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Ten Theology Books to Watch For – February 2024

Here are some excellent new theology books * that will be released in February 2024:

* broadly interpreted, including ethics, church history, biblical studies, and other areas that intersect with theology

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Theology Books February 2024

God Gave Rock and Roll to You: A History of Contemporary Christian Music

Leah Payne

( Oxford UP )

Few things frightened conservative white Protestant parents of the 1950s and the 1960s more than thought of their children falling prey to the “menace to Christendom” known as rock and roll. The raucous sounds of Elvis Presley and Little Richard seemed tailor-made to destroy the faith of their young and, in the process, undermine the moral foundations of the United States. Parents and pastors launched a crusade against rock music, but they were fighting an uphill battle.

Salvation came in a most unlikely form. Well, maybe not that unlikely–the long hair, the beards, the sandals–but still a far cry from the buttoned-up, conservative Protestantism they were striving to preserve. Yet when a revival swept through counterculture hippie communities of the West Coast in the 1960s and 1970s a new alternative emerged. Known as the Jesus Movement–and its members, more colloquially, as “Jesus freaks”–the revival was short-lived. But by combining the rock and folk music of the counterculture with religious ideas and aims of conservative white evangelicals, Jesus freaks and evangelical media moguls gave birth to an entire genre known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). By the 1980s and 1990s, CCM had grown into a massive, multimillion-dollar industry. Contemporary Christian artists were appearing on Top 40 radio, and some, most famously Amy Grant, crossed over into the mainstream. And yet, today, the industry is a shadow of what it once was.

In this book, Leah Payne traces the history and trajectory of CCM in America and, in the process, demonstrates how the industry, its artists, and its fans shaped–and continue to shape–conservative, (mostly) white, evangelical Protestantism. For many outside observers, evangelical pop stars, interpretive dancers, puppeteers, mimes, and bodybuilders are silly expressions of kitsch. Yet Payne argues that these cultural products were sources of power, meaning, and political activism. Throughout, she draws on in-depth interviews with CCM journalists, publishers, producers, and artists, as well as archives, sales and marketing data, fan magazines, merchandise–everything that went into making CCM a thriving subculture. Ultimately, Payne argues, CCM spurred evangelical activism in more potent and lasting ways than any particular doctrine, denomination, culture war, or legislative agenda had before.


Theology Books February 2024

Teaching to Live: Black Religion, Activist-Educators, and Radical Social Change

Almeda M. Wright

( Oxford UP )

Teaching to Live: Black Religion, Activist-Educators, and Radical Social Change interrogates the stories of African American activist-educators whose faith convictions inspired them to educate in radical and transformative ways. Many of these educators are known only or primarily for their educational theory or activism, and their religious convictions have often been obscured or outright ignored. Almeda M. Wright seeks to rectify this omission, exploring the connections between religion, education, and struggles for freedom within twentieth-century African American communities by telling the stories of key African American teachers.

Wright brings together the lives and work of three related subgroups of activist-educators: those who worked in public or secular education but were religiously inspired; radical scholars who transformed the ways that Black religion and Black religious life are studied and valued; and radical religious educators, or those educators who were involved more formally with the religious formation of Black people but who regarded this work of spiritual development as part of the struggle for freedom and liberation of all people. She begins with the reflections of Anna Julia Cooper, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, and Nannie Helen Burroughs, who attempted to transform American society by expanding the involvement of African Americans as contributors to all aspects of American life, especially the religious, intellectual, and cultural spheres. Wright also examines the activist-educators at the center of the mid-twentieth-century Civil Rights Movement, such as the religious and lay leaders Septima Clark and James Lawson, and the cadre of student leaders and teachers they trained. Finally, she investigates how the models of religious activist-educators Olivia Pearl Stokes and Albert Cleage emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century at the same time that questions about the centrality of Black Christianity in the African American community and Black activism began to take shape.

The rich and complex narratives of these educators show how religion, education, and radical social change can intersect. This book invites readers to continue exploring how these concepts will evolve for future generations of activist-educators.

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