Perhaps not since Newsweek declared 1976 the Year of the Evangelical has so much been written and argued about evangelicals until this year. The presidential victory of Donald Trump and his huge support by evangelicals has put the topic back in the spotlight. So, when I heard that Francis Fitzgerald was writing The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, I was looking forward to reading her book. Coming in at over 700 pages (with notes and indexes) this is what you would expect from an author who has won the Pulitzer Prize. The book is timely. Stretching all the way from the Great Awakening to 2016, is narrates the shaping of America both theologically and politically.
The book is not about collegiate ministry, but by looking at the interaction of evangelicals and culture throughout American history, one can see how evangelical thought (or lack of it) shaped or reacted to collegiate life. The 1960s comes readily to mind to most people, but the material dealing with the 1920s is also informative. I enjoyed filling in the cracks of the 30s through the 50s, but frankly got tired of reliving the ups and downs of the Religious Right of the 80s and 90s (I lived through it). However, for those too young to remember the high tide of the Moral Majority, it is a great recap of where many evangelicals were placing their stock, especially politically. If a young Christian does not understand the “reclaim Christian America” mindset by many evangelicals, this book helps put it in perspective.
This book would be a great read to brush up on evangelical movements in the US, how evangelicals have dealt with a culture becoming more secular, and what lessons evangelicals could learn for the future.