“Heave an egg out of a Pullman window and you will hit a Fundamentalist almost anywhere in the United States today.”
— H. L. Mencken, 1925
A survey of the history and theology of evangelicalism, America's folk religion, from its origins in the confluence of the "three P's"-- Puritanism, Pietism, and Presbyterianism -- in the Great Awakening to the construction of the evangelical subculture following the Scopes Trial to the present. We'll examine evangelical millennial ideas as well as attitudes toward women, minorities, society, and politics.
This course examines the various historical, sociological, theological, and cultural manifestations of evangelicalism, America’s folk religion. Any serious consideration of religion in American society must begin with evangelicalism, the most important social and religious movement in American history and one that today claims (according to polling data) anywhere from 25 to 46 percent of the American population. After an introduction and a taxonomy of various evangelical sub-groups—fundamentalism, holiness movement, pentecostalism, charismatic movement, neoevangelicalism—we’ll examine the revival tradition and the social reform that it engendered in the nineteenth century. As the century wore on, however, evangelicals shifted their eschatology from postmillennialism to premillennialism, a “theology of despair” that effectively absolved them of social responsibility. We’ll look at the construction of the evangelical subculture after the Scopes trial of 1925 and the re-emergence of evangelicals into the political arena half a century later. Finally, we’ll examine issues that continue to shape evangelicalism in the twenty-first century: political action, the role of women, changing attitudes toward homosexuality, and evangelicalism’s affinity with American popular culture.
Balmer, Randall. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America. 5th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-0199360468.
Dayton, Donald W. Rediscovering an Evangelical Heritage: A Tradition and Trajectory of Integrating Piety and Justice. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2014. ISBN: 978-0801049613.
[Optional] Frank, Doug. A Gentler God: Breaking Free of the Almighty in the Company of the Human Jesus. Menangle, NSW: Albatross Books, 2010. ISBN: 978-0732404307.
Sutton, Matthew Avery. Jerry Falwell and the Rise of the Religious Right: A Brief History with Documents. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. ISBN: 978-1457611100.
Books are on reserve at Baker Library and available at Wheelock Books and Dartmouth Bookstore.
Course Requirements & Grading
1. Attendance and informed participation in class discussions: 30 points.
2. Mid-term examination (May 2): 60 points.
3. Class presentation of updates for "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" chapters; due the week following the reading of that particular chapter. In addition to a 10-minute presentation, please submit a two-page, double-spaced summary: 40 points.
4. Writing assignment, 6-10 pages, on either of the following: A review of A Gentler God (the optional book) or a brief research paper on some topic that you find of interest (one source of ideas for paper topics is Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism). The paper is due May 25 at the beginning of class: 70 points.
5. Instructor reserves the option for a final examination: 60 points.
Office hours are before class on Tuesdays and Thursdays (311 Thornton Hall), and by appointment.
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