The Money Cult

Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream

A grand, brilliantly written work of American history.

We think we know the story of American religion: the Puritans were cold, austere, and pious, and Christianity continued pure and uncorrupted until the industrial revolution got in the way. In The Money Cult, Chris Lehmann argues that we have it backwards: capitalism has always been entangled with religion, and so today’s megapastors aren’t an aberration — they’re as American as Benjamin Franklin. The long-awaited first book by a hugely admired journalist, The Money Cult is a sweeping and accessible history that traces American Christianity from John Winthrop to the rise of the Mormon Church to the triumph of Joel Osteen.

 

CHRIS LEHMANN is the editor-in-chief and a columnist at The Baffler, and a book review columnist for In These Times. He has written for Harper’s, the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, the New York Observer, Yahoo, Slate, Salon, The Awl, Raritan, The Nation, Mother Jones, The Washingtonian, The Washington Monthly, Lingua Franca, Reason, and Democracy. He is the author of Rich People Things and Revolt of the Masscult.

”A tour de force that illustrates the continuities of American cultural and economic history…Chris Lehmann has shown us why religious history is the mainstream of American history — and how Protestant theologians became the court poets of capitalism.”The New York Times Book Review

“Eye-popping and prodigious researched.”Maclean’s

Lehmann’s excavations may be sobering, but it is absolutely necessary for us to know this backstory if we are to have any hope of understanding the contemporary religious and political landscape, including the spiritual context that lies behind Trumpism’s rapid ascent.”Religion Dispatches

“One of the season’s most substantial nonfiction books from one of the best essayists and polemicists writing in the US.”Flavorwire

“American Christianity was not corrupted by capitalism, as I had charitably imagined. Almost from the start, it has peddled magical thinking as a means to success in the most mundane commercial undertakings, making it a literal ‘money cult.’ This is Chris Lehmann at his most biting best.”—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

“Chris Lehmann is your tour guide in a startling journey through the Protestant past. After providing heaps of stomach-turning evidence, he reaches a shocking conclusion: that old time religion we hanker to get back to is just the church of mammon. We’ve been confusing God and the market all along.”Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?

“Entertaining and erudite.”Publishers Weekly

“Lehmann’s intellectual history of the long association between Christian faith and the pursuit of the materially good life makes enthralling reading.”Booklist

“Far from being a simple polemic against an easy target, Lehmann provides an in-depth investigation into the social transformation of religious thought…A thorough, critical, and information-dense history of American ’self-help’ religion.”Library Journal

“Lively…Lehmann makes an important and timely point, which is that American religion has always been about money.”Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Rich People Things:

“Think H.L. Mencken crossed with Jon Stewart.” The Phoenix

“This book made me laugh and cry. And wish I were a plutocrat. Chris Lehmann is an amazing writer. I will read his books until I die.” Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story 

“Chris Lehmann is your tour guide in a startling journey through the Protestant past. After providing heaps of stomach-turning evidence, he reaches a shocking conclusion: that old time religion we hanker to get back to is just the church of mammon. We’ve been confusing God and the market all along.”Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?

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