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The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,381 ratings  ·  281 reviews
“A page turner…We have long needed a fair-minded overview of this vitally important religious sensibility, and FitzGerald has now provided it.” —The New York Times Book Review

“FitzGerald’s brilliant book could not have been more timely, more well-researched, more well-written, or more necessary.” —The American Scholar

This groundbreaking book from Pulitzer Prize­–winning hi
Hardcover, 752 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Simon Schuster
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Yaaresse There may be people whose business cards say "editor," but the title now seems to be about PR and marketing than about guiding authors through a manus…moreThere may be people whose business cards say "editor," but the title now seems to be about PR and marketing than about guiding authors through a manuscript or making sure the final draft is fit for print. Editors who do actual editing are an endangered species. Copy editors and proofreaders are extinct. If spellcheck and beta readers, assuming the author uses them, don't catch errors and typos, it's kind of a big shrug and "oh well."

Some of these people need my old 10th grade English teacher beta reading their work. She used to dock a point from the final grade for each error. (less)

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Michael Finocchiaro
This book is an extraordinary history and analysis of the Evangelist movement since the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries up to the Christian Right of today’s American political landscape.

In 2017, I read Joel Green's Devil's Bargain to understand how Bannon and Breitbart used propaganda to swing the 2016 election to Drumpf. I wanted to read this book to see how and why Drumpf got the evangelical vote (and how it has infected the GOP like a cancer).

Frances Fitzgerald teaches us abo
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Finally I made myself take on a book that I didn't expect to enjoy (I am challenging myself to read 5, so had to get into it). And I took it on by the horns, in the topic I find perhaps the most obnoxious and perplexing in alternation: American Evangelicalism. This movement, or philosophy, is here defined by: "An evangelist is one who disseminates the gospels by zealous preaching... Evangelicalism is the religion."

I don't dislike evangelicals as a whole, because they are people, and I don't disl
Steve Matlak
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Evangelical reviewer here. A riveting overview of the major ideas and figures in Evangelical history from 1740 to present. The author is not an evangelical, but gives a comprehensive and factually accurate description of us, the good and the bad.

A couple criticisms. First, the latter half of the book focuses almost exclusively on evangelical engagement with politics. This is certainly a part of the story--and the most controversial and interesting, even amongst ourselves. But she mostly missed
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
FitzGerald follows the development of the evangelical movement from the 18th century to the present focusing on theology as well as the impact on society and politics. It is a detailed presentation that will be best appreciated by those with a deep interest. My notes follow.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century most Americans were in established Protestant denominations: Congregationalists, Anglican, Baptist or Presbyterian. These structured religions embedded in doctrine lost their appeal
Mikey B.
There is a mountain of details in this very probing book on the influence of evangelicals on American life and politics in particular.

As per this book they successfully penetrated the inner realm of government during President George W. Bush’s term of office (2000 - 2008). But even before they were influencing policies, more so on women and education.

Page 208 the George W. Bush White House

David Frum, reported that to his discomfort Bible study attendance was “if not obligatory, not quite uncompu
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
FitzGerald has done an amazing amount of research regarding the Evangelical movement in the United States, from its earliest roots in the 18th and 19th centuries to the formidable political power it nurtured during the last part of the 20th century through today. Indeed, the Republican Party co-opted many Evangelical political objectives with the result that Evangelicals are one of the Republican Party’s most loyal voting blocks.
Personally, I was raised as a United Methodist in the northern libe
Kimba Tichenor
In this book, Frances FitzGerald offers a history of white evangelicalism from the first Great Awakening in the 1730s (Jonathan Edwards) until the present. However the vast majority of the book focuses on evangelicalism in the 20th century and the emergence of the religious right; the first two centuries of evangelical politics and theology encompass only the first 142 pages of this 746-page tome.

Because the author's primary interest is the rise of Christian political conservatism in the twenti
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
It was a pleasure to read and discuss this book with three reformed Evangelicals, a current Evangelical, and myself who probably identifies as a pseudo -Christian ? Buddhist. Without a doubt this is the best book I have read in 2017, because it answered so many questions I had about what defines Evangelicalism, where did it come from, and how has Evangelicalism shaped American politics. All the main figures from the 18th to the 21st century are covered. And each movement and how it influenced po ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women-authors
No time for a good review. Just to say it is an excellent and comprehensive of the changing shape, and various strains, of evangelicalism in the United States from colonial days to the present. She is particularly thorough and clear about how the conservative right and fundamentalism took over evangelicalism for much of the twentieth century, and how gradually an older view of evangelicalism is re-emerging with a focus on social justice and ministering to the poor and the earth. Recommended.
Leo Walsh
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a Christian, I often wonder about the strange unChristian things I often observe from my more conservative fellow believers. THE EVANGELICALS by Frances Fitzgerald is a fabulous book, providing a window into their worldview. And she takes the LOOOOOOOOONG view, tracing the movement back to the 17th century through the regional, southern movement that blossomed in the 1960's as a reaction to the "Long Sixties" and the challenges they to traditional, rural patriarchal society, like minority rig ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Jul 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
American Evangelicals. The Great Awakening, tent revivals, Holy Rollers, slave preachers, millennialists, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals. Dwight Moody, Oral Roberts, Father Divine, Aimee Semple McPherson, Bob Jones, Billy Graham, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Billy Sunday, Peter Marshall, Sweet Daddy Grace. Heck, even George Whitefield was a thought-provoking guy. What a lively book this should be.

Well, of course I got my evangelicals confused with my evangelists to start with, but still, there sh
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was so well done. It's a thoughtful, precise, and careful history of the evangelical movement. I was trying to decipher the author's own views the entire time and could never get a good handle on it--a mark of an excellent history.

As to the content, it's just so fascinating to follow the arc of the evangelical right and wonder about what's coming next. I hope there is more of a move toward causes (like poverty and justice) and not just a myopic fixation on abortion and gay marriage. I've n
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are some authors for whom I will move their new works to the top of my queue because I know it will be worth it. Margaret Atwood comes to mind. Frances FitzGerald wrote a wonderful book in 1972 on the Vietnam War - Fire in the Lake. When I heard that she had written a book on US Evangelicals, I was intrigued and after some due diligence decided to jump in.

The Evangelicals is a high quality of Evangelical and related enthusiastic religious movements in US history. It reads like a fine histo
Michael Perkins
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was familiar with the bulk of what is covered in this new book. But I give it props for being a thoroughly researched, balanced treatment of the subject. The writing is also quite fluid for a subject that could easily be a textbook instead.

Back in the 70's, I recall author and evangelist Francis Schaeffer being popular in Christian circles at colleges. (I was surprised the author did not talk about his popular early works such as "Escape from Reason"). What I hadn't realized until recent years
Jared Wilson
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
The first half is a really great book, the second half bogs down. This is not so much due to Fitzgerald's writing, however, as it is to the historical narrative shift of evangelicalism as revivalistic and culturally responsive movement to evangelicalism as political reactionary and morally compromised movement. The second half history is largely about the machinations of the Republican Party from 1970's onward, which for a book written about "The Evangelicals," tells you what you ought to know a ...more
Review forthcoming in Publishers Weekly. This title was both painful and heartening to read in this historical moment as the bulk of its 700+ pages focus on the twentieth century and evangelical conservatism and fundamentalism ... strains of Christianity that have been an abiding political force in our recent history. Painful because many of the fears and anxieties expressed by the white Protestants that FitzGerald focuses on were made manifest in the 2016 presidential election; heartening becau ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have yet to read a Simon and Schuster book with as many grammatical errors as there are in Evangelicals. As other reviewers pointed out, it seems that the book's release was rushed after Trump's 2016 victory. At over 600 pages, this book could have easily been cut down by half. Although Alec Ryrie's latest book Protestants focuses more on the global history of Protestantism, the chapters on the US include the same information as provided in Evangelicals, and are far more concise and accessible ...more
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whew. That was a methodical, layered, and long march through time. However, it was worth it. It skipped the scandals of the SBC, focusing more on the overall agenda and the ERLC as opposed to men like Paige Patterson. It also didn't mention the sexual accusations that Bill Hybels is under, or go into celebrity pastors like Mark Driscoll.

I appreciated the nuances it brought to the fundamentalist discussion. Today, when we hear that word, we picture, skirts, suits, anti science, anti masks, shout
Matthew Manchester
Brutally honest. You won't see evangelism the same after reading this. ...more
(Reviewer's Note: I just wrote a more in depth review of this book on my weekly book blog. If you like this review and would like to read more, click on the following link: )

If you ask your average American what an Evangelical is, they will probably identify them as a Christian, but will probably also mention negatives terms such as bigot and homophobe. This is a sad fact that has its roots in the politics of the Christian Right during the 2000s, but it i
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity, history
A history of the Evangelical movement perhaps better subtitled, "The Story of Why Evangelicals Vote the Way They Do," aka the only reason secularists tend to care about Evangelical Christianity.

The author is well researched and does about as well as a person can in attempting to maintain a secular disinterest but communicate about the subject. She spends very little time in the early period of the movement, focusing mostly on the divides manifest in the great awakenings leading to the fundamenta
Evangelicals is an intense work, extensively researched and thoroughly footnoted. FitzGerald covers the movement’s growth from the Great Awakenings to our current administration. How we arrived at this point in American politics was my motivation for reading. I am guilty of applying my own politically and spiritually progressive bias to my interpretation. This study underscored my opinions about the battles over inerrancy of the Bible, the tendency for the most vocal fundamentalist right wing re ...more
John David
Embarking on a book like this can be emotionally enervating, even if one’s opinion isn’t well-formed enough to either agree or disagree with the author’s central thesis. Over the last couple of generations, American evangelicalism has become so intertwined with political conservatism that the history of one is closely connected with the history of the other. You can’t be sure the author doesn’t have an axe to grind, or perhaps worse yet, a hagiography to craft. Frances Fitzgerald, though, has ga ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just as it is impossible to begin to understand the complicated rivalries of the Middle East without an appreciation for the crucial role that various religious faiths have long played there, so is it also difficult to comprehend American politics without an awareness of religion’s central role in the story of the United States.
Unlike in Europe, where Protestants and Catholics competed for the loyalties of its people since the outbreak of the Reformation, Protestantism early assumed a dominant r
Ed Erwin
Oct 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Very well researched and detailed. For me, it was much more detail than I really wanted. (I rate based on enjoyment, and this got boring for me.) Lots and lots of names of people I've never heard of arguing over tiny doctrinal differences that I don't care about. The biggest take-away is that Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are not a single block who think, behave or vote alike. They group together and split apart over and over in hundreds or more different groups. Sometimes they prefer to with ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Francis FitzGerald’s give us a very comprehensive book on the history of the white evangelical movement in America, from the First Great Awakening to today. She lays the groundwork with introducing the movements of the Great Awakenings, where we first see the various ideologies born that will influence the future of this group. She then takes the reader through milestone moments and rising leaders during the Civil War, tent revival era, Long Sixties, televangelists and ending with the Christian ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an extensively researched, detailed survey of the establishment, growth and acquisition of political power of Evangelical Christianity in the United States. Although FitzGerald has synthesized a great amount of information from the historical record, I feel I know less after reading this tome than I did before. Maybe that is a sign of a good study, after all, the more one knows, the more one should realize how little one knows. And, maybe I wanted something from this scholarship which it ...more
a true definitive history, this kind of lost my interest at points, but the modern day stuff was fascinating. especially in light of what's happening at the border now, and how evangelicals have roundly embraced trump. ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good history, though some of the finer theological points were hard for this secular Jew to keep straight. She does have a glossary in back. Lucid account; helped me see some of the different currents in evangelicalism.
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent piece of scholarship that systematically documents the evangelical movement in the U.S. Evangelism is one of the vaguely defined terms that urgently need clarification. Frances Fitzgerald did not give a straight definition in the body of the book, but in the glossary she summarized evangelicals as “Protestants with beliefs” that: 1) rely “on the Bible as the ultimate religious authority”; 2) “focus on Christ’s redemption of mankind on the cross” (crucicentrism); 3) emphasize ...more
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Frances FitzGerald is an American journalist and historian.

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“In his sermons, as in the book he published in 2005, The Myth of a Christian Nation, Boyd challenged the idea that America had been, or ever could be, a “Christian nation.” Taking his text from the Gospels, he reminded evangelicals that Christ’s kingdom was “not of this world,” and worldly kingdoms were the domain of fallen man. Evangelicals, he wrote, speak of “taking America back to God,” but the Constitution said nothing about a Christian nation, and America never remotely looked like the domain of God, certainly not in the days of slavery or of Jim Crow, and not today. A nation may have noble ideals and be committed to just principles, but of necessity it wields the “power over” of the sword, as opposed to the “power under” of the cross—which is that of Jesus’ self-sacrificial love. To identify the Kingdom of God with that of any version of the kingdom of the world is, he wrote, to engage in idolatry. The myth of a Christian nation, he continued, has led to the misconception that the American civil religion is real Christianity. Evangelicals, he wrote, spend our time striving to keep prayer in the public schools, “In God we trust” on our coins, and the Ten Commandments in public places. Might it not be, he asked, that the effort to defend prayer before civic functions reinforces the notion that prayer is a perfunctory social activity? And what if we spent all that energy serving each other with Christ-like love? We could, he wrote, feed the hungry, house the homeless, bridge the “ungodly racial gap,” and side with others whose rights are routinely trampled.” 1 likes
“He and his fellow pastors attacked the public schools for teaching “immorality” and “secular humanism.” But what bothered pious members of his congregation was not just that the public schools taught wrong answers; it was that they did not protect children from information that might call their beliefs into question.” 1 likes
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