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on March 5, 2015
I really liked this book. I came from a fundamentalist background and my dad still reads The Sword of the Lord magazine. It was interesting to learn about John R Rice and the history of the Sword of the Lord magazine/newspaper and how much it influenced the Independent Baptist movement. Andrew Himes, although an apostate, treats Baptists and Evangelicals very even-handedly and sans contempt, which I found refreshing. It's not an expose on all that is wrong with fundamentalist/independent Baptists. It's really a history of the movement interwoven with the author's own personal autobiography and familial biography. I think the average independent fundamentalist Baptist should be able to read this without getting too offended. Even though I feel I suffered under this fundamentalist movement, after reading this book I came away feeling empathy and compassion towards John R Rice and the Reverend Billy Graham.
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on October 30, 2013
This book was written by the grandson of John R. Rice, one of the major voices of the "independent fundamentalist Baptist" movement. It combines a history of the Rice family with the history and evolution of religious fundamentalism.

Having been raised on the words of Rice and men who were inspired by him and/or considered his contemporaries, I was familiar with many of the people mentioned in the book and was interested in Himes' description of the social maneuvering and personal relationships that helped build and shape it.

This is great reading if you have any interest in Christian fundamentalism or in the culture of the American south.
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on October 21, 2011
The Sword of the Lord by Andrew Himes is a thoughtful compilation of history, family experiences, and personal reflection in the context of American Fundamentalism. Himes focuses on important issues throughout history such as slavery, the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan, and conservative rejection of evolution to further analyze the how conservative Christian ideas developed into the movement of Fundamentalism. Being the grandson of John Rice, an influential evangelical fundamentalist preacher and publisher, Himes has a unique insight that can be appreciated by both believers and nonbelievers alike. Moreover, he adds another dimension to the story by sharing his own troubles with faith; almost suggesting that writing this book has allowed Himes to reconcile his fundamentalist upbringing with his alternative path as an adult. This book is incredibly approachable for any reader, and provides a fascinating account of how religion played a role in an individual, family, and an entire country.
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on May 25, 2011
At the expense of sounding cliché, I inhaled Andrew Himes' book, The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family, like a breath of fresh air. My own experience in fundamentalism left me gasping for that pure gospel air that you only seem to find in the high mountains of early Christianity, not in the dense smog of personal agenda. It is primarily for this reason I found the book so refreshing. Himes' treatment of his subject matter kept me turning pages all the way to the end. He represented fundamentalism, his family, and the issues surrounding both with great dignity and near-forensic clarity. The keen insight of the movement from his insider's perspective, served-up with humility, and absent of even a hint of rancor for fundamentalism was, without a doubt, a compelling attribute of the book. Further, his presentation of historical events, as much as I was able to ascertain, was accurate and easy to follow, making this book a historical resource worthy of consideration for any serious student of the history of Christianity in America.

The most enlightening and instructive element, however, was the way the book chronologically revealed the context in which early fundamentalism was born. I'm not referring, necessarily, to the modernist-fundamentalist debate that thrust it into the main-stream, but rather the movement's emergence from Scots-Irish Calvinists bent on racial bigotry eventually thrust into a war for the purpose of defending their lifestyle. I was helped by several things to which I was personally naïve before reading Himes' book and I trust it will be a tool in the hands of those who desire to make serious inquiry into the truth of the history of fundamentalism. Himes states,

My own Rice ancestors were Calvinists and Presbyterians...Their successful life in Missouri was destroyed by the Civil War... Like their neighbors, they built large-scale hemp plantations farmed by numerous Negro slaves...The traumatic experience of the Civil War and its aftermath in the 19th century was the incubator of Christian fundamentalism in 20th century America... The white population of Texas from before the war, then, was never truly beaten, never truly surrendered, and was never brought violently to terms with the new realities... And it was Texas that turned out to be especially congenial to the development of Christian fundamentalism in America.

That culture framed, as Himes so candidly informs us, the stage on which the contemporary fundamentalist movement dances even today. He illustrates remarkably well a separatist movement, by its very nature, and as well intentioned as it may be, will eventually separate things that should remain unified. While, throughout the book Himes remains extremely careful and gracious toward his fundamentalist family, particularly toward his grandfather, John R. Rice, and grandmother, Lloys Cooke Rice, he makes very certain to show us how Rice's break with Billy Graham "boomeranged." At one of his final preaching engagements, Curtis Hutson refused to acknowledge his plea for unity among the brethren. Himes' own account proves beneficial here:

Rice had planned at the end of his sermon to ask his audience to join in singing "The Family of God," a song well loved by many evangelicals... He'd had some cards printed up with the words of the song, and a pledge he wanted all those present to sign, promising to love everyone Jesus had loved... Unfortunately, the meeting was under the control of Curtis Hutson, the man Rice had chosen to succeed him as editor of The Sword of the Lord. Hutson was more extreme and "separatist" in his beliefs than Rice, and he was afraid some of the fundamentalists present would conclude that John R. Rice had gotten weak in both his mind and his separatism. Hutson collected the cards and forbade anyone to pass them out.

Later, Rice sat in his wheelchair with three of his daughters and wept with disappointment and sadness. He felt that his last public effort to leave a legacy of compassion to guide the movement he had helped to create had been defeated by Hutson's refusal. A spirit of discord, disdain, and disapproval that fundamentalists had incubated against liberals and modernists, in the end, and particularly on that day, boomeranged to poison the relationships among fundamentalist allies.

(Reviewer's Note: Interestingly, and ironically, Hutson later wrote a pamphlet titled, Unnecessary Divisions Among Fundamentalists. Further, this same "boomerang" principle, called sowing and reaping in Scripture, was also demonstrated in a dissertation by John M. Frame, titled, Machen's Warrior Children, an account of J. Gresham Machen's ministry in the Presbyterian denomination where Machen, who thought he was earnestly contending for the faith, was, in fact, developing contentious spiritual children who would later fragment the Presbyterians.)

Although, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I finished it a bit uncertain where Mr. Himes ended up making his homestead in the vast Christian landscape. This was the one area that, to me, seemed a little weak since the objective of the book seemed to indicate a new view of fundamentalism was needed. I feel Mr. Himes could have provided more clarity as to what the reader's conclusion should be, unless it was his designed intention to not, then he nearly succeeded. If that is the case, I feel a little like I would about Ayn Rand's works: great premise; poor conclusion. The one chord of clarity, however, that resonated with me as to what a possible clue might be was his statement,

Following Jesus evidently requires much more than orthodoxy or platitudes about love. It requires orthopraxy: placing Christ's incarnation of love and justice at the center of your life and Christian practice.

If by this he means that a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ should in fact compel a person to not only propagate the gospel, but also to love and show justice as a practice of life, I sense it is much closer to and at least nearer the foothills of the kingdom of God, than historic American fundamentalism.

I highly recommend Andrew Himes book, The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in American History. You won't be disappointed.
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on September 7, 2011
When I first heard about Andrew Himes book, "The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family", I knew it was a must read. Growing up in a Baptist pastor's house "The Sword of The Lord" newspaper was very familiar in my home. Our church had "Sword Sundays" where people could purchase the publication at discounted rates. I heard John R. Rice speak on several occasions and periodically had well known preachers from the pages speak at our church, including his brother Bill and nephew Bill Rice III. Andrew is only four years my senior so I could relate with his journey through fundamentalism in many ways. I thought his book could fill in some gaps in my knowledge of fundamentalism and it didn't disappoint.

This is a well researched book that covers much more information than just fundamentalism. This is a history book; it walks through much of the history of the evangelical church in America. This book will take the reader through intermingling of the church and slavery, the church and the War Between the States, and right into the post war Southern Baptist movement and the break which has led to Fundamentalism today. All the while telling a fascinating story of John Rice's family navigates this unique time in history.

For me this book helped connect the dots on a couple of things that I always wonder how they came about such as racism and separatism while answering some questions about John R. Rice. He was an enigma to me, in some areas he seemed very harsh and in others open and caring. I now have more knowledge about the routes of the fundamentalist movement in America and the back story of one of the influential individuals of that movement.

Though this book did bog down a couple of times it is still a great read and I highly recommend it.
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on July 3, 2011
Andrew Himes has written a fascinating book, a mixture of personal memoir and history lesson, which traces the roots of his family's commitment to fundamentalism and his own evolution toward a different kind of spirituality. In his writing Himes is courageous and vulnerable and the book is meticulously researched. He has given those who are concerned about the polarization of left and right in our country and the impact of fundamentalist thinking on our politics an extraordinary gift. The book is unexpectedly generous, loving and ultimately wise. Anyone who cares about the fusing of the political with the spiritual will find much to learn here.

Andrew Himes grew up in a family which was completely committed to fundamentalism, an offshoot of the Southern Baptist denomination. Raised in a close and loving family, and coming of age in the 1950's and 1960's, Himes could have been expected to follow the family religion and become a preacher or evangelist himself. Instead, starting at age 13 he began to question and secretly to rebel against the family's ideology and values. Growing up when the Civil Rights movement was at its zenith, and with the family's history of having owned slaves before the Civil War, one glimpses the forces the young Himes had to contend with. His rebellion broke out in the open when he entered college and embraced Maoism, Leninism and the leftist politics that were so popular during the Vietnam War era. The internal struggle to listen to one's conscience or to abide by the values and teachings of one's family is a struggle I know well. The wounds acquired from the effort to emancipate and differentiate oneself as an adult can run very deep. It is to Himes' credit then, that in this book he reveals a path to reconciliation and deep compassion for his family's spiritual beliefs.

Himes takes us on an amazing journey as he traces his family's history, from Scots-Irish pioneers who settled in the American south in the eighteenth century, to the family's acquisition of wealth through slaveholding in the years before the Civil War. The sections of the book which reveal the family devastated by the losses of that war are particularly compelling. The focus on his grandfather, John R. Rice, a famous and influential saver of souls and later editor of the Sword of the Lord newspaper, was particularly illuminating for me. Himes describes his grandfather's story of why he committed his life to becoming an evangelist. When Rice was preaching as a young man he had the repeated experience of watching people who were lost and in great emotional and spiritual distress, suddenly finding extraordinary peace in a matter of moments when they realized they were loved by God. As the conduit for such experiences, the senior Rice chose this as his life work. As one who has also witnessed and experienced such a transformational experience, I understood immediately the extraordinary effect of this on John Rice. It is altogether human to want to give meaning to such mysterious events. We humans are all too wont to make up explanations and collapse them with an inexplicable thing we have witnessed. Out of such explaining ideologies are born. Eventually the explanation becomes confused with the actual experience.

This book could have used some editing to cut down on the redundancies within it and to tighten its length. Nevertheless, for those willing to stay with it, Himes book is rich, generous and deeply compassionate. It is possible to love those people whom we disagree deeply with. This is Andrew Himes gift to us.
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on June 16, 2011
DOWN IN THE HUMAN HEART

"Of the making of many books there is no end," a wise man once said, yet thousands of new volumes appear each year. Many are of minimal value, some are interesting, entertaining; others make a modest contribution. A few are significant. Such a book is "The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family" by Andrew Himes.

For some thirty years I read every word in The Sword of the Lord, a weekly newspaper published by John R. Rice, a Fundamentalist evangelist. Rice's appeal was a dogmatic, passionate, insistent call to evangelism, holy living, and "separation from the world." His publication, sermons, crusades and exemplary life influenced thousands of pastors and churches and helped shape Amaerican religious life in the twentieth century. In the early days of his evangelistic crusades, Billy Graham requested a copy of The Sword be sent to him wherever he was preaching.

Now Andrew Himes, the oldest grandson of John R. Rice, has chronicled the origen and evolution of Fundamanetalism in America in a moving family portrait. Himes, a Seattle writer, makes a clear distinction between Fundamentalism as a philosophy and "the fundamentals"--that set of beliefs that defined the Presbyterian and Baptist churches in the late 19th century and in the early days of the 20th century.

The young Andrew Himes was turned off by certain practices of some Fundamentalists--bigotry, racism, anti-Catholicism--(which he makes clear were not tenets of the faith but the behavior of some). Himes writes a compelling story of his rejection of the faith of his fathers, embrace of a radical lifestyle, and over the years, a second look at the life and times of his grandfather whom he says he once loved, then hated, and ended up loving again.

It's a fascinating story; compelling--you get the sense that he must tell it.

This is not a "slash and burn" tirade written out of anger, but a moving narrative written by a sensitive and compassionate author. "The Sword of the Lord" is a significant contribution to the study of religion in American life and should be required reading for anyone interested in a fair and balanced account of a religious movement that defined the culture of a large segment of our population, especially in the South.
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on January 17, 2017
The history in this volume is interesting, and the author's personal connections with the family give an interesting perspective - however the narrative itself is tainted by too much personal/socio-political commentary, and thus loses some of the effect and authority it might have otherwise as a historical work. The inherent biases any socio-political type writing take away from what is otherwise a valuable contribution to the history of John R. Rice.
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on November 22, 2011
In Andrew Himes' book The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family he tells an intertwined story of the historical roots of American fundamentalism, his prominent fundamentalist family, and his own experience. Himes tracks the development of American fundamentalism starting with its very roots with the Calvinist Presbyterian Scots-Irish, their migration to America, the many Great Awakenings, wars, and eventually to the second half of the 20th century and the more well known debates surrounding fundamentalism, including in the spheres of society and politics. Himes paints an understandable portrait of the fundamentalist movement that reminds us that nothing forms from thin air and allows the reader to connect with the more personable side of the movement. However, he is not soft on fundamentalism, and reminds us that when there is economic and social motivation, it is always possible to find some sort of religious support, such as what happened in the case of biblical justification for both southern slaveholders and northern abolitionists during the Civil War. He also reminds us that in the end this justification only embitters the conflict. My only criticism of Himes' book is that when it comes to his grandfather, famous fundamentalist and founder of The Sword of the Lord newspaper, John R. Rice, while he does a beautiful job juxtaposing Rice as a respectable and principled man who highly believed what he taught with some of his more controversial points (such as not supporting Billy Graham in his fight against segregation) his personal attachment seems to lead him to overlook some of the contradictions.
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on October 21, 2011
"The Sword of the Lord" by Andrew Himes is about the history of the fundamentalist Christian movement in the United States. Himes starts readers off with a small tour of his family, showing us what we might expect to see when one thinks of a fundamentalist, introducing us to his grandfather, John R. Rice, a well-known preacher in fundamentalist circles and author of a Christian fundamentalist paper, also named "The Sword of the Lord." He then detours to the past to explain the history of the Christian faith in America. The reader follows the movements of not only Christianity in the United States and elsewhere, but also the Rice family as they experience and react to the events of the times they lived. We are shown how major events such as slavery, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, segregation, the equal rights movement, and more not only changed the landscape of American life, but also the difficulties these events brought to the Christian faith and Rice family.

Each event in the reader is led through shows the choices that Christians were forced to make, and the directions that those choices took them. Not only did these points of view result in the division into different denominations of the Christian faith, but also division among members of the same denomination.

The purpose of this book is to first show the reader what they expect to see, then to lead them through the process from the beginning, ending up at a conclusion that they might not expect to see. Himes does a great job of this, and of bringing his family members, who are long dead, to life for the reader. Even if we don't agree with the choices made by his ancestors, Himes allows the reader to see things in the context of the times, and understand their point of view.

By the end of the book the reader is left with a better understanding of what a Christian Fundamentalist truly is, and the way in which they view their faith in relation to others. `Fundamentalist' has many stereotypes associated with it in today's world, and Himes' book does well at not only showing where they came from, but also why many of these stereotypes are not accurate.
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