John G. Turner
“Emerging Monstrousness”America, Europe, and the religious divide.
During a semester abroad in Mainz, Germany, in the mid-1990s, I sampled lectures on the New Testament from the university’s Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät. Fifteen years later, I can only remember two things the professor said in the course of the semester. First, when discussing a gospel account of a healing, he commented that “only some people in America” believed that such miracles actually occurred. Later on, he observed that when American theologians—he at least conceded that such rarities existed—happened upon an idea, they did so unaware that German theologians had fully vetted it several decades earlier. He might have added that few American Christians wanted their ministers to stumble upon any recent theological insights, from Germany or anywhere else. Die Amerikaner: superstitious, backward, ignorant.
In God and the Atlantic, Thomas Albert Howard analyzes the venerable history of European criticism and derision of American religion. “[Woodrow] Wilson talks like Jesus Christ and acts like Lloyd George,” French President Georges Clemenceau complained at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. No one accused George W. Bush of speaking like Jesus, but European dissatisfaction with his purportedly evangelical administration produced fresh discussions of a longstanding “transatlantic religious%2