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BrianStanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2018

Department of History, University of California, Berkeley E-mail:


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Review Essays
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018

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For helpful comments on a draft of this essay, I thank Jon Butler, Carol Clover, Peter Gordon, Joan Heifetz Hollinger, Daniel Immerwahr, Bruce Kuklick, Christopher Ocker, Jonathan Sheehan, Molly Worthen, Gene Zubovich, and especially Melani McAlister.


1 Worthen, Molly, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (New York, 2012), 263Google Scholar. Worthen is primarily concerned with how evangelicals have dealt with the conflicting claims to spiritual authority of an “inerrant” Scripture and of modern, Enlightenment-inspired rationality, but she also attends to the potentially disruptive force of a third claimant, “the Holy Spirit,” and notes how this third authority gained support when evangelicals achieved intimacy with Christians of the global South.

2 Just how American evangelical identity with the Christians of the global South generates highly conservative perspectives is shown by McAlister, Melani, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of Evangelicals (New York, 2018)Google Scholar. Working in Africa and the Middle East, American evangelicals adopt “enchanted” views of the world, reversing the anti-supernatural tendencies of the modern North Atlantic West, and they internalize the persona of the persecuted victim, strongly reinforcing the belief that Christians in the United States are victims of a secular conspiracy. McAlister's book is the most well-documented and carefully developed explanation of the impact on American evangelicals of sustained experience in the Christianity of the global South. McAlister also shows in impressive detail the genuine assistance that many evangelical missionaries and service workers provide for impecunious and victimized peoples in Africa and the Middle East.

3 Masuzawa, Tomoko, The Invention of World Religions; Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, is a helpful study of the movement to classify a wide range of cultural traditions as religions.

4 Laborde, Cecile, Liberalism's Religion (Cambridge, MA, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, is perhaps the most sustained theoretical critique of the notion that religion requires special protection under the law. For a discerning discussion of Laborde see Michael Ignatieff, “Making Room for God,” New York Review of Books, 28 June 2018, 59–60.

5 See See also, as an example of the discussion inspired by this incident, “YouTube Videos Draw Attention to Palin's Faith,” New York Times, 24 Oct. 2008.

6 In this essay I am attending especially to the features of global South Christianity that present challenges for Christians of the North Atlantic West, but the diversity of religious ideas and practices in the global South includes many strains compatible with those popular in the United States and Europe. For examples of this continuity see the essays collected in Robert, Dana L., ed., African Christian Biography (Boston, 2018)Google Scholar.

7 On this group see Engelke, Matthew, A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church (Berkeley, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. That a study of such a group would appear in an academic press's series on “Christianity” is a sign of how accepting secular scholars are of Christian self-definition. An excellent introduction to the varieties of Pentecostalism in Africa is a collection of essays by scholars based in Africa, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States: Afe Adogame, ed., Who Is Afraid of the Holy Ghost? Pentecostalism and Globalization in Africa and Beyond (Trenton, NJ, 2011). For a cautious exploration of how the novel religious practices of the global South can look to American evangelical scholars see Priest, Robert, Thomas Campbell, and Bradford A. Mullen, “Missiological Syncretism: The New Animistic Paradigm,” in Roman, Edward, ed., Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues (Pasadena, 1995), 9–87Google Scholar.

8 Walls, Andrew F., “Cross-cultural Encounters and the Shift to World Christianity,” Journal of Presbyterian History 81 (Summer 2003), 112–16Google Scholar.

9 Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (3rd edn, New York, 2011), 270Google Scholar, 273. This book is a highly informative guide to a vast expanse of religious activities in the global South, which Jenkins engages in a searching, respectful spirit. Yet Jenkins appears to impose implicitly more boundaries on the topic than he acknowledges. At no time in this book, for example, does he discuss one of Africa's most famous and influential Christians, Emmanuel Eni. A Nigerian charismatic preacher, Eni claimed to have been involved in evil spirits until brought out of their company when he personally met Jesus Christ himself. Eni's book, Delivered from the Powers of Darkness, has been reprinted many times and carries the imprimatur of the Nairobi-based consortium African Independent Churches. For a helpful analysis of Eni and his following see Meyer, Brigit, “Delivered from the Powers of Darkness: Confessions of Satanic Riches in Christian Ghana,” Africa 65/2 (1995), 236255CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 242 (the story of Eni's work with the devil and his eventual salvation “is known everywhere”).

10 Putnam, Robert D. and Campbell, David E., American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (New York, 2010)Google Scholar.

11 There are many accounts of this tense and portentous meeting of the Anglican Communion; see e.g. Bates, Stephen, A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality (London, 2004)Google Scholar, esp. 37.

12 Jenkins, The Next Christendom, esp. 11–12; see also Stanley, 8, 79–82, 86–8, 91–105, 111–15, 119–26, and 360–61.

13 Jenkins, The New Christendom, 275.

14 For a probing critique of these failings see Clark, J. C. D., “Secularization and Modernization: The Failure of a Grand Narrative,” Historical Journal 55/1 (March 2012), 161–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 For a lucid, critical commentary on the substantial body of literature created by Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, and others complaining of the prejudicial consequences of the secular–religious dichotomy see Cohen, Jean L., “On the Genealogy and Legitimacy of the Secular State: Bockenforde and the Asadians,” Constellations 25/2 (2018), 207–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 A number of credible surveys have found that by the second decade of the twenty-first century, between one-fifth and one-quarter of Americans professed no religious affiliation, although they gave a great variety of answers to survey questions about religious belief and “spiritual” orientation. See e.g. For an overview of the most relevant of the social-scientific studies, and for a more extensively argued defense of classic secularization theory, see Hollinger, David A., “Christianity and Its American Fate: Where History Interrogates Secularization Theory,” in Isaac, Joel, Kloppenberg, James T., O'Brien, Michael, and Ratner-Rosenhagen, Jennifer, The Worlds of American Intellectual History (New York, 2016), 280303Google Scholar.

17 For the Pew study of 2012 see This study also found that 32 percent of Americans under the age of thirty declared no religious affiliation.

18 Kruse, Kevin, One Nation under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (New York, 2015)Google Scholar; Avery Sutton, Matthew, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Cambridge, MA, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Dochuk, Darren, From Bible Belt to Sun Belt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (New York, 2012)Google Scholar; Dochuk, Darren, “Fighting for the Fundamentalists: Lyman Stewart and the Protestant Politics of Oil,” in Preston, Andrew, Shulman, Bruce J., and Zelizer, Julian E., eds., Faithful Republic: Religion and Politics in Modern America (Philadelphia, 2015), 4055Google Scholar; Hammond, Sarah Ruth, God's Businessmen: Entrepreneurial Evangelicals in Depression and War (Chicago, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 Many works emphasize these themes in ecumenical Protestantism, including two books of my own, Hollinger, David A., After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern America (Princeton, 2013)Google Scholar; and Hollinger, Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America (Princeton, 2017).

20 For this remarkable feature of American religious life see Bowler, Kate, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York, 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 Cox, Harvey, The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective (New York, 1965), 268Google Scholar.