American Religous Experience

Anne C. Loveland, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military 1942-1993, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997 (Pp. xiv, 356; $55.00 cloth)

In this work Anne C. Loveland argues that between the close of World War II and the beginning of the 1990s American evangelicals steadily grew in importance within the military structure. At the close of the 1940s evangelical denominations were in a minority within the American religious community, and the military chaplains were dominated by mainline Protestant denominations. She suggests that steady proselyting produced an increase in the numbers of Evangelicals within the military throughout the 1950s. The real change, however, began during the Vietnam conflict, when conservative Protestants gave their unstinting support to the war effort even as other churches were actively opposing the war effort. Moving into the post-Vietnam era she suggests that the success of evangelicals within the military carries its own risks to these denominations. Military ministries have a strong tradition of tolerance to a wide variety of faiths, while the evangelical impulse is to seek new converts. She closes the book by pointing to the conservatives concern that a change in military policy towards homosexuals could cause some chaplains to speak out against the new policy.

Loveland's book is well research, and filled with interesting personal sketches. It makes a useful contribution to our understanding of this topic. Unfortunately, her argument is weakened by a rather fluid use of the term "evangelical." At times she seems to mean Fundamentalist or Pentecostal denominations; at other times she incorporates any conservative religious sentiment. When her discussion incorporate Episcopalians, such as John A. Wickham or Harold K. Johnson, it is difficult to understand how her standard for evangelicals differs from mainline Protestants.

Leo Hirrel, U.S. Army Center of Military History

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