by John G. Turner
There are several items of interest to scholars and students of American religion in the most recent Books & Culture, including a smart review of Matt Sutton's Aimee Semple McPherson by our Arlene Sánchez Walsh.
Also included is my review of Randall Stephens's The Fire Spreads. My "judgment," in summary form:
Crisply written, analytically clear, and full of colorful personalities, The Fire Spreads is the most significant study of Pentecostal origins since Grant Wacker's Heaven Below, and Stephens' four chapters on holiness Christianity provide an unparalleled introduction to that movement's emergence and growth in the South.
Randall richly explores the infighting between first Methodist denominations and their Holiness offshoots, and then between the latter and Pentecostal offspring. And he does so by finding pungent pieces in Holiness and Pentecostal periodicals:
Similar to the way southern Democrats met the Populist challenge, southern denominations responded with derision and expulsions, which holiness preachers endured as badges of persecution and signs of the Second Coming. "The Quarterly Conference will just be reading the verdict on some holiness evangelist," wrote the preacher and publisher H.C. Morrison, " … And, behold! The man has disappeared [in the rapture]."
As Sutton's book certainly indicates as well, we historians of American religion should be perennially thankful for the great material we have been given.