Resurgent Evangelicalism in the United States: Mapping Cultural Change Since 1970
In this provocative look at evangelicalism in the United States, Mark A. Shibley tests the widely ascribed "southernization of American religion" thesis, or the idea that the recent resurgence of born-again Christianity represents the spread of southern-style religion from the historically conservative, Protestant South to America's mainstream. While confirming a link between evangelicalism's initial growth and the diffusion of southern-style religion, Shibley uncovers a reciprocity in the relationship between evangelicalism and secularism. He demonstrates that even as evangelicalism changes the face of American culture, it is being transformed by its encounter with secularism.
Shibley predicts that evangelicalism outside the South will increasingly shape itself to meet individual rather than collective needs and that the restructuring of American religion and culture will follow a public-to-private, rather than liberal-to-conservative, continuum. Disagreeing to some extent with recent obituaries of the New Christian Right, he suggests that evangelicalism will continue to exercise a significant effect on American culture in the foreseeable future, but not in the domineering way once feared by the liberal cultural establishment.
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Shibley provides a very insightful interpretation of contemporary American Protestantism. He presents a wholistic study of American evangelicalism up to the mid-1990s and manages not to confuse "evangelicals" with "fundamentalists" and focuses upon the entire range of evangelical denominations unlike many others. His "southernization" and "Californication" thesis also present a valuable interpretation to understand contemporary evangelicalism. Shibley's ability to recognize the Emerging Church movement at its infancy is fascinating.