Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book Review

Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America, by Matthew Avery Sutton.

One thing that biographers must avoid is taking a side in presenting their subject, falling into either of the equally troubling traps of defending or criticizing. Professor Sutton avoids these temptations, and has produced an intriguing look at the equally intriguing evangelist, who dominated the cultural landscape in the USA during the first half of the twentieth century.

Despite the 50 pages of endnotes that give this work the appearance of being an academic tone, this is in fact an accessible and readable work. Sutton covers the high points of Sister Aimee's biography -- farm girl, missionary, widow, founding the Foursquare denomination, the still-mysterious kidnapping, the quick marriage and divorce, her social activism -- and puts these events in the context of a post-Darwinian America, where traditional Christianity was on the ropes.

Sutton portrays McPherson's many contradicions with keen insight. His fair and balanced work portays a woman who constantly defied gender norms and religious expectations, while advocating a biblically-based and culturally-engaged evangelicalism.

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