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Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America

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Matthew Sutton's definitive study of Aimee Semple McPherson reveals the woman, most often remembered as the hypocritical vamp in Sinclair Lewis's 'Elmer Gantry', as a trail-blazing pioneer. Matthew Sutton's definitive study of Aimee Semple McPherson reveals the woman, most often remembered as the hypocritical vamp in Sinclair Lewis's 'Elmer Gantry', as a trail-blazing pioneer.


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Matthew Sutton's definitive study of Aimee Semple McPherson reveals the woman, most often remembered as the hypocritical vamp in Sinclair Lewis's 'Elmer Gantry', as a trail-blazing pioneer. Matthew Sutton's definitive study of Aimee Semple McPherson reveals the woman, most often remembered as the hypocritical vamp in Sinclair Lewis's 'Elmer Gantry', as a trail-blazing pioneer.

30 review for Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    One of the primary reasons I love to read is to answer the question; "How did things end up this way?" This book satiates that desire. This book is a wonderful read; thorough and well written. Mr. Sutton's biography sheds light on the modernity/fundamentalist controversy, the ascendancy of Pentecostalism, big arena evangelism, the rise of female preachers and the prevalence of the religious right that preaches the American Gospel. The Sister, as Aimee was called, is quite a fascinating and intrigu One of the primary reasons I love to read is to answer the question; "How did things end up this way?" This book satiates that desire. This book is a wonderful read; thorough and well written. Mr. Sutton's biography sheds light on the modernity/fundamentalist controversy, the ascendancy of Pentecostalism, big arena evangelism, the rise of female preachers and the prevalence of the religious right that preaches the American Gospel. The Sister, as Aimee was called, is quite a fascinating and intriguing character. Her story is full of wonderful episodes. Good intentions are not the measure of faithfulness in the eyes of God and her life is full of contradiction, hypocrisy, generosity, a struggle with worldliness and a devotion to what she called the "old-time" religion, which was not historic Protestantism. Philippians 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. She headed up a massive cult of personality and developed the Foursquare Gospel and brought Pentecostalism from the fringe to front and center of world Christianity. She affected the era in which she lived, for both good and bad.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    Hands up if you know who Aimee Semple McPherson was. Didn't think so. Neither did I before this book but sweet fancy moses, was she something else. Not only was she one of the most influential women in America for 3 decades, she was also the founder of the Foursquare church, feminist, performer, Hollywood celebrity, once kidnapped by Mexicans (or not really), supporter of family values, married 3 times, faith healer, nativist, anti-communist, anti-war, pro-war, champion of the poor, scourge of Hands up if you know who Aimee Semple McPherson was. Didn't think so. Neither did I before this book but sweet fancy moses, was she something else. Not only was she one of the most influential women in America for 3 decades, she was also the founder of the Foursquare church, feminist, performer, Hollywood celebrity, once kidnapped by Mexicans (or not really), supporter of family values, married 3 times, faith healer, nativist, anti-communist, anti-war, pro-war, champion of the poor, scourge of candidates supporting the poor(she really stuck it to poor Upton Sinclair) ...my head was spinning just trying to keep up. What she undoubtedly was however is a force of nature with who the author convincingly draws a straight line between her exploits and modern day religious fundamentalism. She didn't just talk about the poor, she established massive programs around Los Angeles to help them in a variety of ways. She sought to merge religion with social activism and compassion which while the former is quite prevalent among her descendants on the religious right, the latter two seem to be lagging far behind. She was capable of some ugly things at times, and certainly toward the end of her life became quite enamored with her own fame, but she impacted (for better or worse) the lives of all she touched.

  3. 4 out of 5

    B.G. Brainard

    This is a fascinating story about Sister Aimee Semple McPherson founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel with regard to American Protestantism. The author uses the life of this complex woman evangelist and religious icon to explore the tensions at the intersection of social, religious, and political changes in the first half of the twentieth century. McPherson made Los Angels the headquarters for her movement, and eventually made Angelus Temple on Echo Park the headquarters. This is a fascinating story about Sister Aimee Semple McPherson founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel with regard to American Protestantism. The author uses the life of this complex woman evangelist and religious icon to explore the tensions at the intersection of social, religious, and political changes in the first half of the twentieth century. McPherson made Los Angels the headquarters for her movement, and eventually made Angelus Temple on Echo Park the headquarters. She was convinced that Jesus Christ was always the same, yesterday, today, and forever. This premise was demonstrated in her Foursquare churches, where the blind saw, the lame walked, and the faithful spoke in heavenly tongues. During her lifetime, she demonstrated the positive effects of integrating faith with politics as an effective model for spreading the old-time religion that has influenced pentecostal evangelism around the world even unto now.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

    A biography of a woman who, given my own political and religious convictions, I should have every reason to detest, should not be this engaging. Sutton traces McPherson's life from her upbringing in rural Canada to tragedy in China to fame and infamy in equal measure in Los Angeles. Combining primary documentation from McPherson's own magazine with academic sources laying out the religious and cultural landscape of early 20th century America, the author brings McPherson to life as a complex and A biography of a woman who, given my own political and religious convictions, I should have every reason to detest, should not be this engaging. Sutton traces McPherson's life from her upbringing in rural Canada to tragedy in China to fame and infamy in equal measure in Los Angeles. Combining primary documentation from McPherson's own magazine with academic sources laying out the religious and cultural landscape of early 20th century America, the author brings McPherson to life as a complex and frequently contradictory human, rather than the stock villain she is often reduced to. What Sutton portrays is a Pentecostal preacher beloved by flappers, an icon of the Klu Klux Klan who consciously worked against segregation in her church, an innovator who used the newest media to preach old time religion, and a woman beloved by millions lonely for most of her life. 10/10 would read again.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Phil Wyman

    Well written, entertaining, and expertly documented biography of the flamboyant evangelist.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anna Groover

    Awesome biography about the wild life of Aimee Semple McPherson, a little-known American figure who shaped American culture as it is today an incredible amount.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Selena

    Not bad but the book's presentation of McPherson generated more questions than answers though its focus on her vocational tactics may be just the right thing for some readers. Not bad but the book's presentation of McPherson generated more questions than answers though its focus on her vocational tactics may be just the right thing for some readers.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    a wild ride with Sister Aimee. Feel like some of his arguments are a tad overstated

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt Felton

    Sutton's bio of McPherson is as close to non-stop, Hollywood-esque drama (a la a Dan Brown novel) as religious biography could be - and that's thanks to the fascinating and enigmatic character that is Sister Aimee. Canadian-born but Los Angeles-made (I learned a lot about L.A. in reading the book, as an added bonus), McPherson became the most famous, and controversial, religious figure of the early 20th Century. McPherson is as famous for her apparent successes (the most famous preacher of her d Sutton's bio of McPherson is as close to non-stop, Hollywood-esque drama (a la a Dan Brown novel) as religious biography could be - and that's thanks to the fascinating and enigmatic character that is Sister Aimee. Canadian-born but Los Angeles-made (I learned a lot about L.A. in reading the book, as an added bonus), McPherson became the most famous, and controversial, religious figure of the early 20th Century. McPherson is as famous for her apparent successes (the most famous preacher of her day, founder of the Angelus Temple, architect of the now enormous International Church of the Foursquare Gospel) as she was for her apparent failures (multiple divorces, she famously disappeared at sea for more than a month w/ rumors swirling across the nation, and then just as mysteriously died of overdose at the age of 53) - McPherson was truly a religious enigma. Sutton's main argument is that McPherson, however controversial she was in her own day, has had a large hand in shaping American Evangelicalism as we know it today. Particularly, she championed the newest technology to spread her message (particularly through radio ministry), she blended religion with spectacle (her "sermons" were closer to plays), & she integrated faith with nationalism (McPherson used her pulpit to fight Communism) - all towards an attempt to rebuild a "Christian America." In her own way, she was a forerunner to the Moral Majority, to Celebrity Pastors, & even to O.J. Simpson (the trial over her disappearance was every bit the spectacle that Simpson's trial was to our own time). Sutton's analysis of McPherson is balanced & fair - he's simultaneously sympathetic to her character, while critical of much of her action. Though I don't share much of her theology, I found her fascinating - and really enjoyed the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Liam

    "Illustrated sermons, usually featuring McPherson in a starring role, were indeed her most important innovation. Often drawn from the evangelist's real-life experiences, they revealed the ways in which her messages intersected with her growing stardom and her penchant for publicity." (71) "She was no longer just a voice transmitted over the airwaves or a candid shot in the newspapers, but a living, moving image that embodied the blend of conservative faith and modern technology, made possible in "Illustrated sermons, usually featuring McPherson in a starring role, were indeed her most important innovation. Often drawn from the evangelist's real-life experiences, they revealed the ways in which her messages intersected with her growing stardom and her penchant for publicity." (71) "She was no longer just a voice transmitted over the airwaves or a candid shot in the newspapers, but a living, moving image that embodied the blend of conservative faith and modern technology, made possible in the land of Hollywood. In effect, McPherson was redefining the relationship between conservative Protestantism and American culture by working to harness the religious potential of the new mass media." (157) "The evangelist's declaration that 1936 was a year of returning to Pentecost marked her total reidentification with the pentecostal movement. Having experienced a disappointment after disappointment while trying to keep one foot in Hollywood and the other in ministry, she was returning to her roots." (185-6) "McPherson's use of technology and media made her simple preaching innovations seem radical. Using every trick available to her in Tinsel Town, she staged one dramatic spectacle after another, keeping these masses on the edge of their seats and eager for more. Although she was only one in a long like of American evangelists to appropriate the latest technological innovations to spread the Christian gospel, she did so at a crossroads in the history of the United States. At the very outset of the mass media revolution, when the power of conservative Protestantism appeared to be on the wane, she married evangelicalism with state-of-the-art technology." (277-8)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike Mullen

    This is the latest biography on Mcpherson. It takes a sociological approach, emphasizing her contributions and impact on church culture of the first half of the 20th century. But beyond this, this is great description of politics and religion, and their intersection in American culture, and how Aimee was a trailblazer at this very point. It does discuss all the controversies and is fair for the most part. Sutton seems to minimize any spiritual significance, and doesn't seem to know what to make This is the latest biography on Mcpherson. It takes a sociological approach, emphasizing her contributions and impact on church culture of the first half of the 20th century. But beyond this, this is great description of politics and religion, and their intersection in American culture, and how Aimee was a trailblazer at this very point. It does discuss all the controversies and is fair for the most part. Sutton seems to minimize any spiritual significance, and doesn't seem to know what to make of reports of miracles or healings so often associated with her career. Still, this is a good read of a pioneer in the church history of America, and on this point, the author does not sell his subject short.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Collins

    I had to read this for class, and while I usually enjoy class reads, this was hard to get through, and it felt just like you were reading a whole textbook centered around one person. Also, didn't at all like Aimee Semple McPherson, so that could have played a part in it as well-note to all history teachers: Don't make your class read this! Oil! or The Jungle would be much better choices. I had to read this for class, and while I usually enjoy class reads, this was hard to get through, and it felt just like you were reading a whole textbook centered around one person. Also, didn't at all like Aimee Semple McPherson, so that could have played a part in it as well-note to all history teachers: Don't make your class read this! Oil! or The Jungle would be much better choices.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    A very interesting and well-written biography of an little-known but incredibly influential woman evangelist. I knew nothing about Aimee Semple McPherson before reading this book, but after reading it I can see the crucial role she played in the formation of Christian America, Pentecostalism, and the founding of today's religious right. Heartily recommended. A very interesting and well-written biography of an little-known but incredibly influential woman evangelist. I knew nothing about Aimee Semple McPherson before reading this book, but after reading it I can see the crucial role she played in the formation of Christian America, Pentecostalism, and the founding of today's religious right. Heartily recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    An enjoyable and highly informative read. I read this book for an American Religions class at Brigham Young University. When we finished the book, we wrote an essay about whether Sister Aimee was a conservative or a modernist. Made for an interesting mindset while reading this book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, American Culture or religion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Sutton writes a great biography of McPherson with a context that draws in themes of gender, fundamentalism, the Social Gospel, the Twenties, and the Great Depression. This is a fascinating story about a woman who not only breaks boundaries but challenges Americans to reconsider what being a Christian meant to them as members of a society.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I had heard vaguely of Aimee Semple McPherson, but had no idea how important she was to the creation of both celebrity culture and the Religious Right. (While also managing to be a feminist, she even used the word!) I definitely don't agree with her on a theological level, but she was a fun woman to spend a week with, and Sutton manages to balance scholarly research with narrative really well. I had heard vaguely of Aimee Semple McPherson, but had no idea how important she was to the creation of both celebrity culture and the Religious Right. (While also managing to be a feminist, she even used the word!) I definitely don't agree with her on a theological level, but she was a fun woman to spend a week with, and Sutton manages to balance scholarly research with narrative really well.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    Matt Sutton has written a scholarly biography of Aimee Semple McPherson that focuses on her contribution to the development of the idea of a Christian America in Pentecostalism. It's an excellent book, well worth reading! Matt Sutton has written a scholarly biography of Aimee Semple McPherson that focuses on her contribution to the development of the idea of a Christian America in Pentecostalism. It's an excellent book, well worth reading!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Juli

    3.5 stars. A fascinating account of the life of Aimee Semple McPherson and the start of the Four Square Church. It gets a bit repetitious but a really interesting read on the intersection of media and religion.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrew S.

    Well-researched, informative, and drab biography of one the 20th Century's most fascinating women. McPherson made tongue-speaking sexy, but Sutton's uninspired prose stylings almost manage to take that sexy away. Well-researched, informative, and drab biography of one the 20th Century's most fascinating women. McPherson made tongue-speaking sexy, but Sutton's uninspired prose stylings almost manage to take that sexy away.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Fascinating profile of the most controversial female evangelist our country has ever seen. She founded the Foursquare Church, which is currently 6 million strong, so she did something right 90 years ago. I enjoyed learning more about Aimee.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I thought this book was very well written and brought to life one of the most interesting women in history. This book is a must read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Not a particularly well-written book, but interestingly establishes Aimee Semple McPherson's place in modern evangelical Christianity. Not a particularly well-written book, but interestingly establishes Aimee Semple McPherson's place in modern evangelical Christianity.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    My geekiness continues unabated. http://artscenecal.com/ArticlesFile/A... My geekiness continues unabated. http://artscenecal.com/ArticlesFile/A...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ethan Everhart

    What an infuriating historical figure.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gabe Baker

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nora

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  30. 5 out of 5

    Calli

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