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Millions of tourists visit Washington, D.C., every year, but for some the experience is about much more than sightseeing. Lauren R. Kerby’s lively, engaging book takes readers onto tour buses and explores the world of Christian heritage tourism. These expeditions visit the same attractions as their secular counterparts—Capitol Hill, the Washington Monument, the war memorials, and much more—but the white evangelicals who flock to the tours are searching for evidence that America was founded as a Christian nation. The tours preach a historical jeremiad that resonates far beyond Washington. White evangelicals across the United States tell stories of the nation’s Christian origins, its subsequent fall into moral and spiritual corruption, and its need for repentance and return to founding principles. This vision of American history, Kerby finds, is white evangelicals’ most powerful political resource—it allows them to shapeshift between the roles of faithful patriots and persecuted outsiders. In an era when white evangelicals’ political commitments baffle many observers, this book offers a key for understanding how they continually reimagine the American story and their own place in it.
Lauren R. Kerby is the education specialist for the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School.
“I have been waiting for a book like this. The Christian nationalist tourism industry attracts thousands of Christian Right tourists each year, yet they do not usually make the news. Weaving the thoughts of ordinary tour-goers into her analysis, Kerby provides a much needed and significant contribution to understanding religion in the United States today.”—John Fea, author of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?
“Exciting, cogent, and extremely well-written, Saving History makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Christian nationalism in the United States. Lauren Kerby brings to life Christian heritage tours in order to illuminate how white evangelicals create a usable history by laying claim to past insider status and present outsider status—and marshal the power that comes with both. This trend in history-making is so prevalent among U.S. evangelicals that it almost seems obvious—yet until now it has been a largely overlooked part of conservative evangelical infrastructure.”—Hillary Kaell, author of Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage