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The Progress of Christ in Commercial America: A Review of Chris Lehmann’s The Money Cult

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Lehmann’s excavations may be sobering, but it is absolutely necessary for us to know this backstory if we are to have any hope of understanding the contemporary religious and political landscape, including the spiritual context that lies behind Trumpism’s rapid ascent.

Peter Laarman, Religion Dispatches

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http://religiondispatches.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/godtrust-690x460.jpgJune 9, 2016 At 400 pages, Chris Lehmann’s The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream examines in appropriate depth the “mystery [of] just how America’s once-austere and communal version of dissenting Protestantism developed into such a ripe recruiting ground for the sanctified capitalism of our financialized, upward-skewing, and uniquely destructive market order.”

Author Lehmann is neither a professional historian nor a religion specialist. He’s a brainy journalist, part of the Baffler set. His subtle treatment of complex subject matter reminds us that it’s always deep reading and a capacity to write clearly that matters most. His achievement reminds me of other significant historical works by “uncredentialed” scholars : T.J. Stiles on Cornelius Vanderbilt and George Armstrong Custer, James Bradley on racialized imperialism, and (most creditably) Douglas A. Blackmon on the significance of black convict labor.

Peter Laarman is a United Church of Christ minister and activist who recently retired as executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting in Los Angeles. He remains involved in numerous justice struggles, in particular a campaign known as Justice Not Jails that calls upon faith communities to critique and combat the system of racialized mass incarceration often referred to as The New Jim Crow.

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