Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity

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Americans love God. We stamp God on our money, our bumper stickers, and our bodies. With a church on nearly every street, it's hard to deny our country's deep connection with the divine.

Yet culture critic Matthew Paul Turner says that God didn't just change America-America changed God. As a result, do we even recognize the "real" God?

Whip-smart and provocative, Turner explores the United States' vast ...

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Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity

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Americans love God. We stamp God on our money, our bumper stickers, and our bodies. With a church on nearly every street, it's hard to deny our country's deep connection with the divine.

Yet culture critic Matthew Paul Turner says that God didn't just change America-America changed God. As a result, do we even recognize the "real" God?

Whip-smart and provocative, Turner explores the United States' vast influence on God, told through an amazing true history of faith, politics, and evangelical pyrotechnics.

From Puritans to Pentecostals, from progressives to mega-pastors, Turner examines how American history and ideals transformed our perception of God. Fearless and funny, this is the definitive guide to the American experience of the Almighty-a story so bizarre, incredible, and entertaining that it could only be made in the U.S.A.

No matter what your political or religious affiliation, this book will challenge and delight with its razor sharp wit, social commentary, and savvy historical insight. It will make you reconsider the way you think about America as a "Christian nation," and help you re-imagine a better future for God and country.

Ultimately, Turner dares to ask: Does God control the future of America-or is it the other way around?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fiendishly clever and meticulously sourced."—Library Journal, Starred Review

"Engaging history that turns a penetrating eye on how God has been shaped to fit the varieties of faith in America... An energetic presentation of our complicated relationship with God."—Kirkus Reviews

"With wit and captivating narrative style, Turner takes a historical look at the ways Americans have been shaped by our faith and how the development of the American empire has affected our perception of God. His work offers a deeper look at what it means to be a Christian in the United States."—Relevant Magazine

"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."—Book Reporter

"Matthew Paul Turner has written a fascinating biography of God-specifically God's sojourn in America. This book is enlightening, funny and filled with so many historical insights, I found myself uttering 'Aha!' at least twice per page."—A. J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically

"OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD by Matthew Paul Turner combines history, social commentary and good writing into a powerful work that tells us just why we Americans are all so crazy-God made us do it! If you want to understand America, read this book."—Frank Schaeffer, author, And God Said, “Billy!”

"A delightful overview of American church history with a perfect blend of sarcasm, irreverence, and love. Illuminating, engaging, and playful, this book is the best thing that has happened to America's God since, well, America. You will love this book, provided you're not a Calvinist."—Ed Cyzewski author, The Good News of Revelation and A Christian Survival Guide

"Whip-smart, wry, acerbic, and surprisingly tender, OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD is a grand family tree of the union between God and America. As a Canadian who is often baffled by-while still very influenced by-this great big American God, I found Turner's book enlightening, bold, and downright funny."—Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist

"I read Matthew Paul Turner books for two reasons, he's been a good friend for years and his ideas always challenge me. The question, "Who have I made God out to be?" is a critical one to wrestle with, and this book provides the gym for the match."—Jon Acuff, New York Times bestselling author of Start

"In this book Matthew Paul Turner gives us a glimpse into how the church in America has been trying its best to destroy Christianity, and gives us some hope that it might just survive regardless."—Peter Rollins

"With humor and refreshing candor, Turner has once again challenged the status quo, dared us to all to challenge our pre-conceived notions of God, and succeeded in bringing our eyes back to a God that just simply loves us all."—Timothy Kurek, author of the bestselling book,The Cross in the Closet

"Who knew I could have this much fun reading about Puritans, Great Awakenings, and Jerry Falwell? Who knew a historical book about American Christianity could make me laugh out loud and still cringe at my own hypocrisy? Matthew Paul Turner's story of America's God may make you uncomfortable. It may even offend you. But you will walk away from this book wiser. You will long to know a God outside of culture and time, a God unmarked by humanity's stain."—Micha Boyett, Author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer

"The pages are packed full of history, but Turner's approachable and cheeky writing style make it truly entertaining. It's funny, provocative and exceptionally well-written. A must-read." —Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, Editor in Chief, deeperstory.com

Kirkus Reviews
Turner (Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost, 2010, etc.) surveys the American molding and remolding of God to fit our often curious convictions, a tradition as natively ingrained as “playing baseball, cruising strip mall parking lots, and popping antidepressants.”God is ambiguous and protean, meaning many things to many people—“Jehovah, Jesus, or Allah to believing in Nature, a ‘Spirit Mother,’ or some other grand presence that usually enjoys silence and book clubs”—writes the author in this engaging history that turns a penetrating eye on how God has been shaped to fit the varieties of faith in America, a land in which nearly 80 percent of us identify with a God. This brand of the divine began with the Puritans and their sui generis God—“a sovereign, doctrinally stout, damnation-prone deity”—celebrating a Calvinist embrace of our personal roles in education and enterprise (namely, worldly goods), which spawned Roger Williams’ reactive take on the protection under law of all religious sects. Jonathan Edwards promoted for his followers a God of glory, beauty and divinity, though also one “ready to toss their meaningless sin-ridden souls into a black hole of fiery torment.” Thomas Jefferson, unsurprisingly, magnified God’s ethical wisdom, yet there was also a God of slavery, as well as a Quaker abolitionist God. Turner’s writing has the quality of a primer, with clear language and ideas that are bandied about without getting bogged down in agnostic and atheistic approaches. The author also displays a playfulness that doesn’t obscure where he falls on doctrinal issues: “Evangelicals are quick to give Jesus the glory whenyourplan succeeds, but it is never Jesus’s fault when your planfails. Because Jesus never fails.Youdo. Somehow, a large portion of America’s evangelicals have become convinced that this process is the ideal Christian life.”An energetic presentation of our complicated relationship with God, whom we have welcomed with “open arms, congressional protection, free speech, and tax-exempt status.”
Library Journal
★ 10/01/2014
Turner (Hear No Evil) has written a fiendishly clever and meticulously sourced book on the peculiarly American takes on religion. He avers that throughout our story, we have not so much honored God as created a series of shifting Gods to reflect our experiences and our prejudices, including deities that are slave-owning, rich, warlike, homophobic, and cozily commercial, just for starters. Turner's satirical tone is so well maintained that there is some risk that those who should pay closest attention to his writing may miss the hint that the very notion that America can or should "help" or "shape" God verges on blasphemy—but it would be their loss. VERDICT Combining outrage with bitter laughter, Turner's book should be read with care by Christians across denominations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455547340
  • Publisher: FaithWords
  • Publication date: 8/19/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 411,186
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Paul Turner is the author of Churched, The Christian Culture Survival Guide, and Everything You Need To Know Before College. Before he began writing and speaking full-time, he served as editor of CCM and music and entertainment editor of Crosswalk.com. He and his wife Jessica live in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 26, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This book is an excellent short and concise history of American

    This book is an excellent short and concise history of American Christianity. It is very well written; serious at times and cynical and critical at others. I did find myself laughing and relating very much to what was presented. Having grown up in an Evangelical, almost fundamentalist home, I saw much of what Turner sees as the flaws with our church in America. Somehow, Turner keeps a rather positive attitude about where the church is headed and sees a positive future for the church. I am not so sure I agree with that, unless some MAJOR changes occur. If you are wondering where your faith comes from and why, as we become more global, you feel your faith is so far removed from those in other countries, then I recommend this book! (Full disclosure-I was presented this book at no charge from the publisher for reviewing purposes)

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