The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream

Chris Lehmann. Melville, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-61219-508-7
Lehmann (Rich People Things) describes, in entertaining and erudite terms, the evolution of a uniquely American Protestantism linked with a uniquely American market capitalism into a "theology of abundance" that exalts wealth, stigmatizes poverty, and regards capital gains as a mark of divine favor. Through a series of spiritual revivals and awakenings and their corresponding economic booms and busts, Lehmann explains how the strong communal vision of the early Puritans gave way to biblical truths more adapted to the market revolution and a rising commercial ethos. The surprisingly early roots of the "intensely individualist American gospel of self-help" flower quite logically, as Lehmann shows, into an evangelical piety that eschews social causes or reform crusades, preferring to sanctify the more market-friendly values of personal striving and portray "worldly gain as the just reward of the faithful." With engaging forays into Mormonism, self-help and management literature, and end-times prophecy, Lehmann persuasively posits the modern prosperity gospel as an inevitable development in the American religious landscape. This book is unlikely to embarrass believers into a social conscience or different political allegiance, but Lehmann does reveal the modern evangelical right as deeply faithful to an American economic model—one focused on industrial production—that no longer exists. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/18/2016
Release date: 05/31/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-61219-509-4
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