Left to right: Matthew Ahman, Floyd McKissik, Martin Luther King Jr., Eugene Carson Blake, leading a procession at the March on Washington, 1963. (Photo by Robert W. Kelley/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

The Global Gospel

My forthcoming book, The Global Gospel, is a history of religious internationalism and its impact on the twentieth-century United States. My work follows American Protestants as they travelled abroad to the Soviet Union, Japan, China, and India on goodwill missions, educational exchanges, missionary work, and international conferences. During the 1920s and 1930s these Protestant missionaries, international lawyers, theologians, and activists created an international political network in opposition to the rising threat of totalitarianism. Through these international encounters, American Protestants formulated new ideas about human rights, world order, racial pluralism, and economic inequality.

The Global Gospel moves from the international arena to the United States and shows that events abroad inspired big changes at home. From the 1940s to the 1960s, American liberal Protestants mobilized politically, under the banner of human rights, against the evils of Jim Crow and poverty. In chapters that detail the leftward political turn of Protestant leaders on the issues of race, poverty, and gender, the book traces how ideas forged in the international arena made their way back to the United States and travelled from the halls of the United Nations to Congress and the Supreme Court, and all the way down to the streets of Detroit, New York, and Memphis. The political mobilization of the religious left is a significant, if understudied, aspect of American history that continues to influence our lives today.