Monday, December 8, 2008

David Hempton's "Evangelical Disenchantment"

David Hempton is Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies, Harvard University. His book Methodism: Empire of the Spirit, published by Yale University Press, was awarded the Jesse Lee Prize.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Evangelical Disenchantment: Nine Portraits of Faith and Doubt, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book deals with a conversation between two of the most important early feminists in the United States about the role of religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, in advancing or retarding the aspirations of women. The advice given to Sarah Grimké, a female pioneer of the anti-slavery movement, was that “Doctrines, which occupy so prominent a place in Christianity, have eaten the life out of pure love. Let them go dearest.” Grimké obeyed her correspondent’s charge, eventually forsaking evangelicalism for spiritualism, and repression for emancipation, a route many other women have taken over the years.

Evangelical Disenchantment: Nine Portraits of Faith and Doubt looks at evangelicalism, one of the most powerful religious traditions in the United States and the wider world, through the eyes of well-known individuals who once embraced the evangelical tradition but later repudiated it. I recount the faith journeys of nine creative artists, social reformers, and public intellectuals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries including Sarah Grimké, George Eliot (the English novelist), Elizabeth Cady Stanton (America’s most famous suffragist), Vincent Van Gogh (the Dutch painter), and James Baldwin (the African American writer). In the process the book opens up issues of race, gender, and power, and looks at evangelicalism’s relationship to fundamentalism, other world religions, and secularization. Through the writing of compelling mini-biographies, my aim is to shed fresh, and more profoundly personal, light on the evangelical movement and its relation to the wider culture. These portraits of faith and doubt are moving, and at times heartbreaking, accounts of how some evangelical Christians encountered the complexities of their worlds.
Read an excerpt from Evangelical Disenchantment, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit David Hempton's Harvard Divinity School faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue