The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images, and Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis

Brazos. Aug. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781587435751. $26.99. REL
This is a literary and artistic exploration of the social imaginaries that underlie evangelical Christian culture in the United States. Leading evangelical writer and commentator Prior (On Reading Well) uses her skills in English literature to trace some of the major themes that the Victorian era bequeathed to today’s evangelicalism, such as the ideas of improvement, sentimentality, and empire. It is a book about evangelicals for evangelicals and the culture of evangelism. While the text takes Victorian literature as its starting point, it is a book addressed to contemporary evangelicals, consistently moving toward commentary on culture wars, mission, aesthetics, gender roles, and politics. The chapters build slowly from oblique critiques of “anti-wokeness” toward more direct disapproval of Trump, conspiracy theories, and the commodification of religion. However, nudges and jabs between commentary on Dickens and Kipling are often surprisingly gentle, especially when compared to the rhetoric supporting and shaping the other side of this subject. Some readers may want current issues to be addressed more aggressively.
VERDICT Often insightful and rewarding in its commentary on the Victorian roots of evangelical Christian ideas, this book could confront current issues a bit more strongly.
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