Sutton, Matthew Avery 1975-

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Sutton, Matthew Avery 1975-


Born June 10, 1975. Education: University of California at Santa Barbara, Ph.D.


Home—CA. Office—Department of History, Oakland University, 356 O'Dowd Hall, Rochester, MI 48309.


Oakland University, Rochester, MI, assistant professor of history. Has been interviewed for National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," "On the Media," and "California Report."


Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Wrote the documentary "Sister Aimee," for American Experience, produced by WGBH, Boston, for the Public Broadcasting Service. Contributor to various journals and periodicals, including Journal of Political History, Church History, and the Public Historian.


Matthew Avery Sutton earned his doctorate at the University of California in Santa Barbara, and went on to serve on the faculty of Oakland University, in Rochester, Michigan, where he is an assistant professor in the department of history. Sutton's major area of research and academic interest is the American West, with a focus on religious and cultural history in that region. He has does extensive research on Aimee Semple McPherson, and her role as a Protestant evangelist who helped to shape attitudes toward religion and Christianity in the American West during the early part of the twentieth century. Sutton wrote a documentary, "Sister Aimee," which was produced by WGBH in Boston for the Public Broadcasting Service, and has written several journal articles on McPherson, as well as a book, Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America.

In Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America, Sutton addresses the concept of "American exceptionalism," an idea that was based on the premise that the nation was created to serve the purpose of God, and that by extension all of the nation's actions are performed with that goal in mind. Historically, this divine permission has been used as a means for rationalizing various actions taken by the United States, from public policy to war. McPherson was a proponent of the idea of "exceptionalism," and Sutton offers readers an overview of her life and ideas, crediting her religious leadership with joining modern-day religious fundamentalism with modern-day politics. In the earliest days of her religious career, McPherson was a revival-tent preacher, known for her flamboyant style. Ultimately she became the leader of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel, which was centered at the Angelus Temple, a 5,000-seat house of worship in Los Angeles that was built to her specifications. Sutton follows her rise, and goes in-depth in his descriptions of her charismatic, theatrical preaching style and her ability to rally her parishioners. Michael P. Orsi, in a review for America, remarked: "Sutton gives somewhat less attention to the core questions about how religion can be manipulated for political expediency than he does to McPherson's impact on the politics of her day, evangelical Christianity, feminism, charity and social service, politics and the media. Nonetheless, this book is a timely warning for modern religious leaders." Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen noted that Sutton effectively links McPherson's approach to the increased role of fundamentalism in current politics, and concluded that his book is "a nuanced portrait of an entire movement."



America, October 8, 2007, "Sister of the Foursquare Gospel," p. 27.

Booklist, April 1, 2007, Bryce Christensen, review of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America, p. 6.

New York Review of Books, July 19, 2007, "The Miracle Woman," p. 56.


Oakland University Web site, (February 2, 2008), faculty profile.