Call Letters for Jesus
AIMEE SEMPLE MCPHERSONAND THE RESURRECTION OF CHRISTIAN AMERICA.By Matthew Avery Sutton.Harvard Univ. Press.351 pp. $26.95
The contemporary holy alliance between evangelism, the media, and politics has roots that are many decades old. Long before Pat Robertson or Billy Graham, there was Aimee Semple McPherson (1890–1944), a self-educated minister mostly remembered now as the model for the hypocritical revivalist Sister Sharon in Sinclair Lewis’s novel Elmer Gantry (1927). But in her day, McPherson was one of the most famous women in America.
Born in rural Canada, she emigrated to Chicago with her first husband, who died shortly after they arrived in 1910. She soon remarried, but left her second husband to follow her religious calling, eventually founding the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a conservative Protestant sect. A charismatic preacher with a flair for drama, she came to exert enormous influence from the 5,300-seat Angelus Temple, which she built in Los Angeles after settling in California in 1918.