Tracing the rise of evangelicalism and the decline of mainline Protestantism in American religious and cultural life
How did American Christianity become synonymous with conservative white evangelicalism? This sweeping work by a leading historian of modern America traces the rise of the evangelical movement and the decline of mainline Protestantism’s influence on American life. In Christianity’s American Fate, David Hollinger shows how the Protestant establishment, adopting progressive ideas about race, gender, sexuality, empire, and divinity, liberalized too quickly for some and not quickly enough for others. After 1960, mainline Protestantism lost members from both camps—conservatives to evangelicalism and progressives to secular activism. A Protestant evangelicalism that was comfortable with patriarchy and white supremacy soon became the country’s dominant Christian cultural force.
Hollinger explains the origins of what he calls Protestantism’s “two-party system” in the United States, finding its roots in America’s religious culture of dissent, as established by seventeenth-century colonists who broke away from Europe’s religious traditions; the constitutional separation of church and state, which enabled religious diversity; and the constant influx of immigrants, who found solidarity in churches. Hollinger argues that the United States became not only overwhelmingly Protestant but Protestant on steroids. By the 1960s, Jews and other non-Christians had diversified the nation ethnoreligiously, inspiring more inclusive notions of community. But by embracing a socially diverse and scientifically engaged modernity, Hollinger tells us, ecumenical Protestants also set the terms by which evangelicals became reactionary.
"[A] nuanced account. . . . [Christianity's American Fate] offers a path to greater understanding of how a transformation occurring in full view over decades escaped the notice of many who watched in bafflement and horror as the events of January 6 unfolded. Rather than another January 6, the greater threat that Christian nationalism poses to American society may be, as [the book] warn[s] us, its normalization."---Linda Greenhouse, New York Review of Books "Christianity's American Fate is at once accessible and erudite, weighing in at a lean 199 pages and yet packing a formidable analytical punch. Hollinger touches on a wide range of issues. . . . [A]nyone who cares about the past, present, and future of American Christianity will be challenged by this book, which like the entirety of Hollinger's corpus is provocative in the best of ways."---Heath W. Carter, Christianity Today "This is superlative religious history." * Publishers Weekly, starred review * "A superbly concise examination of how American Christianity's division into a Protestant two-party system parallel to the existing political one came to deeply alter the nation's recent politics. . . . A critically important, authoritative history of great, immediate relevance.
" * Kirkus, starred review * "Does Christianity have a future in the United States? David Hollinger poses this question in his important new book. Few people are more qualified to answer it than Hollinger, who over the course of five decades has established himself as one of America's foremost intellectual historians."---William J. Schultz, Christian Century "Written for a general audience, the volume accomplishes the rare feat of a scholar translating deep expertise into accessible arguments that challenge easy consensus."---Beau Underwood, Word & Way "The delight of Hollinger's book is. . . the vigor, sparkle, and take-no-prisoners prose style. Christianity's American Fate is a short but scintillating book."---Paul Harvey, Reviews in American History "A fresh analysis of the growing divide between American evangelicalism and secularism. . . . Americans are at a crossroads right now. Time will tell which path will be taken. Hollinger's book is a helpful map showing how we reached this point in the journey."---Michelle Arnold, U.S. Catholic "Thoroughly provocative."---Joel Wentz, Englewood Review of Books "Yet despite its brevity, Christianity's American Fate is far more than a cursory survey; each of its assertions rests on decades of Hollinger's research and mature analysis, and the book therefore offers a remarkably insightful treatment of modern American religious and political trends."---Daniel K. Williams, Journal of Church and State