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The American Church Experience: A Concise History.

The American Church Experience: A Concise History. By Thomas A. Askew and Richard V. Pierard. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2004. 288 pp. $21.99 paper.

Thomas Askew and Richard Pierard have produced a fine overview of the history of American Christianity. Although they announce that they "pay particular attention to the evangelical tradition" (p. 9), the book is balanced. They give full and equally sympathetic treatment of moderate and liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. They also touch base with Judaism, Islam, and Native American religions along the way. They give attention to women and missionary activities. One perceives that they were bringing the book up to date almost to the day they went to press. They do a good job of describing the cultural contexts of developments in theology and practice and of tying different periods of history together.

Although devoid of literary flourishes, the book is clearly and concisely written. The authors pack in an amazing amount of information; yet one does not feel rushed or short-changed by its fast pace. Reference notes are infrequent, but they appear at the bottom of the pages, where they belong. An extensive bibliography is helpful and current. Black and white pictures, mostly portraits, scattered throughout the book make the pages easier to look at and helps the reader understand history is real people, not just impersonal movements.

For readers of this journal, the authors give due attention to church-state relations. They accurately describe the separationist position and the opposition of the Christian Right. In the Epilogue, they suggest several reasons many Americans have remained religious in the face of galloping secularism. They correctly conclude: "Foremost was the separation of church and state, which provided social space for religious institutions, freeing them from political entanglement, bureaucratic stultification, and economic dependence on government" (p. 237).

There is much to like about this book. Supplemented with some specialized topics books, it would serve very well as the basic book for a first course in the history of religion in America, either at the undergraduate or seminary level.

Ronald B. Flowers, Emeritus

Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, Texas

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Author:Flowers, Ronald B.
Publication:Journal of Church and State
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:353
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