Matthew A. SuttonAmerican Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism

Harvard University Press, 2014

by Ray Haberski on December 17, 2014

Matthew A. Sutton

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Intellectual HistoryMatthew Avery Sutton is the author of three books:  Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (2007), Jerry Falwell and the Rise of the Religious Right: A Brief History with Documents (2012), and, most recently, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Harvard University Press, 2014), which is the subject of this interview with Raymond Haberski for New Books in Intellectual History.

Sutton makes a provocative argument in the introduction of this book that captures a few of his central arguments: “Their business was that of instant redemption, of immediate transformation,” Sutton says of a group of radical evangelicals who would become known as fundamentalists. “Fundamentalists created a different kind of morally infused American politics, on that challenged the long democratic tradition of pragmatic governance by compromise and consensus. Theirs was a politics of apocalypse.” From the late nineteenth century to the present, Protestants who have read the signs of the times as ominous warnings of both the decline of the world around them and the impending return of Jesus to lead the faithful to a new future have shaped American thought and politics through their fundamentalism and, later, as evangelicals. Far from feeling paralyzed by apocalyptic visions, evangelicals have turned their interpretation of the end times into generational calls to action.

Sutton’s book joins a distinguished historiographical tradition and an exciting new wave of younger scholars writing and re-interpreting America’s history of evangelical Protestantism. His book stands as one of the first synthetic treatments of the intellectual, political, and social histories of this significant subject.

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