Also reviewed in the section:

The Kindness of Strangers,by John Boswell

Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification,edited by Donald L. Alexander

The Manger Is Empty,by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Religion By The People, For The People

The Democratization of American Christianity, by Nathan O. Hatch (Yale University Press, 312 pp.; $25.00, hardcover); Under God’s Spell: Frontier Evangelists, 1772–1915, by Cathy Luchetti (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 244 pp.; $26.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Randall Balmer, assistant professor of religion at Columbia University in New York City and the author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (Oxford).

Of all the popular myths about American evangelicalism, none is more durable than the notion that evangelicals nurse a grudge against modern culture and are somehow opposed to innovation or change in general. Granted, over the past century evangelicals have been suspicious of modernity’s assault on “traditional” morality, but evangelicals have never shied away from innovation—especially in the field of communications.

As historian Harry S. Stout has recently shown, the popular discourse and open-air preaching of the Great Awakening laid the groundwork for the persuasive rhetoric of the American Revolution. The Methodist circuit organization, I am convinced, provided a model for the development of grassroots political organizations, just as the frontier camp meeting served as a prototype for the political rally. In the twentieth century, radio preachers and televangelists exploited electronic media long before Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan discovered their utility as political tools.

In The Democratization of American Christianity, Nathan O. Hatch argues that this dynamic between faith and culture ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.