Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2015
We're all familiar with Matthew Paul Turner by now. His shtick is to critique the foibles of evangelicalism/fundamentalism with snarky - make that SNARKY - edginess and scoffing humor. But every court needs its jester and Turner fills the niche. In this latest effort Turner cynically examines the history of Evangelical Christianity in America from the New England Puritans to Mark Driscoll. Of course, Turner had a LOT of dubious history to pick from including the antebellum church's support of slavery, Pentecostal snake handling, preoccupation with prophetic end times, idolatrous American nationalism, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, health and wealth evangelists on TBN, etc. You'll get mad at Turner for his irreverence on one page and laugh along with him as he hits the nail on the head on the next. Yes, the church in America created widely-shared perceptions of God that often had little connection to the God of the Bible. Yet, despite the sheer ridiculousness of many of the beliefs, attitudes, and practices of American believers and despite all the messiness of intra and inter denominational squabbles, the Lord has accomplished His purposes.
I definitely share Turner's annoyance with American Christianity's fervent embrace of nationalism. The short of it is that Christians in this country were taught from the pulpits to view America as God's new covenant chosen nation. As Turner points out, this attitude served the country's leaders and capitalists extremely well. I'm not one to compliment the Jehovah's Witnesses cult but I do believe their teachings regarding politics, governments, and nationalism fit the New Testament model a lot more closely than the red, white, and blue jingoistic patriotism of many Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches (1 Peter 2:11).
I hesitatingly recommend this book. Sure, Turner's choices of what constitutes the major themes of the American Christian story are interesting, informative, and even funny at times but I often cringed at his scoffing, as if the work of the Holy Spirit among imperfect believers is something to be laughed at with contempt. Yet, with Falwellian hyper-nationalism as a prime example, some of our foibles do deserve a critical, Dennis Miller-ish thrashing. Turner covers about 400 years of American Christian history in 220 pages so buckle your seatbelt. If history's not your thing the numerous names, places, and dates may be a bit overwhelming.
Matthew Paul? What's up with that? "Matt" would be fine for most guys. Oops! Sorry. This book is starting to rub off on me.