Founded as a local college ministry in 1951, Campus Crusade for Christ has become one of the world's largest evangelical organizations, today boasting an annual budget of more than $500 million. Nondenominational organizations like Campus Crusade account for much of modern evangelicalism's dynamism and adaptation to mainstream American culture. Despite the importance of these "parachurch" organizations, says John Turner, historians have largely ignored them.
Turner offers an accessible and colorful history of Campus Crusade and its founder, Bill Bright, whose marketing and fund-raising acumen transformed the organization into an international evangelical empire. Drawing on archival materials and more than one hundred interviews, Turner challenges the dominant narrative of the secularization of higher education, demonstrating how Campus Crusade helped reestablish evangelical Christianity as a visible subculture on American campuses. Beyond the campus, Bright expanded evangelicalism's influence in the worlds of business and politics. As Turner demonstrates, the story of Campus Crusade reflects the halting movement of evangelicalism into mainstream American society: its awkward marriage with conservative politics, its hesitancy over gender roles and sexuality, and its growing affluence.
A familiar presence at universities, Campus Crusade for Christ exemplifies for historian Turner the type of nondenominational "parachurch" organization that has contributed to the surge of evangelicals' political and social influence since the mid-1970s. Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade, focused chiefly on evangelism, at UCLA in 1951; in his 50 years as president he turned it into a worldwide organization. Turner, a professor of American history at the University of South Alabama, uses Bright's story to dig into the early postwar roots of evangelicalism, including its ties to conservatives, anticommunism, use of sales techniques, painful split from fundamentalism, ambivalence towardcharismatic Christians and unresolved tensions with mainstream American culture. Most interesting are the influence of Henrietta Mears, director of Christian education at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, on Bright's generation of evangelicals, and Campus Crusade's counteractivism at Berkeley in the 1960s. By the end of the book, Bright remains an enigma, but Turner's chronological account is a thought-provoking glimpse into the trajectory of modern evangelicalism as it moved toward its current involvement in national politics, opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and explosive growth in developing countries.