America’s Religious History: Faith, Politics, and the Shaping of a Nation

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

America’s Religious History: Faith, Politics, and the Shaping of a Nation

Author:

Thomas S. Kidd

Publisher:

Zondervan Academic

Publication Date:

November 1, 2019

Format:

Hardcover

Length:

320 pages

OVERVIEW

For some time in the 20th century, scholars claimed modern society with its science and technology would remove all need for religion. However, even as concerns about things like Islamic extremism and fundamentalist Christianity continue, many Americans continue to hold to religious values. Thomas S. Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University, takes readers on a tour of America’s religious movements, from the convictions held by early colonists to the current beliefs of the Christian Right. While he mostly focuses on Christianity in America, he also notes the other religious views (Mormonism, Judaism, various Eastern religions brought in by immigration) that have appeared in America over the years and shaped its unusual story.

Covering about 600 years of history in 300 pages or so is not easy task to do. Consequently, Kidd only gives a brief overview, summing up eras and key concerns as succinctly as possible. However, he finds time to point out things that readers likely haven’t heard in other history textbooks (such as the fact the Statue of Liberty poem “The New Colossus” was written by a Jewish woman). More than that, what really sets Kidd’s book apart is the way he notes how the past informs contemporary concerns. He shows readers how the prosperity gospel movement is rooted in the New Thought and positive thinking movements which began in the 1930s. He compares the “death of God” movement from the 1960s to the deist movement of the 1700s. In short, Kidd shows that while there are always new twists on religious ideas, the fundamental concepts are always older than people think. Thus, he leaves readers with a sense that in the long run, nothing is new under the sun. Only the particular details change. This means that while it’s hard to say what America’s religious landscape will look like in the future, Americans will always be asking religious questions and searching for answers.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

4 stars

Suggested Audience

Readers interested in a brief history of America’s religious history, with particular emphasis on Christian denominations.

Christian Impact

Kidd helps readers to see how many pressing theological issues that concern people today are rooted in the past. In doing so, he helps readers have a mature view of America’s religious issues, which is vital in a polarizing period.

America's Religious History: Faith, Politics, and the Shaping of a Nation


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