Saving History: How White Evangelicals Tour the Nation’s Capital and Redeem a Christian America

Univ. of North Carolina. Apr. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781469658773. pap. $22. REL
Using packaged guide tours through Washington, DC, Kerby (education specialist, Religious Literacy Project, Harvard Div. School) delineates how Evangelical Christians see their roles throughout U.S. history. In conversations with various tour operators and tourists over several visits to sites ranging from the iconic to the obscure, the author develops a three-fold metanarrative of their perspectives, starting with the story of salvation history. More specific to conservative evangelicals are concepts of American Exceptionalism, America as a Christian Nation, and that modernity inevitably leads to secularism. The former casts the founders and heroes of history in the image of contemporary evangelicals, while the latter is seen as a betrayal of the nation’s heritage by the group. Kerby argues that because Christian iconography is both ubiquitous and subtle, tour operators provide a path in which dark forces are attempting to erase the country’s past, and that Christians must recover it in order to maintain divine favor.
VERDICT Kerby’s analysis of conservative evangelicals throughout American history would stand on its own without the emphasis on Washington, DC, but the capital uniquely concentrates the current dynamics, with the conversations encountered adding nuance to this powerful constituency.
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