Our Great Big American God
Americans love God. We stamp God on our money, our bumper stickers, and our bodies. With a church on nearly every street, it's hard to deny our country's deep connection with the divine. Yet culture critic Matthew Paul Turner says that God didn't just change America-America changed God. As a result, do we even recognize the "real" God? Whip-smart and provocative, Turner explores the United States' vast influence on God, told through an amazing true history of faith, politics, and evangelical pyrotechnics. From Puritans to Pentecostals, from progressives to mega-pastors, Turner examines how American history and ideals transformed our perception of God. Fearless and funny, this is the definitive guide to the American experience of the Almighty-a story so bizarre, incredible, and entertaining that it could only be made in the U.S.A. No matter what your political or religious affiliation, this book will challenge and delight with its razor sharp wit, social commentary, and savvy historical insight. It will make you reconsider the way you think about America as a "Christian nation," and help you re-imagine a better future for God and country. Ultimately, Turner dares to ask: Does God control the future of America-or is it the other way around?

Our Great Big American God Details

TitleOur Great Big American God
Author
ReleaseAug 19th, 2014
PublisherJericho Books
ISBN-139781455547340
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Religion, Christianity, History, Faith, Christian, Cultural

Our Great Big American God Review

  • Matthew Paul Turner
    January 1, 1970
    I wrote it.
  • Sam Sattler
    January 1, 1970
    “Our Great Big American God” is not exactly what I expected it would be when I first picked it up. But there is a big clue right on the cover of the book as to what to expect inside: the author’s full name is Matthew Paul Turner. What better combination of first and middle names could there be for a writer of religion history (well, maybe, “Matthew Mark”)? The book is subtitled “A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity,” and that’s exactly what it is. The part I did not expect is all the very e “Our Great Big American God” is not exactly what I expected it would be when I first picked it up. But there is a big clue right on the cover of the book as to what to expect inside: the author’s full name is Matthew Paul Turner. What better combination of first and middle names could there be for a writer of religion history (well, maybe, “Matthew Mark”)? The book is subtitled “A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity,” and that’s exactly what it is. The part I did not expect is all the very effective humor, irony, and understatement that Turner uses to give the reader his take on how the American version of God has changed so dramatically over the past four centuries. Turner begins, of course, with the Puritans who came to America in order to stake out a place for themselves where they could practice their religion as they saw fit – without interference or input from any group that might believe even a bit differently than themselves. Here we get our first taste of irony because the Puritans turned out to be every bit as intolerant of other religions as they believed themselves to have been wronged in England. From here, the author traces the development of various Protestant religions in America as each of the more dominant ones ebbed and flowed throughout American history: Pentecostals, Baptists, Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc., right on through Progressives, Fundamentalists, and Evangelicals of all stripes.The big takeaway, for me, from “Our Great Big American God” is the realization that God’s image has been changed drastically and consistently over the years in order to fit the needs of society as it progressed to the present day. Rather than “man being created in the image of God,” the truth is that America’s version of God has been created in the image of man. That is not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose, but it is not something that most devout Christians tend (or like) to consider.I do wish that Turner had offered some insight into the television preachers of today instead of ending that discussion with the era of Falwell, Graham, Robertson, Roberts, etc. I would have appreciated more of his thoughts on the “prosperity gospel” preachers of the day, especially one Joel Osteen – but maybe that’s a whole other book.
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  • Peter Mcloughlin
    January 1, 1970
    This is a slightly irreverent history of American (Protestant) Christianity. Having been raised with a fairly liberal form of Catholicism (educated by Jesuits) I can understand mainline Protestantism and liberal Christianity in general. I am not a believer but I can relate to liberal Christians. Frankly, however, I can't wrap my head around evangelicals and fundamentalists. I find it hard to see things from their perspective. Perhaps it is a lack of imagination on my part. This book goes over th This is a slightly irreverent history of American (Protestant) Christianity. Having been raised with a fairly liberal form of Catholicism (educated by Jesuits) I can understand mainline Protestantism and liberal Christianity in general. I am not a believer but I can relate to liberal Christians. Frankly, however, I can't wrap my head around evangelicals and fundamentalists. I find it hard to see things from their perspective. Perhaps it is a lack of imagination on my part. This book goes over the many different forms faith takes both familiar and alien (to me). It is a bit informal but it gets to motivations and concerns of the unique version of (Protestant) Christianity that we have in the United States.
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  • Dave Lester
    January 1, 1970
    Having the honor of being Facebook friends with the preeminent progressive Christian blogger and Evangelical culture critic Matthew Paul Turner, I ran across a posting of his one day which spoke of his upcoming book “Our Great Big American God.” He was offering people who are bloggers, critics or other culture influencers a free copy of his book for them to review. I messaged him. He was gracious enough to send me a copy even though I don’t know if I fit any of the aforementioned categories. I d Having the honor of being Facebook friends with the preeminent progressive Christian blogger and Evangelical culture critic Matthew Paul Turner, I ran across a posting of his one day which spoke of his upcoming book “Our Great Big American God.” He was offering people who are bloggers, critics or other culture influencers a free copy of his book for them to review. I messaged him. He was gracious enough to send me a copy even though I don’t know if I fit any of the aforementioned categories. I do my best impersonation of a blogger and critic.As mentioned Turner (MPT) has a built-in reputation of being a more “liberal” Christian. I would not have that designation (although I freely admit that the terms “conservative” and “liberal” are loaded terms and we all should talk more specifically about what we believe on the issues). As a matter of fact, I have responded to MPT before on a blog of his that I did not agree with on original sin. (read: http://dangeroushope.wordpress.com/20...).Enough of the disclaimers. Before I dived into “American God”, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I had never read a book by MPT before but I have been a fairly consistent reader of his blog. This work by MPT seemed to be a pretty significant departure from his normal topics. Without having read them, “Churched” and “Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost” both seem autobiographical. His Twitter handle is @jesusneedsnewpr and he frequently offers a critique of contemporary conservative Christianity such as looked to be the case in his past book “The Christian Culture Survival Guide”.“American God” related to MPT’s writing career seems to be the next logical extension. It is as if MPT in keeping up with the current Christian trends, fads and beliefs asked the question: “how in the hell did we get here?” His answer is “Our Great Big American God” and the book is a compelling read.“American God” is, according to the tagline, “A short history of our Ever-Growing Deity”. The work is an overview of the idea of God in America and how believers have sincerely fashioned God into their own image. Not just exclusively a history of different American Christian beliefs about God, the book also explores how our distinctive religious ideas had an impact on our nation’s history.“To some extent, we are all ‘growing’ God, stuffing his mouth full with ideas, themes and theologies, fattening him up with a story line we believe to be true. Our intentions may be good, but then again, I’m not sure intentions matter when it comes to God’s image. For good or bad, we are all molding God to reflect our own personal, American interpretation of Christian faith.” (page 6)“For four hundred years, Americans have narrated God’s story, and during that time, God has grown and evolved, become bigger and more unbelievable. Our stories have added theologies and folklore, miracles and fear, pro-this narratives and anti-that themes, ghost stories and strobe lights, Sarah Palin and more than a little humanistic sensibilities. In our efforts to make God known, we’ve quite possibly turned God into something that resembles us, a big fat American with an ever-growing appetite for more. What follows is the story of God as told, shaped, and affected by America. Because God is not the same as he was yesterday, not here, not among America’s faithful.” (page 10)MPT begins with one of his only personal stories. He is talking with his friend Dave who he comes to realize is a Christian Zionist. This encounter actually bookends “American God” and serves to illustrate one of the central points. The ideas that Dave articulates have impacted America’s foreign policy in significant ways toward Israel and the middle east. Most readers may be blown away by this claim in MPT’s book:“Without question, John Nelson Darby is one of the most influential people in American history, quite an accomplishment considering he was British and spent only a limited amount of time in the United States.” (page 135-136)Of course, MPT explains that Darby was the father of Dispensational theology in America. The tenets of this view highlight a distinction between Israel as God’s people and the church and then interprets Revelation through the prism of God dealing with his original chosen people (Israel). This is where we as Americans inherited the rapture, seven years of tribulation and premillennialism (as well as an assortment of other related views). Impact? Consider the massive sales of the “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins that describe the horror of the rapture and tribulation. Nicholas Cage is starring in an upcoming “Left Behind” movie which is being remade from the previous Kirk Cameron installment. This idea, foremost in millions of Americans thoughts, has come to impact middle eastern foreign affairs.“American God” provides a generalized outline of personalities and their beliefs as well as the subsequent impact on American history. MPT dives into Puritan founders including John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson, Thomas Hooker, Roger Williams (including Williams appeals for religious freedom), Jonathan Edwards and John Winthrop. He spends quite a lot of time with Winthrop and his ideal of American being a “shining city on a hill”. This very phrase came up in President Ronald Reagan’s farewell address in 1989 as he (apparently) articulated a fairly liberal immigration view.MPT moves on toward discussing the religious divides of the Civil War and moving into the 20th century, Billy Sunday and how he helped shaped the Constitutional amendment of prohibition. We are reminded of classic Americana scenes including William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes Trial in Tennessee, DL Moody working and evangelizing in Chicago (and MPT’s perspective of Moody mixing capitalistic principles with how he ran his ministry), the Azusa Street revival and birth of modern day Pentecostalism, and the rise of the religious right behind Jerry Falwell and other foot soldiers. Finally, Billy Graham makes an appearance as he revolutionized Protestantism in the latter part of the 20th century.The massive kudos that are due to MPT is how he fits this history into a book that is 222 pages. Sure, the overall treatment of American religious history is a breeze but this leaves the reader wanting more (and there are ample footnotes to peruse). MPT does not merely recite history but adds the provocativeness of his personality to the pages. His wittiness is on full display as well as a good deal of snark….but hey, this is MPT we’re talking about here. While the reader will recall American events they are familiar with, they will also learn about new figures and see, perhaps for the first time, how unfamiliar ideas to the modern nation’s conscience have had a far ranging impact on our nation’s beliefs and life.My only quibble with the book is MPT acts as a kind of historical narrator, not really divulging what exactly he thinks (or believes), about the figures and events that are encountered along the way. I should add though that this may be my fault having not read his other books. Perhaps, he explores his own personal views in those works.I have already stated that I come from the theologically conservative end of the spectrum and I have a “reformish” leaning in my own theology to be sure. I suspect that many people who are more conservative Christians will pass this book over because of MPT’s theological or social views (or his reputation for them) which may differ from them. I would highly encourage them not too. This is not a liberal or conservative book in my view. There are gleanings that will speak to anybody and the big challenge to people on the conservative end (like me and liberals too) is asking the question: how have we allowed our culture/country to illustrate who we understand God to be? This is a haunting question and one worth exploring. When we fashion God in our image (especially a nationalistic image), we create an idol and often ignore other people in the world whom God (the True God) immensely cares about.
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  • Scott S.
    January 1, 1970
    Good, informative, and with some occasionally sharp humor - although by the time the abrupt ending arrived I was wishing there had been a little more detail. (Covering roughly from the Pilgrims' arrival to Obama's first inauguration - give or take 400+ years in American history - was done in a compact 220 pages.) Author Turner explores how certain practices of Christianity took root, prospered and then changed (or were disrupted) over the years as the country grew from 'New World' into a world p Good, informative, and with some occasionally sharp humor - although by the time the abrupt ending arrived I was wishing there had been a little more detail. (Covering roughly from the Pilgrims' arrival to Obama's first inauguration - give or take 400+ years in American history - was done in a compact 220 pages.) Author Turner explores how certain practices of Christianity took root, prospered and then changed (or were disrupted) over the years as the country grew from 'New World' into a world power.
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  • Violinknitter
    January 1, 1970
    If you need an introduction to the history of Christianity in America, this is a great place to start. Fast-paced, witty, and engaging enough for someone who isn't usually comfortable with history, yet well-researched & well-documented enough to provide great jumping-off points for those of us who like to dive into historical rabbit-holes. Turner is not a conservative evangelical Christian, so if you're used to the particular type of historical story that fits in well with "God & country If you need an introduction to the history of Christianity in America, this is a great place to start. Fast-paced, witty, and engaging enough for someone who isn't usually comfortable with history, yet well-researched & well-documented enough to provide great jumping-off points for those of us who like to dive into historical rabbit-holes. Turner is not a conservative evangelical Christian, so if you're used to the particular type of historical story that fits in well with "God & country, rah rah rah!", this won't be a comfortable book to read. But it's funny an insightful, so give it a try anyway!
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  • Anastasia Kinderman
    January 1, 1970
    The snark got a little annoying at times and I felt his portrayal of William Jennings Bryan was unfair but overall this was a helpful book. It gives you a layman's history of Christianity in America in about 200 pages.
  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    "....considering where and who America's God was in 1630 or in 1741 or in 1801 or in 1925 and in light of where and who America's God is today, I don't think it's futile for us to consider the weight and influence of our stories, beliefs, theologies, and ideas and to ponder how they might affect where and who America's God will be in the future." This is from the last page of this book and really ties together what his purpose was throughout the book in my opinion... to give you a historical pic "....considering where and who America's God was in 1630 or in 1741 or in 1801 or in 1925 and in light of where and who America's God is today, I don't think it's futile for us to consider the weight and influence of our stories, beliefs, theologies, and ideas and to ponder how they might affect where and who America's God will be in the future." This is from the last page of this book and really ties together what his purpose was throughout the book in my opinion... to give you a historical picture of how culture & religion has evolved in America from the first steps of settlers to more recent times. It is hard throughout this book to get a sense of his tone though which left me wondering if and what exactly was his personal bent so to speak on who & how God should be viewed. Many many references to big names & big stories in our history smashed into simplified terms to create a timeline, yet not very much depth. Each of those names & stories could and have been a book in and of themself so I imagine he is simply trying to show a thread of evolution in popular thought & movement in religion and spirituality. Interesting, but hard to get to the end. Learned new things, but also got frustrated with his tone. Very disappointed he cut more recent times extremely short because recent history is repeating many of the very themes he presented, yet he doesn't go there at all and that would have made for another strong 2-3 chapters. Could it be a discussion book? Personally I don't think so.
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  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    I just spent the last hour reading this book. I haven't decided if I will keep reading it. I probably would have switched to another book if it hadn't been the only book I brought to the gym while on the treadmill.It begins at the history of the Puritans coming to America. It is not as erudite as Sarah Vowell's "Wordy shipmates". It also strikes a different tone. Whereas atheist Vowell's tone is respectful awe of the faith and perseverance of the early Puritans, Turner's treatment is snide and c I just spent the last hour reading this book. I haven't decided if I will keep reading it. I probably would have switched to another book if it hadn't been the only book I brought to the gym while on the treadmill.It begins at the history of the Puritans coming to America. It is not as erudite as Sarah Vowell's "Wordy shipmates". It also strikes a different tone. Whereas atheist Vowell's tone is respectful awe of the faith and perseverance of the early Puritans, Turner's treatment is snide and condescending. Vowell relates more incidents both of horrific nature and of more humane nature then Turner does. Turner has many pithy soundbites of incidents in the colony.I find it interesting that in a Christian book in which the author decries the lack of grace of the Puritans, that same lack of Grace is showing in his writing.I think I'm going to go back to reading my book about pope Francis. It makes me want to be a Christian more. For the record, my narrative framework is Stone – Campbell which is a midway point between Wesleyanism and Calvinism.
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  • Chuck
    January 1, 1970
    Funny, witty, enlightening, and even a bit scary at times. This book gives a great picture into the how and why of America's view of God and how we worship. Many of today's views and practices are really "traditional" but they are very American. The interrelationship of the church and politics is both enlightening and frustrating. This book really helps to peal away the onion layers of what is considered "common" Christianity and make us really question which parts are truly divine and how much Funny, witty, enlightening, and even a bit scary at times. This book gives a great picture into the how and why of America's view of God and how we worship. Many of today's views and practices are really "traditional" but they are very American. The interrelationship of the church and politics is both enlightening and frustrating. This book really helps to peal away the onion layers of what is considered "common" Christianity and make us really question which parts are truly divine and how much we have morphed God into our own image. Highly recommended, but be warned. Those on the far right will start objecting from page 1.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I would've given it a higher rating but a)you can hear his disdain throughout the book, b) it ended rather abruptly in my opinion, and c)there was so sense of wrap-up, no summation of the author's opinions or no hope the reader is left with.
  • Tommy Grooms
    January 1, 1970
    Our Great Big American God is a history in the sense that it covers the major movements and people that marked America's shifting views of Christianity (it's not a bad introduction), but it's not terrifically in-depth or objective. This would be fine if the author had a strong thesis, but Matthew Paul Turner stops at saying that he "doesn't think it's futile to consider" America's conception of God. Turner casually throws shade at America's varying conceptions of God and makes a fair handful of Our Great Big American God is a history in the sense that it covers the major movements and people that marked America's shifting views of Christianity (it's not a bad introduction), but it's not terrifically in-depth or objective. This would be fine if the author had a strong thesis, but Matthew Paul Turner stops at saying that he "doesn't think it's futile to consider" America's conception of God. Turner casually throws shade at America's varying conceptions of God and makes a fair handful of "I" statements without offering a clear indication of what he himself thinks God in America should look like, and the tone was such that I kept wishing that he hadn't written this "history" but had made an actual argument instead.
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  • Matthew Irvine
    January 1, 1970
    Yowsa. This is a heavy hitter, but it's an important read. While I need some mindless young adult novel to chase this one, this book has helped me better grasp the history of Christianity in America.
  • Nheduana
    January 1, 1970
    A rather cheeky biography of a voiceless Deity who is dragged about America and dressed in various fashions in a manner reminiscent of a child’s Barbie doll.
  • Brandon Carter
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve been somewhat familiar with Matthew Paul Turner for awhile. He hosts the podcast “That God Show” with one of my favorite authors/bloggers, Benjamin L Corey. I also follow him on social media, but even though I’ve had this book on my wishlist for awhile, I’ve never actually read anything by Turner until now. I’m not sure why I waited!Turner begins “Our Great Big American God” by talking about a question that had been posed to him by a friend. That question was “Where would God be without the I’ve been somewhat familiar with Matthew Paul Turner for awhile. He hosts the podcast “That God Show” with one of my favorite authors/bloggers, Benjamin L Corey. I also follow him on social media, but even though I’ve had this book on my wishlist for awhile, I’ve never actually read anything by Turner until now. I’m not sure why I waited!Turner begins “Our Great Big American God” by talking about a question that had been posed to him by a friend. That question was “Where would God be without the USA?” Well, if you’re like me the first thing that crosses your mind is: “That’s totally inappropriate! God is GOD. God doesn’t need the USA or any other country!” However, as you read further into the opening of the book you see the point behind the question. Nobody, at least in the Christian world, is as big of a proponent of God as the United States is. One of our major political parties is totally driven by something that passes itself as Christianity. Most Americans still self-identify as not only religious, but Christian. Many, if not most, Americans still go to church (at least on Christmas Eve and Easter). The United States is responsible for most of the worldwide Christian evangelism, as well as most of the copies of the Bible distributed in the world every year. If you ever see a group of Chinese or African folks being presented with a Bible, odds are that Bible was funded by, if not actually printed in, America. Christians hold nearly every higher government office in the country and most of the offices at the lower levels of government as well. In short, we’ve done a lot for God in the last 400 years!But the thing is, our God–our conception of God–has changed over the years. When the Puritans stepped off the Mayflower God was a devout Calvinist. God was a hard nosed God for a hard nosed new world where those who didn’t work didn’t eat. God was kind of scary as he held the lives of all those sinners in his angry hands. He’d just as soon pull your legs off like an insect and toss you into Hell. Cranky, wasn’t he? When some people tried to challenge this conception of God they were tossed from the colony (so much for religious freedom). Think Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island.God didn’t stay that way though. He became an ardent American Patriot during the Revolutionary War. In the 19th century people like the Methodists eventually took over from the Calvinists. Now God wasn’t the angry Father anymore, he was the much more pleasant Son, Jesus, who wanted to get to know you. During the Civil War era God was a mighty soldier for the Union (The Battle Hymn of the Republic) and at the same time a rigid southerner determined to hold on to the institution of slavery (which was justified from the Bible six ways from Sunday across the Confederacy).In the early 20th century the Pentecostal movements came about and kind of took over from the Methodists and the Baptists, and God became the fiery Holy Spirit who would help you speak in tongues, handle serpents without dying, and above all make your minister a very rich man. Then came the fundamentalists, who eventually had a nasty break up with the evangelicals when folks like Billy Graham became not quite fundamentalist enough. However, they got back together in the late 70s when they decided that they should actually attempt to dominate the political landscape and get that God-forsaken Democrat, Jimmy Carter, out of the White House. After that God became a gay hating, woman bashing, uberpatriotic mascot of the “Moral Majority” which has finally faltered in recent years.Whew! Take a breath man!Those couple of paragraphs just scratch the surface of Turner’s history. As someone with a minor in history I can vouch for the fact that the book is very well researched and annotated. It brings together two of my favorite subjects: Christianity and history, and does a stellar job. Anyone who is interested in these subjects should really enjoy this. Turner doesn’t come across as some dab, dry history professor but scatters his own insights and humor throughout the book, making it a truly enjoyable read.
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  • Reid Mccormick
    January 1, 1970
    God and country. Take a drive around the highways of America and within minutes you can spot a bumper sticker or two that proclaims love for God and country. On my commute, my wife and I would play a game: who could spot the first “in not of this world” bumper sticker. She usually wins within the first three miles. In the United States, religion and patriotism are two ends of the same stick. It is unfathomable to be one but not the other. Can you be a patriotic atheist?All Americans have a compl God and country. Take a drive around the highways of America and within minutes you can spot a bumper sticker or two that proclaims love for God and country. On my commute, my wife and I would play a game: who could spot the first “in not of this world” bumper sticker. She usually wins within the first three miles. In the United States, religion and patriotism are two ends of the same stick. It is unfathomable to be one but not the other. Can you be a patriotic atheist?All Americans have a complicated relationship with religion, not just the religious or non-religious. Though I wholeheartedly believe that the United States is not a “Christian nation,” religion definitely impacts everyday matters in America. I picked up Our Great Big American God via a recommendation from a colleague after discussing the role of Christianity in culture. The book is great at explaining the theology of certain groups throughout American history, starting with the Puritans and ending with the Moral Majority. Each group left significant on America, however, the lasting impacts were not really discussed in the book. I guess I was looking for more of an outsider’s view of Christianity in American history. Additionally, I felt the author tried to throw in some wit here and there and it typically fell flat. At times he would address God like an independent figure and other times treat God like a figment of the collective’s imagination. All in all, it felt disjointed. The book is good with lots of resources, it just did not fit my taste. I'm now more interested in the resources he used rather than this book.
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  • Greg Dill
    January 1, 1970
    Written with both facts and plenty of cynicism, "Our Great Big American God" tells the history of the making of the American brand of God, I think.80% of the material I read in this book was almost identical to the material I read in "The Religious History of America" by Edwin Gaustad published in 2004. In fact, it was eerily similar. I read Gaustad's book in 2011 and as I was reading Turner's new book not only was I experiencing deja vu, but it became predictable. I was essentially reading a sl Written with both facts and plenty of cynicism, "Our Great Big American God" tells the history of the making of the American brand of God, I think.80% of the material I read in this book was almost identical to the material I read in "The Religious History of America" by Edwin Gaustad published in 2004. In fact, it was eerily similar. I read Gaustad's book in 2011 and as I was reading Turner's new book not only was I experiencing deja vu, but it became predictable. I was essentially reading a slightly different and compressed version of Gaustad's book. I am not claiming plagiarism, but it is a bit suspicious or completely coincidental.Overall, I was disappointed. I thought this book was going to be more about the evolution of the American Christian culture throughout the years. Instead it was a historical overview of prominent preachers, theologians, religious movements, and the rise of new denominations much like Gaustad's book. And, it only focused on one facet of Christianity in America, namely Protestant Evangelicalism. However, Methodism was almost always portrayed in a positive light for which I was grateful. But, in a sense this was just another American Christian history book.If you haven't read Gaustad's book and you're not looking for a lengthy read, then "Our Great Big American God" may be just for you. If you are looking for a much more detailed and lengthy overview of religious life in America, I highly recommend "The Religious History of America".
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  • Rob
    January 1, 1970
    Our Great Big American God attempts to trace the impact that America had on the understanding of God within Christianity. The perspective that the author is trying to make is a bit difficult to grasp. The book is not a history of Christianity in America, therefore there are a lot of movements that are not discussed, including native movements like the Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons, nor does it discuss how some denominations or movements reacted to being planted in the American environment. Our Great Big American God attempts to trace the impact that America had on the understanding of God within Christianity. The perspective that the author is trying to make is a bit difficult to grasp. The book is not a history of Christianity in America, therefore there are a lot of movements that are not discussed, including native movements like the Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons, nor does it discuss how some denominations or movements reacted to being planted in the American environment. While the word history is in the subtitle, the book is closer to being a book of theology, for it really shows how America has stamped its own understanding on to the God of Christianity. The tone of the book might be difficult for some people as it is a bit sarcastic. For those not used to sarcasm in religious writing, that might be a hurdle one cannot overcome, therefore, this book might not be the best selection for the little old ladies during Sunday School. However, if that is not a problem then one should be fine with the tone of this book. The author relies heavily on primary sources. Perhaps this is what gives the book its unique flavor. By focusing on primary sources, Turner puts different idea together that are not normally put in relationship to one another and creates a distinctive picture of the relationship between America and the Christian God.
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  • Yves
    January 1, 1970
    A digestable good overview of the evolution of America's God and God's America from the time prior to the pilgrims left England until the 90's. A useful cataloguing of the many denomitions that compete for "America's share of souls". Interesting to learn or be reminded the position of the main denominations prior and during the main events that marked America's History; slavery and abolition, the war with Mexico, Spanish, and civil war and the controversial entry into WW1. In the final stage the A digestable good overview of the evolution of America's God and God's America from the time prior to the pilgrims left England until the 90's. A useful cataloguing of the many denomitions that compete for "America's share of souls". Interesting to learn or be reminded the position of the main denominations prior and during the main events that marked America's History; slavery and abolition, the war with Mexico, Spanish, and civil war and the controversial entry into WW1. In the final stage the of Republican primaries gone awfully amiss, the following statement by Rheinhold Niebhur struck a cord in me: "Politics always aims at some kind of harmony or balance of interest, and such harmony of cannot be regarded as directly related to the final harmony of love of the Kingdom of God. All men are naturally inclined to obscure the morally ambiguous element in their political cause by investing it with religious sanctity. This is why religion is more frequently a source of confusion than a light in the political realm. The tendency to equate our political with our christian convictions causes politics to generate idolatry".
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  • Danns
    January 1, 1970
    While at times Turner can be a bit irreverent, this book was a very interesting and eye opening if short jaunt through the history of how God has been received and presented by the different denominations of Christianity in the United States. What I found particularly interesting was the discussion of how integrated the Church was in the politics of the state before the independence was declared and how disastrous that was. There were times I wish there was more in depth information provided abo While at times Turner can be a bit irreverent, this book was a very interesting and eye opening if short jaunt through the history of how God has been received and presented by the different denominations of Christianity in the United States. What I found particularly interesting was the discussion of how integrated the Church was in the politics of the state before the independence was declared and how disastrous that was. There were times I wish there was more in depth information provided about specific events or characters. I suspect that there is a lot more in the notes at the end but the version I read on the Kindle did not have easily accessible links to move back and forth to that information. For a quick taste of the history of different denominations of Christianity in the United States to the present political movements we see today, this book is a great start.
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  • Emily McFarlan Miller
    January 1, 1970
    This book from Matthew Paul Turner was entertaining and engaging from start to finish – probably not what you would expect from a book tracing how America's view of God has changed throughout its history and how that, in turn, has impacted the country. But this isn't a dense theological or historical work. It's clearly told from Turner's point of view, which includes its fair share of broad brushstrokes and sweeping conclusions. It might have benefitted from a brief explanation of that point of This book from Matthew Paul Turner was entertaining and engaging from start to finish – probably not what you would expect from a book tracing how America's view of God has changed throughout its history and how that, in turn, has impacted the country. But this isn't a dense theological or historical work. It's clearly told from Turner's point of view, which includes its fair share of broad brushstrokes and sweeping conclusions. It might have benefitted from a brief explanation of that point of view at the outset, some sort of framework for understanding the author's interpretation of theology and history (although, if you've read his previous books or blog, you probably already have a pretty good idea). Still, it's a compelling introduction for those who might want to dig deeper into the topic.
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  • Alger
    January 1, 1970
    Underwhelming.As a short introductory history of popular religion in the United States this works. Unfortunately, it is just too superficial for anyone except the casual reader. As a history, or just a book that does more than tell the reader who imagined what of God, this falls short. I was attracted to the purpose of the book, and the writing is fine and occasionally witty, but I cannot see the value of this book to anyone who already knew, in even broad outlines, the story of the peculiar obs Underwhelming.As a short introductory history of popular religion in the United States this works. Unfortunately, it is just too superficial for anyone except the casual reader. As a history, or just a book that does more than tell the reader who imagined what of God, this falls short. I was attracted to the purpose of the book, and the writing is fine and occasionally witty, but I cannot see the value of this book to anyone who already knew, in even broad outlines, the story of the peculiar obsessions Americans have had with God. For anyone with a detailed knowledge of even one religious movement it should be quickly obvious that this is a very hurried survey that flattens out the real diversity of religious thought to present an uncomplicated and directed narrative. Neither is there reflection upon how people lived with these ideas, only upon who had these ideas.
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  • Adam Shields
    January 1, 1970
    Short Review: A romp through American religious history and the ways innovation in the message or understanding of God has changed the way we modern American Christians see God. I think the strength (and some of my frustration) of the book is the way Turner is intentionally conflating God (as a deity) and our understanding of God. Of course he is right that when we understand God differently that makes a difference. But as I think he would clearly said if pressed, that God (as God) is unchanged. Short Review: A romp through American religious history and the ways innovation in the message or understanding of God has changed the way we modern American Christians see God. I think the strength (and some of my frustration) of the book is the way Turner is intentionally conflating God (as a deity) and our understanding of God. Of course he is right that when we understand God differently that makes a difference. But as I think he would clearly said if pressed, that God (as God) is unchanged. Which is where Turner really starts (with a story about a friend of his talking about how much America has done for God over its history.) Turner is a gadfly, a necessary voice, but not alway one that is easy to hear. Still this is the best of his books that I have read.Click through for about 1000 word review. http://bookwi.se/our-great-big-americ...
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  • Geoffrey Wood
    January 1, 1970
    I've followed Matthew Paul Turner's writing for a number of years now, and although there is much good to say about his other books, Our Great Big American God is exceptional. Exceptionally good that is. All his books have humor and several of his books show his adeptness at research, but this does both. It has a solid academic foundation, but is told in that friendly, slightly snarky, unique voice that is only Matthew's. What you can learn from this book is significant and timely and it reads a I've followed Matthew Paul Turner's writing for a number of years now, and although there is much good to say about his other books, Our Great Big American God is exceptional. Exceptionally good that is. All his books have humor and several of his books show his adeptness at research, but this does both. It has a solid academic foundation, but is told in that friendly, slightly snarky, unique voice that is only Matthew's. What you can learn from this book is significant and timely and it reads as easily as having a cup of coffee and a chat with the author himself. If you've never tried a Matthew Paul Turner book, this one's a great place to start. And if you're a long time fan, you'll be that much more impressed.
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  • Connie Hintz
    January 1, 1970
    The author takes a look at God through all sorts of American eyes glasses from the early Puritans to the First and Second Awakenings to the northern and southern perspectives of the Civil War era, the Pentecostal experience, and Moral Majority understanding as well as the perspective of American exceptionalism. One wonders how a person could work through all of these varying and conflicting understandings to arrive at a clear vision of God. I felt that the book ended a little too abruptly, thoug The author takes a look at God through all sorts of American eyes glasses from the early Puritans to the First and Second Awakenings to the northern and southern perspectives of the Civil War era, the Pentecostal experience, and Moral Majority understanding as well as the perspective of American exceptionalism. One wonders how a person could work through all of these varying and conflicting understandings to arrive at a clear vision of God. I felt that the book ended a little too abruptly, though. I would have liked to see him talk a little more about the process of peeling off the layers, which can be a little disconcerting. How do we throw out the bath water without throwing out the precious baby?
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  • Joy Matteson
    January 1, 1970
    What a fascinating take on American religious history. Mr. Turner explores from 1611 Plymouth Rock until today how Americans have so easily mixed together God and patriotism. It was a fascinating red on the eve of Fourth of July this year, and Turner's witty and engrossing research easily carries this book to its unavoidable conclusion. This is easily digested (and snarky enough) for the masses, and yet profoundly deep, answering some of my own questions about American historical theology that w What a fascinating take on American religious history. Mr. Turner explores from 1611 Plymouth Rock until today how Americans have so easily mixed together God and patriotism. It was a fascinating red on the eve of Fourth of July this year, and Turner's witty and engrossing research easily carries this book to its unavoidable conclusion. This is easily digested (and snarky enough) for the masses, and yet profoundly deep, answering some of my own questions about American historical theology that was missing from my undergraduate degree. I hope readers of all Christian denominations will read this, since the book is a compelling case for why God and American patriotism has been mixed together for over 300 years.
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  • Leigh Kramer
    January 1, 1970
    An engaging look at the ways America has changed God to suit its needs throughout the years, starting with the Puritans and on up to the present. I learned a good deal about past popular teachers and preachers, as well as the way they viewed and interacted with God. Much of this set the stage for the Moral Majority and TV ministries we are begrudgingly accustomed to today. Turner spares no one and his POV is readily apparent, which was good for me but also sadly limits who I can pass the book al An engaging look at the ways America has changed God to suit its needs throughout the years, starting with the Puritans and on up to the present. I learned a good deal about past popular teachers and preachers, as well as the way they viewed and interacted with God. Much of this set the stage for the Moral Majority and TV ministries we are begrudgingly accustomed to today. Turner spares no one and his POV is readily apparent, which was good for me but also sadly limits who I can pass the book along to. Many people would benefit from reading it but they may not receive its message because of the occasional snide tone. Still, I commend Turner's work and hope it will provoke more engagement on how patriotism and religion have crossed each other's lines.
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  • Dan Gorman
    January 1, 1970
    Meh. Turner has a strong authorial voice and provides a breezy journalistic approach to religious history. Unfortunately, he does not draw from many primary sources, has very few notes at the back of the book, and uses a flippant and glib tone that is irritating at times. Perhaps most useful for a freshman (or high school) course, or for casual adult readers very unfamiliar with Christian history. Some readers may be taken aback by Turner's polemical attitude toward evangelical Christians. Somet Meh. Turner has a strong authorial voice and provides a breezy journalistic approach to religious history. Unfortunately, he does not draw from many primary sources, has very few notes at the back of the book, and uses a flippant and glib tone that is irritating at times. Perhaps most useful for a freshman (or high school) course, or for casual adult readers very unfamiliar with Christian history. Some readers may be taken aback by Turner's polemical attitude toward evangelical Christians. Sometimes Turner is more concerned with tearing apart evangelical claims than explaining how evangelical society functions.
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  • Aileen
    January 1, 1970
    This book was ok. It felt a little bit like he had a bone to pick in a way that distracted from his otherwise well put together argument. I would have liked more historical and narrative detail. A good deal of the chapters felt unnecessarily brief. Overall the argument that Christians have throughout history and especially American Christians turned God into whoever they want him to be holds up. This argument is not original to Turner but he doesn't mess around and lends a good deal of credible This book was ok. It felt a little bit like he had a bone to pick in a way that distracted from his otherwise well put together argument. I would have liked more historical and narrative detail. A good deal of the chapters felt unnecessarily brief. Overall the argument that Christians have throughout history and especially American Christians turned God into whoever they want him to be holds up. This argument is not original to Turner but he doesn't mess around and lends a good deal of credible evidence to further this point. It is a decent contribution in that respect. But it could have been more.
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  • Joan
    January 1, 1970
    I think Turner has done a relatively good job of showing how God has morphed over the years into the God Americans worship today. Some may think him irreverent as he is critical of much Americans hold dear today. But I trust his motive is to jar us awake and make us consider how much of God as we understanding Him is from the Bible and how much is of our own making.See my complete review at http://bit.ly/ZHw9B0.I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of I think Turner has done a relatively good job of showing how God has morphed over the years into the God Americans worship today. Some may think him irreverent as he is critical of much Americans hold dear today. But I trust his motive is to jar us awake and make us consider how much of God as we understanding Him is from the Bible and how much is of our own making.See my complete review at http://bit.ly/ZHw9B0.I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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