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The Making of Evangelicalism: From Revivalism to Politics and Beyond Hardcover – January 5, 2010
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"Seldom has so short a volume produced as much bang as this gem by noted historian and sometime politician Randall Balmer. For those who seek a greater understanding of the peculiar successes of evangelicalism in the American environment there can be no better starting point than The Making of Evangelicalism."―Harry S. Stout, Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Religious History, Yale University
"... this small book tells a story that should not be forgotten."―Ré Stooksberry, Congressional Libraries Today
"Often challenging and at times provocative, The Making of Evangelicalism calls for serious reflection regarding evangelicalism's future. Even those who might disagree with Balmer's interpretations will profit from a serious reading and pondering of this engaging, lucidly written book."―David S. Dockery, President, Union University
"Trademark Balmer: he has written in his characteristically elegant prose―not just 'accessible,' but lovely―without sacrificing sophisticated analysis."―Lauren F. Winner, author of Girl Meets God and Mudhouse Sabbath
"The Making of Evangelicalism exhibits the acumen we have come to expect from its author. In eighty-four pages of sharp, passionate prose, Balmer manages to illustrate, instruct, redefine, excite, entertain, and most of all provoke, all the while tweaking the conscience of evangelicals as much as the curiosity of outside observers. His approach results in a remarkable book, one that can (and should) be read by anyone who wants to learn the basic history of this movement and measure its profound and enduring impact on American society."―The Journal of Southern Religion
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He points out the damage done by the Religious Right, but yet is hopeful for evangelicalism, concluding that in fact it's future is bright and will continue to be "..America's folk religion well into the 21st century."
Balmer says the challenge for today's evangelicals is to position themselves on the margins of society.
The only quibble the reader might have is that some of the author's vocabulary is a bit hard to understand ("recondite," "evinced," "probity," "detritus") at times.
Other than that, this is a short and easy read and well worth the time.
As Balmer is quick to mention, evangelicals come in several flavors. Balmer was raised in a Scandinavian, Pietist sect, different in style from the ranting Baptists of the South and California. But most evangelicals would probably agree that all of them have the same goal, however much they disapprove of the style the other guys use.
If you have ever had to chase evangelicals off your porch, you will perhaps be amused to find that Balmer divides gall into four parts:
Three influences — Scotch-Irish Presbyterianism, continental Pietism and New England Puritanism — fed into a distinctly American religion. Balmer does not mention that the colonials were virtually unchurched, especially on the southern and western frontiers. That left them open and defenseless for the first phase:
— The Great Awakening and revivalism. From the point of view of all non-evangelicals, the key factor was the intense competition and hatred of each cult for each other. That led them to reject state religion and embrace — even if only tactically, locally and temporarily — civic freedoms.
Balmer, largely sympathetic to evangelicalism, portrays this as a big break, competition giving Americans a church (or churches) they liked and thus leading to a density of religiosity unmatched in any other advanced country.
It was a time of optimism (unless you were a slave or an Indian) which led to a crisis.Read more ›