Christian: The Politics of a Word in America

Harvard Univ. Apr. 2018. 320p. notes. index. ISBN 9780674737631. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780674985735. REL
Although the word Christian has been used frequently throughout the history of American politics, there is no clear consensus about its meaning. Bowman (history, Henderson State Univ.; The Mormon People) here presents a series of case studies that illustrate some of the ways in which Americans have used the language of Christianity to justify wildly diverse social and political perspectives about concepts such as liberty, equality, and democracy. Starting with the Election of 1872 and continuing up to the present, Bowman examines Christian republicanism, liberal Protestantism, Cold War Christianity, the civil rights movement, the Unification Church, and the religious right, among a number of additional viewpoints. Alongside the struggle to define Christian is a parallel debate about the meaning of its traditional nemesis, materialism, which has been traditionally used to describe whatever a particular group of Christians happen to fear or oppose.
VERDICT This fascinating book will appeal to readers interested in understanding the historical complexities of a ubiquitous word in American politics that is deceptively difficult to pin down.
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