The Bible Cause
by John Fea
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: April 1, 2016
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The American Bible Society (ABS) is a seminal institution for American Protestants. The group was founded in 1816 with the goal of distributing free copies of the Bible in local languages throughout the world. Noted historian of American religion, John Fea, demonstrates how the ABS's primary mission - to place the Bible in the hands of as many people as possible - has caused the history of the organization to intersect at nearly every point with the history of the United States.
For the last two hundred years, the ABS has steadily increased its influence both at home and abroad, working with all Christian denominations in the US and internationally, aligning itself whenever possible with the gatekeepers of American religious culture. Over the years ABS Bibles could be found in hotel rooms, bookstores, and airports; on steam boats, college and university campuses; the Internet; and even behind the Iron Curtain. Its agents, Bibles in hand, could be found on the front lines of every American military conflict from the Mexican-American War to the Iraq War.
The Bible Cause is an in-depth history of the American Bible Society. The book started with the formation of the ABS in 1816 and ended in 2003 (with the epilogue covering 2003-2015 and future goals). The author described the changing structure, methods, goals, programs, and campaigns of the ABS. He tied these changes into changing social attitudes and new technologies. He described the motives behind the ABS's efforts and how their efforts affected American culture.
We're told about the ABS outreaches to the poor, blacks, Native Americans, immigrants, soldiers, and the blind. We learned about the controversies involving the different Bible translations they were willing to sell and their changing relationship with Catholics. We learned about their early efforts in Mexico and China and later in post WWII Germany, Russia, Japan, China, and Korea.
Considering the length of this book, I would have preferred an author who was enthusiastic about the ABS's work. Instead, the author seemed disinterested or mildly disapproving. For example, the ABS tended to set high goals for Bible distribution. The author repeatedly labeled these efforts as failures because they didn't meet these goals even though what they did achieve was impressive. Overall, I'd recommend this book to people deeply interested in the American Bible Society, but probably not to those only mildly interested.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
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