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Christianity in the United States

Christianity in the United States

A Historical Survey and Interpretation

David W. Wills

“The quality of the piece is striking. [Wills] is able to attain both breadth and subtlety in his coverage. He sees both the big picture and small details. His clarity of expression and precision of thought are very impressive.” —John P. Reeder, Jr., Brown University

“David Wills’ comprehensive and sophisticated essay fills a niche in available secondary sources in American religious history. As far as I know, there is nothing else quite like it in print: an original and at times quite brilliant interpretive essay that is also wide-ranging enough to introduce readers to the field in a straightforward way. Other scholars have written expended bibliographic essays that cover some of the same territory, but they do not make a set of arguments as this essay does so well.” —Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Univ. of North Carolina

In this brief but comprehensive study, David W. Wills provides both a broad interpretation and a wealth of factual information on the history of Christianity in the United States. Though Wills gives much attention to the diversity of American Christianity, charting the growth of American religious pluralism is only one of his goals. He also emphasizes Christian efforts to build a “holy commonwealth” and the role of religion in America’s still unresolved effort to come to terms with the realities of race.

Wills places the history of Christianity in the United States in the larger context of the globalization of the Christian religion. He links the rise of African American Christianity with the emergence of Christianity in the non-western world. He also argues that the history of Christianity in the United States concerns itself in a central way with the relation of religious ideas, institutions, constituencies, and practices to the creation and exercise of political power. This compelling work will be an invaluable text for courses in religious studies, American history, American studies, and African American studies.

ISBN: 978-0-268-04406-0
120 pages
Publication Year: 2005

David W. Wills is the Winthrop H. Smith ’16 Professor American History and American Studies, and teaches in the departments of religion and black studies at Amherst College.

“This brilliant little book . . . shows how three story lines—the Puritan quest for a ‘holy commonwealth,’ the experiment with religious diversity that began in the middle colonies, and above all the encounter among races—intertwined in a context that was always global as well as continental. The emphases on race and global context are Wills’s distinctive contributions; the first two themes provide continuity with previous survey texts.” — Catholic Library World

“This slim volume surveys the major themes of American Christianity from the colonial era until about 2000. Christianity in the United States does not survey American religion in general but provides an overview of the major themes of American Christianity and the contemporary denominational landscape. . . . This book is well written and hits on the major themes of American Christianity. It will be of value for anyone desiring an introduction to American Christianity and could be used as supplemental reading for courses in American studies.” — History: Reviews of New Books

“Wills’s account is persuasive and well written. . . . He is strong in particular on the interface between politics and religion, and on the history of theology; and his emphasis on denominational history taught this reader a lot. The bibliography is compact but thorough. Both scholars and students new to the field will find this short volume helpful.” — Religion and the Arts

“[A] crisp survey of Christian history in the United States. [Wills] manages within about seventy-five pages to provide quite an array of fact and analysis that stretches from the colonial period into the turn of the current century.” — Cistercian Studies Quarterly

“This little book is the perfect introduction to American Christian history for someone who has never tackled the subject before. Even if you have studied Christian history, Christianity in the United States will give you a new, larger view of Christianity in America.” — Singing News

“David Wills’s seventy-nine and one-half page offering . . . moves over the terrain of American Christianity deftly, elegantly, and remarkably comprehensively. From title and preface through to a useful concluding section on membership statistics, this book underpromises and over delivers. . . . Like many who teach in the field of American religious history, I have struggled to find a book to use in introductory courses. I have looked for a book that is accessible to those with no background in the field, that balances detail with attention to broad trends, and that challenges students’ assumptions—both well and ill informed—about the religious past and present of the United States. David Wills’s Christianity in the United States does these things better than most. It is carefully written, nuances narrative, and it will fit neatly into your back pocket.” — The Journal of Religion

“Wills places the history of Christianity in the United States in the larger context of the globalization of the Christian religion. He links the rise of African-American Christianity with the emergence of Christianity in the non-western world. He also argues that the history of Christianity in the United States concerns itself in a central way with the relation of religious ideas, institutions, constituencies, and practices to the creation and exercise of political power.” — Theology Digest

“To identify, correlate, and evaluate the major movements and forces that have prevailed in a subject as complex as Christianity in the United States is a formidable assignment in itself. To do so with balance and perceptiveness, while displaying a thorough mastery of the detail that substantiates one’s presentation, is a stunning achievement. This essay is such an accomplishment that it can be read with profit by both the novice wishing an overview of the subject and by the scholar in the field who will appreciate new angles and fresh insights.” — Calvin Theological Journal

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Christianity in the United States

A Historical Survey and Interpretation

David W. Wills

 Christianity in the United States: A Historical Survey and Interpretation
Paper Edition

“The quality of the piece is striking. [Wills] is able to attain both breadth and subtlety in his coverage. He sees both the big picture and small details. His clarity of expression and precision of thought are very impressive.” —John P. Reeder, Jr., Brown University

“David Wills’ comprehensive and sophisticated essay fills a niche in available secondary sources in American religious history. As far as I know, there is nothing else quite like it in print: an original and at times quite brilliant interpretive essay that is also wide-ranging enough to introduce readers to the field in a straightforward way. Other scholars have written expended bibliographic essays that cover some of the same territory, but they do not make a set of arguments as this essay does so well.” —Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Univ. of North Carolina

In this brief but comprehensive study, David W. Wills provides both a broad interpretation and a wealth of factual information on the history of Christianity in the United States. Though Wills gives much attention to the diversity of American Christianity, charting the growth of American religious pluralism is only one of his goals. He also emphasizes Christian efforts to build a “holy commonwealth” and the role of religion in America’s still unresolved effort to come to terms with the realities of race.

Wills places the history of Christianity in the United States in the larger context of the globalization of the Christian religion. He links the rise of African American Christianity with the emergence of Christianity in the non-western world. He also argues that the history of Christianity in the United States concerns itself in a central way with the relation of religious ideas, institutions, constituencies, and practices to the creation and exercise of political power. This compelling work will be an invaluable text for courses in religious studies, American history, American studies, and African American studies.

ISBN: 978-0-268-04406-0

120 pages

“This brilliant little book . . . shows how three story lines—the Puritan quest for a ‘holy commonwealth,’ the experiment with religious diversity that began in the middle colonies, and above all the encounter among races—intertwined in a context that was always global as well as continental. The emphases on race and global context are Wills’s distinctive contributions; the first two themes provide continuity with previous survey texts.” — Catholic Library World

“This slim volume surveys the major themes of American Christianity from the colonial era until about 2000. Christianity in the United States does not survey American religion in general but provides an overview of the major themes of American Christianity and the contemporary denominational landscape. . . . This book is well written and hits on the major themes of American Christianity. It will be of value for anyone desiring an introduction to American Christianity and could be used as supplemental reading for courses in American studies.” — History: Reviews of New Books

“Wills’s account is persuasive and well written. . . . He is strong in particular on the interface between politics and religion, and on the history of theology; and his emphasis on denominational history taught this reader a lot. The bibliography is compact but thorough. Both scholars and students new to the field will find this short volume helpful.” — Religion and the Arts

“[A] crisp survey of Christian history in the United States. [Wills] manages within about seventy-five pages to provide quite an array of fact and analysis that stretches from the colonial period into the turn of the current century.” — Cistercian Studies Quarterly

“This little book is the perfect introduction to American Christian history for someone who has never tackled the subject before. Even if you have studied Christian history, Christianity in the United States will give you a new, larger view of Christianity in America.” — Singing News

“David Wills’s seventy-nine and one-half page offering . . . moves over the terrain of American Christianity deftly, elegantly, and remarkably comprehensively. From title and preface through to a useful concluding section on membership statistics, this book underpromises and over delivers. . . . Like many who teach in the field of American religious history, I have struggled to find a book to use in introductory courses. I have looked for a book that is accessible to those with no background in the field, that balances detail with attention to broad trends, and that challenges students’ assumptions—both well and ill informed—about the religious past and present of the United States. David Wills’s Christianity in the United States does these things better than most. It is carefully written, nuances narrative, and it will fit neatly into your back pocket.” — The Journal of Religion

“Wills places the history of Christianity in the United States in the larger context of the globalization of the Christian religion. He links the rise of African-American Christianity with the emergence of Christianity in the non-western world. He also argues that the history of Christianity in the United States concerns itself in a central way with the relation of religious ideas, institutions, constituencies, and practices to the creation and exercise of political power.” — Theology Digest

“To identify, correlate, and evaluate the major movements and forces that have prevailed in a subject as complex as Christianity in the United States is a formidable assignment in itself. To do so with balance and perceptiveness, while displaying a thorough mastery of the detail that substantiates one’s presentation, is a stunning achievement. This essay is such an accomplishment that it can be read with profit by both the novice wishing an overview of the subject and by the scholar in the field who will appreciate new angles and fresh insights.” — Calvin Theological Journal