God's Rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism (America's Baptists) (Paperback)

God's Rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism (America's Baptists) By Barry Hankins Cover Image

God's Rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism (America's Baptists) (Paperback)

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Loathed by mainstream Southern Baptists, J. Frank Norris (1877–1952) was in many ways the Southern Baptist Convention’s first fundamentalist. Twenty-five years after its first publication, this second edition of Barry Hankins’s field-defining work God’s Rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism engages new scholar- ship on American fundamentalism to reassess one of the most controversial figures in the history of American Christianity. In this completely revised edition, Hankins pens an entirely new chapter on J. Frank Norris’s murder trial, examines newly uncovered details regarding his recurrent sexual improprieties, and reconsiders his views on race in order to place J. Frank Norris, a man both despicable and captivating, among the most significant Southern fundamentalists of the twentieth century.

Norris merged a southern populist tradition with militant fundamentalism, carving out a distinctly take-no-prisoners political niche within the Baptist church that often offended his allies as much as his enemies. Indeed, Norris was about as bad as a fundamentalist could be. He resided in a world of swirling conspiracies of leftists who, he argued, intended to subvert both evangelical religion and American culture. There are times when Norris’s ego looms so large in his story that he seemed less interested in the threat these alleged conspiracies posed than in their power to keep him in the limelight. Finally, his tactics foreshadowed those employed in the fundamentalists’ tenacious takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention that would occur more than twenty years after Norris’s death.

BARRY HANKINS is a professor and chair of the history department at Baylor University. He is the author, most recently, of Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President and, with Thomas Kidd, Baptists in America: A History. He is the editor of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism: A Documentary Reader.

Product Details ISBN: 9781621906490
ISBN-10: 1621906493
Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press
Publication Date: June 14th, 2022
Language: English
Series: America's Baptists
“When Barry Hankins' biography of the infamous J. Frank Norris first came out in 1996, it was an important contribution to the literature on fundamentalism. This second edition, updated with the best recent scholarship, is even more essential, a timely parable of twenty-first century evangelicalism. As Hankins so eloquently reminds us, evangelical tolerance for a morally flawed, arrogant opportunist is neither singular nor, unfortunately, all that new.”
—Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library and Archives, author of Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present

“There is perhaps no better time to reexamine the life and ministry of firebrand fundamentalist J. Frank Norris. With a lively pen and eye for colorful detail, Barry Hankins enriches our understanding of this twentieth-century populist pastor and explores what Norris means for our understanding of American religion and culture, both past and present.”
—Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation

“J. Frank Norris was, in the 1930s and 1940s, a fiery, populist Southern Baptist pastor of two megachurches simultaneously—one in Fort Worth and one in Detroit. His crowds loved his denunciations of moral decline in America and his attacks on creeping liberalism in the Southern Baptist Convention. Since then, a more conservative Southern Baptist Convention has arguably become the new center of gravity of an American evangelicalism that has embraced the Norris style in both religion and politics. In this updated and completely re-written edition of God’s Rascal, historian Barry Hankins, our indispensable interpreter of the marriage between northern and southern evangelicalism, takes us back to the origins of the populist impulse in the Southern Baptist Convention and the early stages of the white-backlash religious nationalism that dominates today’s Republican Party politics. This outstanding volume is the rare revision that makes new and fresh contributions to our understanding of the complex religious currents that currently plague American evangelicalism, roil American politics, and threaten American democracy.”
—Michael S. Hamilton, author of Calvin College and the Revival of Christian Learning in America

“Early fundamentalism came in many varieties, from thoughtful to bombastic. J. Frank Norris was on the bombastic extreme. He embraced every sensational cause and did whatever would get attention for himself. With a stunning lack of integrity, he was a huge success in building a populist following. Hankins skillfully recounts this fascinating, but sadly not singular, American story.”
—George M. Marsden, author of Fundamentalism and American Culture (new edition 2022)

“This updated edition of Barry Hankins’s well-researched biography of fundamentalist firebrand J. Frank Norris accomplishes its two main purposes very well. The book reminds readers of Norris’s captivating dynamism as well as of his often wildly inappropriate behavior. But as a welcome addition it also uses recent scholarship to present a more nuanced and differentiated account of American fundamentalism itself.”
—Mark Noll, author of America's Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794–1911

“J. Frank Norris is one of the most colorful, influential, and in many ways despicable characters in American history. Barry Hankins skillfully brings Norris to life, helping us understand the rise of fundamentalism and its influence on the politics and culture of the United States.”
—Matthew Avery Sutton, author of Double Crossed: The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War

“When Barry Hankins' biography of the infamous J. Frank Norris first came out in 1996, it was an important contribution to the literature on fundamentalism. This second edition, updated with the best recent scholarship, is even more essential, a timely parable of twenty-first century evangelicalism. As Hankins so eloquently reminds us, evangelical tolerance for a morally flawed, arrogant opportunist is neither singular nor, unfortunately, all that new.”
—Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library and Archives, author of Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present

“Hankins’s study of J. Frank Norris paints in vivid color the life and ambition of the southern fundamentalist sensationalist. At times sympathetic, at others harrowing, and always compelling, this deftly told tale reveals a man marked by contradictions—from uncompromising to utilitarian, from erudite to conspiracist, from moralistic to prurient—and whose fame was matched only by his ego. This newly revised edition not only incorporates recent scholarship on fundamentalism and evangelicalism, but does so in a way that illuminates religious and political contours that still persist to this very day.”  
—Daniel R. Bare, author of Black Fundamentalists: Conservative Christianity and Racial Identity in the Segregation Era

“Hankins’ timely revision of God’s Rascal reveals how fundamentalism’s most fiercely polemical character helped establish the movement’s now complicated legacy of religious authoritarianism and dogmatic intolerance. The tale is as lively as before, but more strikingly, it provides fresh consideration of Norris’s racism and hyper-masculinity, as well as accusations of his sexual misconduct, even assault. The result is riveting and unsettling, a book that is essential reading for anyone interested in a well-informed and fair-minded contribution to an ongoing debate about defining fundamentalism. In boldly revisiting his first book, Hankins strengthens his reputation as one of today’s leading historians of religion and American culture.”
—Elizabeth H. Flowers, coeditor of A Marginal Majority: Women, Gender, and a Reimagining of Southern Baptists

“There is perhaps no better time to reexamine the life and ministry of firebrand fundamentalist J. Frank Norris. With a lively pen and eye for colorful detail, Barry Hankins enriches our understanding of this twentieth-century populist pastor and explores what Norris means for our understanding of American religion and culture, both past and present.”
—Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation

“J. Frank Norris was, in the 1930s and 1940s, a fiery, populist Southern Baptist pastor of two megachurches simultaneously—one in Fort Worth and one in Detroit. His crowds loved his denunciations of moral decline in America and his attacks on creeping liberalism in the Southern Baptist Convention. Since then, a more conservative Southern Baptist Convention has arguably become the new center of gravity of an American evangelicalism that has embraced the Norris style in both religion and politics. In this updated and completely re-written edition of God’s Rascal, historian Barry Hankins, our indispensable interpreter of the marriage between northern and southern evangelicalism, takes us back to the origins of the populist impulse in the Southern Baptist Convention and the early stages of the white-backlash religious nationalism that dominates today’s Republican Party politics. This outstanding volume is the rare revision that makes new and fresh contributions to our understanding of the complex religious currents that currently plague American evangelicalism, roil American politics, and threaten American democracy.”
—Michael S. Hamilton, author of Calvin College and the Revival of Christian Learning in America

“Early fundamentalism came in many varieties, from thoughtful to bombastic. J. Frank Norris was on the bombastic extreme. He embraced every sensational cause and did whatever would get attention for himself. With a stunning lack of integrity, he was a huge success in building a populist following. Hankins skillfully recounts this fascinating, but sadly not singular, American story.”
—George M. Marsden, author of Fundamentalism and American Culture

“This updated edition of Barry Hankins’s well-researched biography of fundamentalist firebrand J. Frank Norris accomplishes its two main purposes very well. The book reminds readers of Norris’s captivating dynamism as well as of his often wildly inappropriate behavior. But as a welcome addition it also uses recent scholarship to present a more nuanced and differentiated account of American fundamentalism itself.”
—Mark Noll, author of America's Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794–1911

“J. Frank Norris is one of the most colorful, influential, and in many ways despicable characters in American history. Barry Hankins skillfully brings Norris to life, helping us understand the rise of fundamentalism and its influence on the politics and culture of the United States.”
—Matthew Avery Sutton, author of Double Crossed: The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War

“If J. Frank Norris were a character in a novel, reviewers would critique the author for manufacturing an implausible figure for the purpose of mocking religion. But the hyper-aggressive, bilious, and violent Norris was indeed a real-life fundamentalist leader from whom one can draw a straight line to today’s Trump-supporting white evangelicals. In this second edition of his marvelous biography of Norris, Barry Hankins—among other revisions—takes into account the last 25 years of scholarship on fundamentalism, in the process making a terrific book even better.”
—William Vance Trollinger Jr., coauthor of Righting America at the Creation Museum