In the decades before the Civil War, evangelical Protestants struggled for the mind and soul of America. Their impact on American life had immediate as well as far-reaching consequences, and is the subject of Curtis Johnson's concise and discerning account of a major force in the nation's history. The religious combatants described by Mr. Johnson not only sought to rescue America from Catholics and unbelievers, they battled one another over the meaning, practice, and social implications of their common faith. While prosperous evangelicals often tried to impose their religious understanding on the social and political order, common whites resented this elite meddling in their lives, and black Americans achieved a measure of autonomy by forging a liberating faith. Evangelical battles over biblical interpretation, the Second Birth, personal and national righteousness, and the Second Coming released forces that reverberated throughout antebellum culture. White evangelicals disagreed over the importance of education, the role of emotion, the possibility of personal perfection, and political philosophy. But when large numbers of black and white evangelicals agreed that God could not bless the nation until slavery was abolished, they abandoned their slaveholding co-religionists, and America moved toward Civil War. American Ways Series.
Curtis D. Johnson teaches history at Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He has also written Islands of Holiness.