Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity
Matthew Paul Turner is the author of CHURCHED, THE CHRISTIAN CULTURE SURVIVAL GUIDE and HEAR NO EVIL. He previously served as editor of CCM Magazine and was the music/entertainment editor of Crosswalk.com. Most recently, his blog, MatthewPaulTurner.net, had over three million visitors in the past year and was named one of Technorati’s Top 100 Religion Blogs.
In OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD, Turner presents (what feels like) an exhaustive historical primer on the lives of those men and women who helped shape the American Christian culture. Turner quite obviously holds some disdain for not just a few of America’s founding fathers (mothers), and rightly so. This look into the past doesn’t sugarcoat any of these Christians’ lives, beliefs, or personal quirks and failings. He examines each person of interest and shares everything he has uncovered, which leaves the reader feeling conflicted in a variety of ways.
"Taking no sides, the book offers an equal opportunity insider’s look at politicians and pastors, as well as how they influenced and altered the American culture."
First, is there any person within the roll call of historical Christendom who deserves admiration from the ranks of modern-day believers? Did any of these historical figures truly have a purely positive impact on Christianity as we know it today? Or did they all have sinful, ulterior motives and only desire their tainted God agenda to rule the day? Readers will have to decide for themselves after reading Turner’s primer on all things Christian, from America’s beginnings to the present day.
Turner also repeatedly states what he believes is obvious. “That God didn’t just change America --- America changed God.” In other words, America’s fixation with creating a God that fell in line with what they wanted God to be altered how people view God. No matter that Scripture begs to differ from what some religious leaders preach and teach (the health and wealth gospel, for example), Americans have fashioned a God to suit their own liking. Thus, the author poses the question: “Does God control the future of America --- or is it the other way around?”
In his 10-chapter text, Turner spends ample space giving attention to Puritans and Pentecostals alike. He challenges the words and beliefs of every denomination that he covers in excellent journalistic form. Taking no sides, the book offers an equal opportunity insider’s look at politicians and pastors, as well as how they influenced and altered the American culture. In truth, according to Turner, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between how America’s pastors work to incite changes from the way politicians do. So whether you’re a conservative Christ follower or a seeker straddling the fence of what to believe, Turner’s book will challenge all that you’ve assumed and presumed to be historically accurate about America’s founding religious voices.
OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD isn’t necessarily an easy or a comfortable read. But who says it should be?
Reviewed by Michele Howe on August 13, 2014