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Religion in American History: Interpretive Essays
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Religion in American History: Interpretive Essays ..
American Apocalypse is by far the most ambitious of the three titles reviewed in this essay in that Sutton attempts a comprehensive history of twentieth-century evangelicalism. He makes four interesting interpretive moves. First, he resurrects Ernest Sandeen's thesis that millenarianism is the central evangelical conviction, challenging the consensus proffered by the previous generation of historians of evangelicalism. Second, Sutton suggests that born-again Protestants, inspired by their millennial views, consistently engaged culture-including politics-throughout the twentieth century. Third, he suggests that fundamentalists should not be considered "conservative" because their millennial views represented a theological innovation at the time they became so popular; fundamentalism was "radical apocalyptic evangelicalism." Finally, he flattens the distinctions between fundamentalists and evangelicals, focusing far more on continuity than discontinuity. He argues that outwardly focused, Armageddon-awaiting evangelicals profoundly shaped American religious life, popular culture, electoral politics, and foreign policy. He suggests that, "In anticipating the imminent end of the world, fundamentalists paradoxically transformed it."