Who is the most influential thinker in the history of American culture? A case can be made for John Nelson Darby, the 19th-century former Church of Ireland priest who cooked up what we now call premillennial dispensationalism—an eschatological scheme by which disasters natural and supernatural presage the return of Christ.
Anthony Aveni and Lisa Vox describe how American culture, politics, and apocalypticism have been braided together in ways that tend toward paranoid conspiratorial fearmongering peddled as Christianity. Darby’s mistake—I would call it a heresy—has shaped the politics that rule our country and our world. That’s a much grander claim than these two good books by appropriately modest historians would ever let themselves make. Yet I think it’s the clear conclusion they offer.