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God’s Empire | Righting America

God’s Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism

William Vance Trollinger, Jr.
University of Wisconsin Press, 1991
244 pages

More than any other individual, William Bell Riley – who founded the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association – orchestrated the fundamentalist crusade in 1920s America. When that crusade faltered at the national level, the regional empire he created – centered around the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis (which he pastored) and Northwestern Bible School (over which he presided) – ensured that fundamentalism would survive and thrive at the local level. This book examines both Riley’s crusade and empire, as well as the fundamentalist patriarch’s theological and social thought (including his virulent anti-Semitism). In his establishment of a personality-based organization as well as his promotion of a culture war politics and theology, Riley is the prototype for contemporary fundamentalist and evangelical leaders.