From History News Network in the USA:
Uncovering Aimee Semple McPherson’s Demons in 21st Century Evangelicalism
By Matthew Avery Sutton
Mr. Sutton is Assistant Professor of History at Oakland University.
He is the author of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard University Press, 2007).
No modern day celebrity preacher claims to follow in the footsteps of jazz-age evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. Who would?
She vanished in 1926 and returned a month later claiming to have been kidnapped while rumors abounded that she had actually been vacationing with a lover.
She was a two-time divorcee who became the inspiration for Sinclair Lewis’s over-sexed fraudulent faith healer Sister Sharon Falconer.
She performed vaudeville on Broadway, ran with Hollywood’s rich and famous, and died of a barbiturate overdose.
Yet despite her flamboyant history, McPherson was among the first religious activists to embrace the mass media revolution, building a powerful Christian radio station, incorporating a film company, and procuring a license for an experimental television station.
Tapping into Hollywood’s celebrity culture, she employed publicity agents and public relations experts to help build a national image of divine diva that made her as much a cultural icon as Mary Pickford, Charles Lindbergh, and Babe Ruth.
She became a strident nationalist and ventured into politics, convincing the faithful that their loyalty to God did not prevent them from campaigning on Caesar’s behalf.
She believed that the United States was a Christian nation that needed to return to its spiritual roots, and she supported candidates who agreed—including Franklin Roosevelt who had admonished Americans to “return to the faith of the fathers.”
In many ways McPherson’s career foreshadowed the tensions and issues that still define evangelicalism in the twenty-first century.
Nowhere is this clearer than in her sense of “true” Christians as a besieged minority at war with mainstream culture.