The best books on American evangelicalism and neoliberal religion

Chad E. Seales Author Of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism
By Chad E. Seales

Who am I?

I've always been fascinated by the ways religion reconciles contradiction. Both of my parents were public school teachers in the panhandle of Florida, and I now work at a public university in Texas, yet the culture in which I was raised, of white evangelicalism, supported economic policies of neoliberalism that defunded public life. My interest in American religion is motivated by the question of why we participate in systems that harm us. This is an economic question, but sufficient answers must address the power of religion to shape what we see as morally good and bad. These books all do that.


I wrote...

Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism

By Chad E. Seales,

Book cover of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism

What is my book about?

My book details how evangelical Protestantism was diffused into global popular culture in such a powerful way that it shaped how those in Europe and America came to understand the continent of Africa as always in need of their help. The book tells a story of the most significant promoter of cultural evangelicalism after the Cold War: U2's Bono. As Billy Graham was to the U.S. political policies of the 1970s and '80s, Bono was to American-led neoliberal policies of corporate intervention in Africa after the 1990s. The book contends that to understand how neoliberalism continues to frame the politics of the good, you must understand the power of evangelicalism to make us feel good.

The books I picked & why

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To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

By Bethany Moreton,

Book cover of To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

Why this book?

Having grown up in a southern evangelical family in the 1980s and ‘90s, I never understood why my parents, like other southerners, were such staunch supporters of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart, when the chain store's economic approach of buy low, sell low, eroded small-town life. Then I read Moreton's book and it all made sense.


Secure the Soul: Christian Piety and Gang Prevention in Guatemala

By Kevin Lewis O'Neill,

Book cover of Secure the Soul: Christian Piety and Gang Prevention in Guatemala

Why this book?

No other book better encapsulates the evangelical spirit of neoliberal policies in the details of everyday life, including what it feels like to be arrested in the United States for being part of a gang, and ending up in a call center in Central America, only to be morally shamed for not working hard enough, as your corporate employer leverages the power of religion, and the threat of danger, to keep you trapped there. 


One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

By Kevin M. Kruse,

Book cover of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

Why this book?

This book offers a historical account of how corporations in the early to mid-twentieth century worked alongside churches to define the religious vision of the United States. What you get is a story of capital investment in the idea of Christian America, as told through culture-makers like Disney, industrial leaders like General Electric, and department stores like Sears. 


Consuming Religion

By Kathryn Lofton,

Book cover of Consuming Religion

Why this book?

If you want to understand how corporations and not churches became the most powerful institutions of moral influence in America, capable of taking away an employee's personal choice outside the workplace and denying their access to healthcare based on the owners’ biblical beliefs, legally protected by the U.S. government as a religious freedom, then you need to read this book.


Spirituality, Corporate Culture, and American Business: The Neoliberal Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capital

By James Dennis Lorusso,

Book cover of Spirituality, Corporate Culture, and American Business: The Neoliberal Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capital

Why this book?

Austin, Texas, where I now live, is home to the first Whole Foods in America. Before the chain of grocery stores was bought out by Amazon, I used to shop there. Then I stopped, or well, I no longer went as often, because I learned in LoRusso's book that company founder John Mackey promoted a libertarian spirituality that considered government interference morally hostile and went as far as to proclaim Obama Care a form of fascism. 


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