cover image Charles Lindbergh: A Religious Biography of America’s Most Infamous Pilot

Charles Lindbergh: A Religious Biography of America’s Most Infamous Pilot

Christopher Gehrz. Eerdmans, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8028-7621-8

In this convincing biography, historian Gehrz (The Pietist Option) argues Charles Lindbergh was an early example of a public figure who led a spiritual but not religious life. Lindbergh did not grow up devout, but when the dawn of aviation sparked an optimistic “winged gospel” marked by the desire to merge technological progress and evangelicalism, Gehrz writes, Lindbergh became a symbol of religious idolatry by the admiring public. Lindbergh’s friendship with French doctor Alexis Carrel, who was investigating “questions of existence and immortality whose answers lay beyond the reach of science,” heightened his desire to blend certain spiritual notions with modern scientific ideas. Carrel also encouraged Lindbergh’s eugenic and anti-Semitic impulses, which underpinned Lindbergh’s resistance to American involvement in WWII. Despite the pilot’s anti-interventionist stance, the war stoked Lindbergh’s patriotism and paved the way for his postwar writings, a “fusion of anti-Communism, atomic anxiety, and spiritual rumination” that questioned scientific supremacy and urged a return to spiritual principles. Using Lindbergh’s journals, writings, and public statements, Gehrz builds a thorough portrait of the aviator’s inner life, and the inclusion of the equally complex spiritual path of Lindbergh’s wife, Anne, adds useful context. Readers curious about a lesser-seen side of Lindbergh’s life will gain much from this well-argued biography. (Aug.)