God Bleeds Red, White and Blue Matthew Paul Turner Offers a Wry History of America's Very Patriotic Deity

By Frayer-Griggs, Jennifer | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

God Bleeds Red, White and Blue Matthew Paul Turner Offers a Wry History of America's Very Patriotic Deity


Frayer-Griggs, Jennifer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


"OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD: A SHORT HISTORY OF OUR EVER- GROWING DEITY"

By Matthew Paul Turner.

Jericho Books/Hachette ($20)

Matthew Paul Turner's "Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity" attempts to tell the story of how Americans' perceptions of God have changed over the course of American history.

Mr. Turner briefly traces the last 400 years of American history through the perspective of Christianity and its leaders. Many Christians believe that this is a history that has been molded and changed by God, but Mr. Turner attempts to answer a big question: "Has America changed God?"

Using humor, sarcasm and a fast-forward button through time, Mr. Turner traces the story of the United States and argues that American perceptions of God have changed dramatically - from the influence of the Puritans and staunch Calvinism, to the theological and pastoral work of Jonathan Edwards, the deism of the Founding Fathers, to the Great Awakening (parts one and two), the birth of the Evangelical and Pentecostal movements, and finally to the founding of the "Moral Majority" and the ecumenical impact of the work of Billy Graham.

Mr. Turner argues that various leaders and spiritual movements have altered and manipulated these perceptions of God to fit the economic and political needs of the time.

For Mr. Turner, "God" simply means Americans' concept of God. At many points in the book, however, it is unclear to the reader whether or not there is a difference between God as God's self and a concept of God, or if Mr. Turner is just using the two ideas interchangeably to make a point - that for a certain kind of Christian there is no difference between who God really is, and who we perceive God to be.

But Mr. Turner holds those cards close to his chest, never really discussing the difference between perception and reality, never really clarifying whether he is referring to isolated depictions or ontological truths.

I suppose, based on his random shots at religious sects, his sprinkling of sarcasm and his erratic tone, the reader is simply to infer that his use of the term "God" is meant not as a theological concept, but as a personal one, claiming that "[f]or good or bad, we are all molding God to reflect our own personal, American interpretation of Christian faith. …

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