John Turner's Crusade

by Paul Harvey

Hope everyone has had a chance to follow the excellent discussion in the comments section, in Jon Pahl's post below, between Ed Blum, John Turner, and others.

This provides a perfect opportunity to take appropriate note of our contributing editor John Turner's first book, which is due out in a month or so: Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America. Here's hoping it attracts the attention it deserves in this season of discussion about evangelicalism, culture, and politics.

A description of the work, from the UNC Press website:

Founded as a local college ministry in 1951, Campus Crusade for Christ has become one of the world's largest evangelical organizations, today boasting an annual budget of more than $500 million. Nondenominational organizations like Campus Crusade account for much of modern evangelicalism's dynamism and adaptation to mainstream American culture. Despite the importance of these "parachurch" organizations, says John Turner, historians have largely ignored them.

Turner offers an accessible and colorful history of Campus Crusade and its founder, Bill Bright, whose marketing and fund-raising acumen transformed the organization into an international evangelical empire. Drawing on archival materials and more than one hundred interviews, Turner challenges the dominant narrative of the secularization of higher education, demonstrating how Campus Crusade helped reestablish evangelical Christianity as a visible subculture on American campuses. Beyond the campus, Bright expanded evangelicalism's influence in the worlds of business and politics. As Turner demonstrates, the story of Campus Crusade reflects the halting movement of evangelicalism into mainstream American society: its awkward marriage with conservative politics, its hesitancy over gender roles and sexuality, and its growing affluence

Here's a brief review of the work, posted on amazon, from Publisher's Weekly:

A familiar presence at universities, Campus Crusade for Christ exemplifies for historian Turner the type of nondenominational parachurch organization that has contributed to the surge of evangelicals' political and social influence since the mid-1970s. Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade, focused chiefly on evangelism, at UCLA in 1951; in his 50 years as president he turned it into a worldwide organization. Turner, a professor of American history at the University of South Alabama, uses Bright's story to dig into the early postwar roots of evangelicalism, including its ties to conservatives, anticommunism, use of sales techniques, painful split from fundamentalism, ambivalence towardcharismatic Christians and unresolved tensions with mainstream American culture. Most interesting are the influence of Henrietta Mears, director of Christian education at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, on Bright's generation of evangelicals, and Campus Crusade's counteractivism at Berkeley in the 1960s.


Anonymous said…
Rock on John Turner; I can't wait to read this book.
Luke Harlow said…
Congratulations, John. I look forward to picking up a copy.
Phil said…
It is already out, apparently. I got my copy last week online from B&N.

From what I've read so far, it is an excellent book. And the pictures of a young Bill Bright and other ministry activities really add to it.

I really like how Turner interweaves archival material with interviews, and the stories about how Bright before he died reconciled friendships with Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis are just fascinating.

Good work, John.
Christopher said…
Phil's right. It's been out for a couple of weeks, now. I preordered my copy on Amazon, and it arrived recently. It's currently my pleasure reading (and the only thing I'm reading outside of assigned grad school readings/thesis research materials at the moment). I'm about 40 pages into it, and its been wonderful thus far. Good work, John.
deg said…
Just got my copy in the mail yesterday. Two chapters in, and I am enthralled. Looking forward to discussing it over a beer sometime...