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Jesus and Gin: Evangelicalism, the Roaring Twenties and Today's Culture Wars Hardcover – August 3, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230614191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230614192
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,123,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although the Scopes Trial of 1925 often looms large as the defining moment in early 20th-century debates between religion and culture, historian Hankins's entertaining history of American religion in the '20s reminds us otherwise. Covering a number of events and personalities of the era, from Prohibition and Modernism to Billy Sunday, J. Frank Norris, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Father Divine, Hankins demonstrates that the debate over the nature of religion (is it a private expression of faith or a value supporting the common good?) had its foundation in the '20s. The sex and legal scandals involving Norris and McPherson, for example, became media fodder, helping to keep religion center stage in American culture. Hankins's lively retelling of a key chapter in American religious history is a must for anyone who wants to better understand the warp and woof of contemporary American religion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Faith-based conflicts have dominated the American political landscape for a generation. In Jesus and Gin, Barry Hankins gives us some historical perspective on the present climate and shows us that "…the religiously fueled culture wars of the 1920s were a prologue to our own age." Hankins skillfully corrals a vivid cast of characters in this helpful and entertaining account, and Jesus and Gin gives us some much-needed context for the issues we face at the contemporary intersection of faith and politics. (John A. D'Elia)

Neither Jesus nor gin has ever been as much fun as in the capable hands of Barry Hankins. As this engaging history of the twenties makes clear, modern culture warriors Pat Roberson, Jerry Falwell, and Tammy Faye Bakker had nothing on predecessors Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Sunday and J. Frank Norris. (Matthew Avery Sutton, author of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America)

Religion and American public life has a complicated history full of scandals, secrets, saints, and scapegoats. In this careful and highly readable account, Barry Hankins covers all of these and more, showing how some of the biggest issues of today are not as new as we think. He tackles perennial concerns such as the place of religion in society and the nature of freedom while offering a fresh look at the so-called "culture wars" by demonstrating remarkable parallels between the 1920s and our own time. Anyone who cares about religion in the public square ought to read this book. (D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power)

As Barry Hankins makes clear, the culture wars that roil contemporary America had their precedent in the Roaring Twenties, with their battles over evolution, drugs (alcohol), and censorship, and with the fierce debate over the place of religion in public life. Along the way Hankins provides juicy scandals that rival anything we have seen in recent years, including a fundamentalist preacher who killed a man in his church office, a Pentecostal preacher who apparently faked her own kidnapping, and a U.S. President (and Baptist) who conducted an illicit affair in a White House closet. Jesus and Gin is a fun read and a timely book. (William Vance Trollinger, Jr., author of God's Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Keith H. Bray on November 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a theist, aside from Ed Larson's 'Summer of the Gods' and most books written by church historian George Marsden, I was very surprised to discover this gem of a book that is well balanced and does not present itself as a book with an alternative agenda. The author does a great job in laying out the foundation for the modern day culture war in the public square--and he never waivers. If you are involved in the culture war to some extent or another, then I highly recommend reading this book (especially as it pertains to the present problems between black and white churches that allegedly share the same worldview and the same savior, but ultimately have such diverging ideas).

My favorite part of the book is when the author unpacks a host of extraordinary cast of characters--many who would not be considered orthodox (a fact pointed out by the author)--and many of the front page issues, scandals, murder trials, and differences between modernists, fundamentalists, and theological liberals. Moreover, the book unpacks those topics in which these groups would likely unite and the issues that present themselves for major disagreement or apathy (e.g., where are black bioethicists, philosophers or apologists). This book provides insights as to why one is hard pressed to locate such individuals who are overwhelmingly pro-abortion and vote Democratically. If these issues are important for you, then purchase and read this book.

Moreover, he does not try and make a hero out of Clarence Darrow or H.L.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Barry Hankins presents a book that compares the 20's evangelism and politics with today. It is thorough as an history and as the beginnings of the evangelistic movement. Some of his premises are not carried through or explained well enough to justify his statements that from the 30's to the 80's there was liberal religious harmony and religion was a private concern. His preface can also be a bit confusing as he waffles back and forth between time periods and the many philosophical possibilities presented. He subtitles his book 'Evangelicalism, the roaring twenties and today's culture wars", but there are many times in his presentation of the facts and history in the 20's that he neglects to give any comparison to today and any culture wars.

With that said; the book is an outstanding example of gathering and presenting the history of the evangelical movement. The chapters really stand as individual information. All are worthy of note but do not flow into one another.
There is much written about Billy Sunday and his evangelism, beliefs and family. He was the leading evangelistic promoter of prohibition of the day. He quotes many of Billy Sunday's statistics on the problems of the time; but it would have been very interesting to have Hankins verify the truth or exaggeration of some of Sunday's statements.

He does not really go into detail of the history and differences in fundamentalism; but the Scopes Trial is covered as are some of the scandals involving evangelical figures of the era. The comparisons of the twenties and the culture wars of today almost seem an after thought, there is a concluding chapter dealing with it. It is still more of an interesting history book of the evangelical movement of the twenties.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Donna Simpson on May 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
We discussed this book in our Sunday School class. The book led to good discussions. Interesting topic. I would recommend it.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By SteamaZon on September 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The negative marks by readers reflect an earlier review which I have since updated to more clearly outline many of the factual errors found in the McPherson chapter. I should not be too hard on Professor Hankins I suppose, for without the re-energizing of uncorroborated and unprovable rumor especially those related to purported sexual scandal, Aimee Semple McPherson might well have been forgotten entirely.

Few it seems want to read about a woman who was the most prolific faith healer ever; astounding deeds witnessed by skeptical reporters which were occurring faster than they could write them down. One who broke down barriers between Christian groups, fed and assisted up to 1.5 million persons, many in the depths of the Great Depression. A woman who put bunk beds dedicating part of the Angelus Temple for visiting servicemen in World War 2; pressing a rare autographed Bible into their hands, a sincere thank you; some of them to leave for their overseas war duty stations, never to return.

Few want to read about that, but bring up Milt Berle without any verification whatsoever, and any number take his word as truth. Bring up the 1926 kidnapping and to many, it is a forgone belief that she faked it. So yes, perhaps in a backhanded way these things can drive a greater curiosity about Aimee Semple McPherson. Since people want to read about titillating scandal, they go digging for dirt, and instead may dig up the gold.

My interest in the book is to determine if has added any new or interesting information regarding Aimee Semple McPherson's life. On the Baylor website, in a quote attributed to the author (Baylor history professor Barry Hankins) he states, (according to Meg Cullar writing for Baylor Alumini Association):

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