their lobbying and political action. Despite their concerted efforts to inhibit access to abortions, Roe v Wade continues to buttress a woman's right to choose. The seismic shift in public acceptance toward sexual orientation and the rights of LGBTQ persons was seen by evangelical leaders as a devastating repudiation of their aims by the nation. What seems to have emerged as a reaction from these set backs is a sense of martyrdom and victimization of Christians on the religious right. There is also a strong connection of the most fervent of the evangelicals and right-wing movements like the Tea Party.

Emerging near the end of Bush's second term is a new school of evangelicals who connect their scriptural exegesis with other concerns such as poverty, disease and climate change. One leader said that evangelicals must let the world know what they are for, not just what they are against. ( )
  stevesmits | Mar 7, 2021 |
Read in summer of 2017. Pleased with first part dealing with spiritual awakening and influence on social issues. Fitzgerald gets sidetracked by associating the politics of the Christian right with evangelicals overall. Often allows personal liberal thoughts to make judgment statements. Has several obvious "historical" facts wrong. Don't think it is of award winning quality.
  pwaldrep | Apr 2, 2019 |
Fairly dry history of evangelical religion. Unfortunately, the most interesting parts of the book were the parts that I already knew well. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
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The 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, Pat Robertson, and other southern televangelists 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. 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.

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