cover image The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

Frances FitzGerald. Simon & Schuster, $35 (706p) ISBN 978-1-4391-3133-6

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and historian FitzGerald (Fire in the Lake) provides a compelling narrative history of “the white evangelical movements necessary to understand the Christian right and its evangelical opponents.” Dispatching pre-20th-century events in the first three chapters, and the period from 1900 to 1945 in just two more, FitzGerald focuses most closely on evangelical culture and politics from the rise of Billy Graham through the Obama presidency. She skillfully introduces readers to the terminology, key debates, watershed events, and personalities that have populated the history of white American evangelical Protestant culture in the last half-century. She explains issues such as fundamentalism, biblical inerrancy, Christian nationalism, civil religion and anticommunism, the charismatic movement, and abortion, and introduces such diverse figures as Karl Barth, Jerry Falwell, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Pat Robertson. Also present, though less prominently featured, are members of the evangelical left, such as Ron Sider and James Wallis. Attention to intraevangelical theological and political differences is especially welcome at a time when evangelical and even Christian have become stand-ins for the Christian right. A substantial bibliography and endnotes will assist readers who wish to delve more deeply into specific topics. This is a timely and accessible contribution to the rapidly growing body of literature on Christianity in modern America. (Mar.)