The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family

The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family

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Christian fundamentalism in America emerged a century ago, the faith of generations of immigrants who had experienced war and revolution, removal and upheaval. The Scots-Irish who had settled the South inherited both an evangelical legacy of abolitionism and social reform on the one hand, and complicity in human slavery and racial oppression on the other. This book brings the story of fundamentalism to life through the generations of the Rice family--immigrants, soldiers, farmers, slaveowners, refugees, and preachers. This is a work of history, memoir, and personal testimony about the changing shape of a faith that seeks to transform the world.

Foreword by Parker J. Palmer

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781453843758
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 04/14/2011
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 370
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Andrew Himes was born into one of the leading fundamentalist families of the 20th century. His grandfather was John R. Rice, dean of American fundamentalists for decades until his death in 1980, and mentor to many younger Baptist preachers including Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, as well as founding editor of The Sword of the Lord newspaper. His great-grandfather, Will Rice, was a preacher, a Texas State senator, and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. By the time he was four, Himes had been saved; by the time he was 20, he'd turned his back on the career expected of the oldest son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist preachers, becoming instead an activist in the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 60s. Only later in life did he begin a spiritual journey to reconnect with and redefine his family's spiritual heritage. Himes was co-founder of the international movement, "Poets Against the War," in 2003 and producer of the acclaimed 2005 documentary, Voices in Wartime, an exploration of the trauma of war through the lens of poetry ( He is also the founder and president of Voices ( a web site dedicated to amplifying the voices of veterans and civilian witnesses to war, in order to heal the wounds of war and lay the basis for a more peaceful world In April of 2011, he was selected as an Ambassador for the Charter for Compassion (

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The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
JLai More than 1 year ago
The Sword of the Lord is historical account of the Rice family and Fundamentalism's involvement in the history of the United States. Author Andrew Himes utilizes a valuable and broad point of view on Fundamentalist Christianity that includes growing up within the community as well as an outside perspective as a young adult. Having been raised the son of a conservative American Baptist pastor; I felt that I could to relate to some of the problematic issues he had with Fundamentalist beliefs. Alternatively, I also appreciated how Himes shared from his own family's experiences to put a face and soul to the individuals who lived out this religious movement. Often times Fundamentalism is linked immediately to its notoriously aggressive and uncompromising leaders. The Sword of the Lord provided an alternative point of view with a very human perspective. On a larger scale, Sword of the Lord describes how events in America's past laid the groundwork for the establishment of Fundamentalism as well as how it responded to the issues of its time.
CiTaggart More than 1 year ago
As a Brit who knew nothing about the American Civil War that she hadn't learnt from Gone with the Wind, I found this book eye-opening. As an account of the background to many issues that today are more important in the US than they are in the UK, it was penetrating and informative. And as the story of a young man who finds himself out of place in his own family, it was deeply moving. Thoroughly recommended - and not just for Brits.
constantlyreading57 More than 1 year ago
Andrew Himes' superbly written book, The Sword of the Lord, sheds an important light on the inner workings of today's religious right. He expertly weaves personal experience and historical facts into a fascinating narrative. It is a must read for anyone wanting to understand today's fundamentalist movement.
BrutStrudl More than 1 year ago
Answer: You can't. Find out why in a moving and highly entertaining history of growing up a prodigal son in a Fundamentalist fsmily. Great Book!
LifeLongReader55 More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating history of the Rice family from their beginnings to the current day. John Rice has rubbed shoulders with some of Christianities most famous figures like Billy Sunday, Bob Jones, J. Frank Noris and Billy Graham. He was an ardent defender of orthodox Christianity and the movement known as fundamentalism. He was a prolific writer and famous preacher. The Sword of the Lord will give you a look into the history of a family that could possibly only be written by a family member. Andrew Himes seeks to give a fair treatment of his family history even at its worst moments. This book gives the reader a view into the Rice family as well as the history of American. I highly recommend this book!
VirtuallyYours More than 1 year ago
Fundamentalist churches have, like most social movements, been characterized by contradictions and controversy. Conflict has been at the heart of religious history everywhere in the world, and the United States has been no exception. Conflict also makes for great story-telling, and Andrew Himes' "The Sword of the Lord" is great story-telling. Himes' family has been central to the evolution (if you'll pardon the term) of American Fundamentalism, particularly the Southern Baptist variety, and his personal history makes him uniquely qualified to tell this story. He comes from a long line of Fundamentalist preachers who battled liberalism, modernism, sin, Catholicism, Darwinism and the established Protestant churches to win souls for Christ through massive revival meetings and by building a conservative religious infrastructure across the American south. His narrative a sweeping tale that follows the family's early days as farmers and slave-holders, through the traumas and dislocations of the Civil War and the internecine struggles for control of evangelical Christianity, right up to the present day. Along the way Himes explores the explosion of religious revival meetings during the Great Depression, the birth and rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, his grandfather's launch of the widely influential "Sword of the Lord" newspaper, and the trajectory of his own life and spiritual views. Remarkably, it's a story that will appeal to sinner and saved alike. Non-believers, liberals and religious moderates will better understand what motivates people they find hard to comprehend. How can someone be both theologically dedicated to love and a militant racist? Where did the Moral Majority find its ideological roots? Why is religion in general, and specifically Fundamentalist Christianity, so central to American politics? Evangelical Christians will gain remarkable insights into the history of their theology, the schisms and fractures that have shaped the modern Fundamentalist landscape. They will also be introduced to the personalities behind the institutions that have become central to their world. Perhaps the most powerful elements in "The Sword of the Lord" are those that are deeply personal. Andrew Himes shares his painful rejection of his family's "business", the saving of souls. His adolescent rebellion, his embrace of Maoism as an alternate religion, and his return to his family with heart and mind wide open provide a human narrative that interweaves with the historic landscape against which his story is told. In the final chapters he projects an alternate path for American Fundamentalists with the passion of an old-time preacher. The circle is closed. I encourage you to read the book.
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
Andrew Himes has accomplished something this reader never though possible: he manages to delve into Fundamentalism (AKA Religious Right, the Moral Majority, etc), explain its roots, escort us through a progression of development form the pre-Civil War times of immigration to the present day, and does this with a compassion that can only spring from the mind of one who has been a part of the movement, subsequently discarding it as a way of life and philosophy, and then re-evaluating it in terms of the loss of his grandfather who was one of its major proponents. Himes manner of writing is warm, non-judgmental, and yet one that thoroughly examines all aspects of both the need for the development of the movement (a safe haven for those who feared loss of control over their own world to the 'others' outside their circle), the heinous cruelties that the movement fostered such as the Ku Klux Klan and the repulsive hate words about gays and women and dress codes seething form the mouths of such people as Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, John R. Rice's newspaper 'The Sword of the Lord' et al, and the rise of the political impact of the Religious Right that threatens true democracy. Himes poses the question 'What is Fundamentalism to you?' and offers five doctrines in response: the virgin birth, the inerrancy and divine inspiration of the Bible, the need for sinners for atonement, Jesus' death and resurrection, and the miracle attributed to Christ. After spending a full book defining not only the history of fundamentalism but also his own personal history of complete commitment to fundamentalism until his 16th year when he fled the house and embraced Maoism only to eventually find that Maoist socialism was as incomplete an answer to universal peace as Christian fundamentalism, Himes leaves his readers with his staring the fact that when a scribe asked Jesus the fundamental question "What commandment is foremost of all?' His response was: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with al your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no greater commandment than these." And so Himes presents Fundamentalism, explained in an erudite manner mixed with personal testimony of his own experience, and the hope is that many people will read this work and from both sides of this often egregious divide find commonality and complete acceptance that first commandment 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' and perhaps a long festering wound will begin to heal. It could even extend beyond the American political arena to the global abandonment of war. That would be a new miracle. Grady Harp
DarrellD More than 1 year ago
Whenever I start to read a book about personal experiences in Baptist Fundamentalism, I tend to approach it with a certain amount of anxiety. The reason for this is twofold: 1) a fear that it will not affirm my own experience and 2) a hope that the book will treat the subject matter with the correct balance of honesty and respectfulness. As a I read The Sword of the Lord by Andrew Himes, I realized that my initial nervousness was completely unfounded. What I found was a history lesson that was both affirming and accurate but also warm and personal. The Sword of the Lord is indeed a history book. As one might imagine, it contains the requisite amount of facts, figures and details as the author tells the story of how the ethos of an age and the events of the last two centuries spawned the religious movement that we now know as Baptist Fundamentalism. But through that larger narrative is woven a more personal tale:the story of the Rice family and how its influence shaped the person of John R. Rice (the author's grandfather) who is, perhaps, more responsible than any other single individual for the shaping of modern fundamentalism. Opening with a description of the immigration of the Scots-Irish, then continuing to the Civil War, and then through the Southern Reconstruction and into the modern era, Himes tells the tale of fundamentalism in the South by drawing from his own family history and his own personal experiences as a young man. What emerges is a powerful narrative that puts a personal face on events that may otherwise seem distant. From R.A. Torrey and Billy Sunday to the "Texas Tornado" of J. Frank Norris, and then to John R. Rice, Bob Jones Sr., Billy Graham, and Jerry Falwell, the tale of Baptist Fundamentalism gives a detailed analysis of "how we got here" from the roots of historic fundamentalist thought. Through the book, race plays a large role in Himes' recounting of Fundamentalist history. Segregationist theology, KKK involvement, blatant racism, and outright hatred were part and parcel of the Southern brand of fundamentalism from which John R. Rice came. His was a movement often more interested in "saving souls" than the practice of justice or mercy. Himes faces this awful truth with unflinching honesty but also is careful not to try to dismiss any individual as being "just a racist" choosing rather to show this evil in the context of the larger picture of both the movement and the individuals in it. The story concludes as Andrew Himes gives us a look into the last days of John R. Rice as he stood sorrowing at the divisiveness and rancor within the fundamentalist camps and trying to pull warring factions back together into a common cause. Yet, his pleas for unity ultimately fell on deaf ears as the splits and divisions between the Sword of the Lord, Bob Jones University, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham created increased isolation and opened the doors to the fragmented fundamentalist circles that we see in the modern day. The story of fundamentalism is an amazing tale full of blood and thunder, prophets and liars, sinners and saints. But Himes gently reminds us that it is the story of real people as well -- people like his grandfather, John R. Rice. He paints the picture of a man who was flawed and fallen but a man who loved people and loved his God in the same imperfect and struggling way that is common to all mankind. It is a personal story both tragic and glori
clrecchi More than 1 year ago
Four Books in One... ~A Civil War History ~A Civil Rights History ~The Evolution of American Fundamentalism ~A Family's Story Concise, well-referenced and beautifully written in such a way that the "4-in-1" stories are seamlessly interwoven. I found The Sword of the Lord deeply meaningful as I come from a virtually identical background all the way back to the 1700's and my own Scots-Irish ancestral migration to America, who also settled in the deep South, and were devout Southern Baptists. It opened a window into the minds, hearts and motivations of the people and place from which I come. This book gave me a better understanding of long held concerns I have had about my background, as in the culture and religion I was raised in. I kept thinking another subtitle for the book could have been "Dogma of Convenience." Even the most "religious" find it easy when defending their own best interests to change their dogma so that it is more convenient for them. The book illustrates this time and time again throughout U.S. history. I think anyone who is interested in any of these four topics or anyone who finds fault or confusion with "fundamentalism" would find it fascinating. All craziness and judgment aside, Jesus said to Love God and Each Other!!! Hallelujah, let's do it!
acostj2 More than 1 year ago
The Sword of the Lord written by Andrew Himes is a fascinating book about the interworking of Fundamentalism. Himes’s book, and hopefully not his last, is a descriptive and engaging piece that captures his audience’s attention with personal stories and gives critical analysis of the historical past. The book is filled with fascinating personal stories, images and deep historical research that really shows the side of Fundamentalism as it struggled through some of the nation’s events. Himes does stay objective to the book and sets asides his bias from being raised in a Fundamentalist home. Especially since Himes’s grandfather, John R. Rice, was a larger than life figure for Himes growing up. This is a great read for an active inquisitive mind that would like to learn more about the historical past of Fundamentalism. This is definitely a great book and one to be on your personal to read list if you are interested in Fundamentalism history.
Jerry1029 More than 1 year ago
Himes takes a complex history and gives it form and understanding along a singular string of thought: his family history. From a social perspective, readers are engaged with the changes of an evolving nation and their effects on his family lineage. Himes¿ family lineage in and of itself focused around key areas in the development of the fundamentalist movement and its ideologies: his family lived in the worst areas of the Civil War such as Missouri and post-Civil War Texas, and John R. Rice was connected to some key figures such as Billy Graham and other fundamentalist leaders. With these things in mind, one might read on and think that Himes family was destined to tell a story! Overall, Himes took great care to incorporate his sources into his narrative and to tell us the stories from the eyes of his ancestors. This care taken allows for the reader to become endeared to the characters, especially John R. Rice, so much that one can feel the pain of separation from Billy Graham, or the hurt when his fellow fundamentalist leaders rejected his final message. The image one gets is that Himes did his homework, and it led to the creation of a well worth reading book of a story that needed to be told. With thanks to author Andrew Himes for giving it voice.
alex6355 More than 1 year ago
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself": the Golden Rule we all know and, in essence, have stuck in every list of rules we have ever made. It is interesting how that rule actually gets played out in community and society, and whether it even gets played out at all. But there is something basic, innate.fundamental about that rule specifically that all can agree is important but none has complete authority over the method of which it should be expressed. This perplexity seems to be the exact conclusion of Andrew Himes, author of The Sword of the Lord: The roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family (2011), while exploring the American Christian Fundamentalist movement of the 20th century from both an historical, familial, and personal perspective. Himes does not shy away from revealing his own upbringing in a fundamentalist family and the members of his own family, generations back, that have been an influential part in the founding and progressing of the movement. He takes us from colonial times through the major events of early U.S. history while focusing of the specific and relevant realities and events that resulted in the birth of the Fundamentalist movement and his family where he is today.
Alexis_S More than 1 year ago
Andrew Himes describes the life of a Christian Fundamentalist through his personal knowledge of his family's origins tracing back to Scots-Irish settlers that were Protestants to the British Colonies before the American Revolution. This book tells readers why people care about Christian fundamentalism, how the Fundamentalist Movement was launched, and the place that revolution, slavery, and war had within the religious movement. Christian fundamentalists defended their beliefs even though at times it was unclear if the fundamentalist movement would hold a place in society. One important concept to take away from this book is that regardless of what you believe, it is important to believe in something and to believe with all of your heart. Religion is a personal decision and which path you take is entirely up to you. If Christianity is your religion of choice one thing is true: to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself is something to live by. Whichever path you take, do it so passionately that when others observe they are impressed and wish to be like you. This is what the early Scots-Irish settlers-turned-Christian fundamentalists did, and thankfully there was a man to write about insight to their experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Sword of the Lord by Andrew Himes tells the fascinating story of both American fundamentalism and his own family, especially that of his grandfather John R. Rice, a leading voice of the fundamentalist movement in America, profound evangelizer, author, and founder of The Sword of the Lord newspaper, an independent yet leading voice in the arena of fundamental theology. Himes, in discussing the history of the movement, addresses issues pertaining to race, gender, politics, theology, ecumenism, and revival, even speaking to his own views on the philosophy of love inherent in the New Testament message of Jesus. For those unfamiliar with the history of Christianity in the United States, or those seeking to understand to what degree the faiths of many affected policy and action-The Sword of the Lord is indispensable. Providing both scholarly research and insider-experience Himes' The Sword of the Lord cuts to the heart of fundamentalism in America.
Elootens More than 1 year ago
The book opens with a historical account of the immigration of the Scots-Irish to the New World in order to escape religious friction and persecution in Europe. They developed a culture of religious militancy which served as a strong basis for American fundamentalism. Himes' own distant family became wealthy members of the agricultural economy in Wisconsin and owned various slaves. However, as civil war struck, they were forced to flee south to Texas in search of refuge. Southern pastors, both in culture and economy, defended and justified the practice of human bondage by means of reinterpreting scriptural passages; borrowing the Bible's authority to assert their claims. The Ku Klux Klan, a group sanctioned by the church, was formed towards the end of the war by ex-confederate officers and campaigned vigorously to intimidate and scare blacks from exercising their new legal rights such as voting. With their success, many of the gains in the area of "civil rights, social justice, education and tax reform" were turned back and in their place programs like the "Black Codes" in which the system of slavery was cruelly redesigned, were instilled. World War I delivered a great shock to conservative evangelicals, especially with the spread of idealistic enlightenment that openly challenged their religious beliefs and gave rise to various controversies including the teaching of evolution in schools. Their following slowly shrank and nearly disappeared with the embarrassment brought about the hypocrisy of Billy Sunday's career and the devastating public relations defeat in the Scopes Trial. The public now regarded them with scorn and viewed them as "intolerant, arrogant, and anti-democratic". Fundamentalists had overreached themselves in attempting to so narrowly define the bounds of Christian doctrine in a society that was growing increasingly liberal. As a result, the remaining fundamentalists introduced the idea of a strict separatism which stated that they were not allowed to interact with anyone harboring unorthodox or modernistic views. Himes' grandfather, John Rice, founded a newspaper called The Sword of the Lord, which gained widespread popularity amongst a national audience of fundamentalists and in it he communicated the views of their congregation. They did not accept Martin Luther King Jr. because they claimed he led boycotts and riots not in the name of God but as a modernist and a socialist, this opinion transferred to the movement as a whole; social unrest, even if for a noble cause, was never more important than the saving of souls. Himes went through various points in history; he juxtaposed his family's heritage, their viewpoints, and his own opinions as a young man with the varying social climates in order to provide the reader a holistic approach to the subject of white fundamentalism in America.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Sword of the Lord follows the timeline of fundamental Christianity all the way from the Plantation of Ulster, through centuries of political and personal plight in America, to the last days of John R. Rice - Andrew Himes' grandfather and a central figure in U.S. fundamentalism. Himes offers intermittent accounts of his own experience in a family of soul-winners, but the bulk of the book is an objective history, the scope and depth of which are great for those who seek details of ideologically rich events. I, however, must admit that I was more interested in what personal impact Himes' upbringing had on the course of his life. This is not to say that the contents of the book were uninformative or insignificant; indeed many Americans would do well to learn about the religious side of our country's foundation. My point is that I find Himes' expertise on how powerfully a religious environment can shape a person to be far more valuable than his current focus as a simple chronicler. In short, more "fundamentalism in an American family" and less "roots" would have made for a more compelling and insightful read.
Jshrew More than 1 year ago
I feel the author provided an excellent perspective on the history and core of Fundamentalist Christianity. The text was informative, without loosing intrigue. It was a bold and blatant look at some of the core beliefs that built much of the country, including a serious look discrimination between not only white and black people, but Fundamentalists and Modernists. In looking through the eyes of his family history, Himes was able to provide a perspective on Fundamentalism that no other author could. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the foundations of Christianity, the motivation behind some of America's discrimination, or just an overall look into the history of the religious evolution of this country. It would be interesting to contrast the movements of the past to today's modern issues, such as evolutionary opposition, immigration, political movements, and the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) individuals.
rjhayton More than 1 year ago
Andrew Himes has given us an insider's look at the rise of American fundamentalism as he shares the story of his grandfather, evangelist John R. Rice. The story will intrigue anyone familiar with fundamentalism, and much of the history Himes shares will be new to almost any reader. For fundamentalists, this book will challenge your perspective of the history of your movement, but it won't be a slap in the face. Himes is not out to attack, he is simply sharing his family's story. There are lessons to be learned, however, and this story will inform and inspire readers who choose to listen. The book combines a socio-economic history of the rural American south, with a look at the rise of American fundamentalism. The author shines brightest when he recounts the personal story of his grandfather, who founded one of the earliest and most influential fundamentalist tabloids, "The Sword of the Lord". Himes' tale also masterfully interweaves his own personal faith journey into the story with the effect that we all journey with Himes as he makes sense of his fundamentalist upbringing. As a Christian who both appreciates and critiques the fundamentalist movement, I was both challenged and cautioned in this book. I trust it will find a wide audience and open the eyes of many to some of the problems fundamentalists have chosen to overlook. I took issue with some minor points in the book and I think at times Himes is too quick to side with liberal theology and postmodern though. But the book is valuable nonetheless. I recommend it highly.
tghali More than 1 year ago
If you like Matthew Paul Turner (Jesus Needs New PR) and appreciated his hilarious semi-autobiographical tale of growing up in a Conservative/fundamentalist home Churched and you appreciate history, Andrew Himes' new book The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family is a fantastic read. It's a legitimate, historical and academic account of not just a fundamentalist upbringing upbringing but growing up in practically the royal family of fundamentalism. I know what some of you are thinking - Who is Andrew Himes?? I didn't know either until I stumbled upon him on MPT's blog. He is one of the grandsons of John Rice who was a pastor, revivalist and published the newsletter of the fundamentalist movement - "The Sword of the Lord". I'll put to you this way - John Rice helped launch Billy Graham's career. At his funeral, Jerry Falwell called him "God's man for the hour" and Andrew tells the story of how he did everything he could to not debate Falwell at the reception of his grandfather's funeral. Andrew was also the black sheep of the family. I know what you are thinking - How hard can it be to be a black sheep of a fundamentalist family? I mean, put on a pair of jeans and listen to a few songs on the radio and your fundie grandmother will cry herself to sleep while praying for your wicked soul. But first, it seemed that Grandma Rice was an incredible woman (he talks highly about that). Second, Andrew really was liberal - at one point he was a Vietnam war protesting Marxist at the University of WI and this was his path for the next 10 years. Yeah, when growing up in the 60's-70's, that qualifies as a rebel in most American families. Who This Book Is For: ... those who love history, specifically church history. However, because Christian fundamentalism became so big in this last century, there is so much American history here as well. Andrew chronicles his family history immigrating from Ireland, then where his ancestors were during the civil war, their involvement with the KKK, their rejection of the KKK, their personal involvement in the Civil Rights movement, the Scopes Trial and their deep connections with figures like Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell. It's a pretty incredible family history and even more compelling because Andrew is able to call out the missteps while also sharing the blessings. Those who want to see how fundamentalism mutated from a good idea to what we have today. Pretty fascinating. Those who want to see how "control" has always been one of the most damaging themes throughout church history. Pretty tragic. The Sword of the Lord brings such a focused context from the Rice family and Andrew narrates the fundamentalist monologue so well (without villainizing). As the book winds down, you get a sense of how Billy Graham is feeling the need to do something different, which will be later called the "Evangelical Movement". Which by the way, he becomes my favorite figure of the book.