A sweeping, five-decade history of the evangelical movement in southern California that explains an epochal realignment of American politics.
Billy Graham reaches out on the cover, but the photo could just as well show George Pepperdine, E.V. Hill, Bill Bright—or any of scores of evangelicals and pentecostals profiled in Dochuk's well-wrought history of religion and politics. Poor workers from the Deep South immigrated to California in the 1930s for jobs; and, Dochuk argues, the "plain folk, preachers and entrepreneurs" packed their politics with their Bibles, intent on electing one of their own as president. They succeeded in 1980 with favorite son Ronald Reagan. For the cause, they pastored churches, parachurch organizations (Campus Crusade for Christ), businesses, and schools (Pepperdine University); they fought first Communists, then homosexuals; converted from being social justice Democrats to conservative, prosperity-gospel Republicans; diluted their racism; and learned to cooperate with each other's conventions. Dochuk, a professor at Purdue, conducted interviews and researched diligently through newsletters, newspapers, minutes of church and civic meetings, and the leaders' own letters, sermons, and memoirs. His convincing conclusions expose the foundations of today's evangelical conservatism; his writing is admirably clear and objective. (Dec. 13).