Christianity Today released its annual books-of-the-year awards this week. Evangelical History readers might be interested in the winners for the category of history and biography.
Their overall winner was Kathryn Long’s God in the Rainforest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in Amazonian Ecuador (Oxford University Press).
One of the judges—Andrew Atherstone, tutor in history and doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford—wrote:
The romantic legend of Jim Elliot and his missionary friends, speared to death in 1956 by Waorani warriors, is firmly fixed in evangelical folklore. The subsequent Christian conversion of the Waorani is often recounted triumphantly as proof of God’s redemption of indigenous peoples, stimulating many missionary vocations and helping to raise funds for a new wave of Bible translators. At the other extreme, secular critics accuse the Ecuadorian missionaries of ethnocide, as “the new conquistadors” of Latin America. Long cuts through these rhetorical tropes, subjecting them to searing analysis. She provides a detailed reconstruction of Waorani religious culture from the 1950s to the present, examining the complexities and failures that have been airbrushed from the idealized narratives.
Their Award of Merit—essentially the runner-up—was a tie between Darren Dochuk’s Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America (Basic Books) and Grant Wacker’s One Soul at a Time: The Story of Billy Graham (Eerdmans).
On the Dochuk book, one of the judges—historian Stephen Tomkins—writes:
Anointed with Oil provides fascinating insight into how religion became embedded in the modern U.S. economy and how fossil-fuel capitalism became embedded in U.S. faith and values. It is a detailed and panoramic survey of the relationship between different approaches to Christianity and different approaches to industry and commerce. It contains colorful and potent characters and is lively despite its length. Dochuk’s style is always clear and fluent. He digs deep and gives the reader a strong sense of the power that oil and its unsustainable benefits have over the American soul.
On the Wacker volume, one of the judges—Karin Stetina, professor of theology at Biola University—writes:
Wacker’s biography presents a well-researched window into Billy Graham as a man who had a powerful public career as an evangelist. It contains short, readable chapters that unveil the real Graham, flaws and all, and the incredible impact he had on millions of people. Wacker does an excellent job showing how Graham was able to skillfully understand the trends of his era and speak to individuals in a powerful, life-changing way. While Graham constantly adapted the fine nuances of his approach to the ever-changing culture and his specific audiences, Wacker effectively points out his heart never changed. He consistently sought to give every person the opportunity to embrace the Good News of the gospel.
Related to these winners: