Before the Religious Right
Liberal Protestants, Human Rights, and the Polarization of the United StatesUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Intellectual History of the Modern Age
When we think about religion and politics in the United States today, we think of conservative evangelicals. But for much of the twentieth century it was liberal Protestants who most profoundly shaped American politics. Leaders of this religious community wielded their influence to fight for social justice by lobbying for the New Deal, marching against segregation, and protesting the Vietnam War. Gene Zubovich shows that the important role of liberal Protestants in the battles over poverty, segregation, and U.S. foreign relations must be understood in a global context. Inspired by new transnational networks, ideas, and organizations, American liberal Protestants became some of the most important backers of the United Nations and early promoters of human rights. But they also saw local events from this global vantage point, concluding that a peaceful and just world order must begin at home. In the same way that the rise of the New Right cannot be understood apart from the mobilization of evangelicals, Zubovich shows that the rise of American liberalism in the twentieth century cannot be understood without a historical account of the global political mobilization of liberal Protestants.
"In his ambitious, absorbing, much-anticipated book, Gene Zubovich shows how midcentury liberal Protestants in the United States used changes in the international system and domestic race relations to forge a new human-rights discourse for a global age. Zubovich’s writing is elegant, his extensive research is deeply impressive, his focus is broad but cohesive, and his historiographical contributions are significant. Before the Religious Right is an important book that will be essential reading for anyone interested in American religion, politics, or foreign relations."—Andrew Preston, author of Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy
"In this beautifully nuanced and carefully researched account, Gene Zubovich puts religious history at the center of the history of human rights. He does so in ways that acknowledge the ambiguity and complexity of human rights politics, while restoring the centrality of Protestant liberals to a transnational history of activism that linked challenges to white supremacy (at home and abroad), debates over economic justice, and critiques of U.S. foreign policy. This is not only one of the best histories of Protestant liberalism we have, it also thoroughly revises historians’ accounts of the role of the United States in the world from the 1920s to the 1960s. An outstanding work of scholarship."—Melani McAlister, author of The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals