The Evangelicals: Book summary and reviews of The Evangelicals by Frances FitzGerald

The Evangelicals

The Struggle to Shape America

by Frances FitzGerald

The Evangelicals by Frances FitzGerald X
The Evangelicals by Frances FitzGerald

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Book Summary

This groundbreaking book from Pulitzer Prize­–winning historian Frances FitzGerald is the first to tell the powerful, dramatic story of the Evangelical movement in America—from the Puritan era to the 2016 presidential election.

This groundbreaking book from Pulitzer Prize­–winning historian Frances FitzGerald is the first to tell the powerful, dramatic story of the Evangelical movement in America—from the Puritan era to the 2016 presidential election.

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 and other southern televangelists, such as Pat Robertson, 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. Frances FitGerald's narrative of this distinctively American movement is a major work of history, piecing together the centuries-long story for the first time. 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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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Critics Circle Award, 2017

Reviews

Media Reviews

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
National Book Award Finalist
Time magazine Top 10 Nonfiction Book of the Year
New York Times Notable Book
Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017

"Starred Review. A capacious history of Evangelical American Protestantism. This rich narrative ranges across the various Evangelical denominations while illuminating the doctrines—especially personal conversion as spiritual rebirth, and adherence to the Bible as ultimate truth—that unite them. ... A complex and fascinating epic." - Booklist

"Starred Review. Overflowing with historical anecdote and contemporary reportage and essential to interpreting the current political and cultural landscape." - Kirkus Reviews

"This is a timely and accessible contribution to the rapidly growing body of literature on Christianity in modern America." - Publishers Weekly

"An excellent work that is certain to be a standard text for understanding contemporary evangelicalism and the American impulse to reform its society." - Library Journal

"A page turner…We have long needed a fair-minded overview of this vitally important religious sensibility, and FitzGerald has now provided it." - The New York Times Book Review

"This incisive history of white evangelical movements in America argues that their influence has been more pervasive and diverse than generally realized." - The New Yorker

A well-written, thought-provoking and deeply researched history that is impressive for its scope and level of detail." - The Wall Street Journal

"The Evangelicals explodes any notion of evangelicalism as a monolithic movement. FitzGerald also deftly captures the 'exotic cast' of this pure product of America..." - San Francisco Chronicle

"An epic history of white American evangelical Protestantism from Plymouth Rock to Trump Tower ... Fitzgerald, always judicious and unbiased, nobly succeeds in analyzing the nuanced differences between evangelicalism and fundamentalism, Calvinism and postmillennialism, charismatics and Pentecostals." - The Boston Globe

"Massively learned and electrifying…magisterial." - The Christian Science Monitor

"Timely and enlightening" - The Economist

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Author Information

Frances FitzGerald

Frances FitzGerald is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bancroft Prize, and a prize from the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the author of The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America; Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam; America Revised: History School Books in the Twentieth Century; Cities on a Hill: A Journey through Contemporary American Cultures; Way Out in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War; and Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth. She has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, Rolling Stone, and Esquire.

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