Teaching Position: Assistant Professor of History at College of Liberal Arts, Washington State University, 2008-
Area of Research: 20th century United States history, cultural history, and religious history.
Education: PhD, Department of History University of California, Santa Barbara, 2005
Major Publications: Sutton is the author Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard University Press, 2007), won the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize from Harvard University Press, awarded annually to the best book in any discipline by a first-time author. The book also served as the basis for the Public Broadcasting Service documentary Sister Aimee, part of PBS’s American Experience series.
Sutton’s current book project, tentatively entitled American Evangelicals and the Politics of Apocalypse, Harvard University Press (forthcoming, 2011) examines the relationships among American evangelicalism, apocalyptic thought, and political activism during times of national crisis and war.
Sutton is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, articles and editorials, and reviews including among others: “Crashing into Public History with Aimee Semple McPherson,” The Public Historian 29:4 (Fall 2007): 35-44; “Clutching to ‘Christian’ America: Aimee Semple McPherson, the Great Depression, and the Origins of Pentecostal Political Activism.” Journal of Policy History 17:3 (Summer 2005): 308-338; “‘Between the Refrigerator and the Wildfire’: Aimee Semple McPherson, Pentecostalism, and the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy.” Church History 72:1 (March 2003): 159-188.
Awards: Sutton is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Young Scholars in American Religion Program Participant, 2007-09;
New Investigator Research Excellence Award (Oakland University), 2008;
Oakland University Faculty Research Fellowship, 2008;
Historical Society of Southern California/Haynes Research Grant, 2006;
Oakland University Faculty Research Fellowship, 2006;
Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 2004-05;
Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship (declined), 2004-05;
University of California’s President’s Dissertation Fellowship (declined), 2004-05;
Richard Mayberry Award, Department of History, UC Santa Barbara, 2005;
Western Historical Association’s Conference Scholarship 2004;
UC Santa Barbara Humanities Research Assistantship Fellowship, 2003-04;
Walter H. Capps Center Fellowship, Department of Religious Studies, UC Santa Barbara, 2003-04;
Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship, Lilly Library, University of Indiana, 2003;
History Associates Fellowship, 2003;
UC Santa Barbara Academic Senate and UCSB Foundation Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award, 2002-03;
UC Santa Barbara Humanities/Social Sciences Research Grant, 2002;
UC Santa Barbara Graduate Division Summer Dissertation Proposal Fellowship, 2002;
William H. Ellison Prize for “Re-envisioning Evangelicalism Through Pentecostal Eyes.” Best graduate student paper in any field, Department of History, UC Santa Barbara, 2001.
Formerly Assistant Professor of History, Oakland University, 2005-2008; Instructor, US Cultural History, UC Santa Barbara, 2005; Instructor, Religious Studies, Westmont College, 2004.
Sutton has been featured on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition among many other news shows. He has published articles in Church History, the Journal of Policy History, and the Public Historian, and he writes for the History News Network and the Christian Century.
I remember as an undergraduate watching teachers ruffle through their notes in the middle of a lecture, looking totally perplexed as they hunted for the one page that was eluding them. And I remember others who would check every pocket-pants, shirt, coat, and bag-looking for that lost piece of chalk, or the one white-board marker that still had some ink left. I vowed then and there that I would never become one of them-I would never be an absent minded professor. Well, I have become one. At no time was this clearer than one day last semester. Although I did not teach that day, I had a series of meetings with students. I thought everything had gone fine-until I got home that night and discovered that my polo shirt had been on inside-out the entire day. Yep, the tag was sticking out from the back of my neck, my buttons were on the inside, and the seams ran along the outside of the shirt. I hoped that students might think that I was a trend-setter, but I know what they really thought. There is Sutton-the absent-minded professor. Unfortunately, I suspect my absent-mindedness is only going to get worse. Fight it as I may, I guess I am going to have to embrace the label. I suppose I am in good company.
My research explores the intersections among religion, politics, and American culture. Despite the fact that “religion and politics” are the two things that you are not supposed to discuss at the dinner table, I can’t help myself. I grew up in Southern California’s evangelical subculture and I had a lot of family connections to the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (the denomination founded by Aimee Semple McPherson). I was vaguely aware of who McPherson was, and as I began studying American religion during my undergraduate years I became increasingly curious about her role in shaping modern American evangelicalism. When I started applying to graduate schools, I needed a good dissertation topic and I realized that McPherson was a perfect vehicle through which to explore gender, mass media, popular culture, and politics in the interwar years. The result was my first book Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard University Press, 2007).
My current research explores the connections among evangelicals’ social/political activism and their belief in the nearness of the Apocalypse-especially in the context of national crises and war. I find few things more fun than thinking about people who predict the end of the world; my only fear is that one of these days, one of them might be right!
By Matthew Avery Sutton
During the years between the two world wars, McPherson was the most flamboyant and controversial minister in the United States. She built an enormously successful and innovative megachurch, established a mass media empire, and produced spellbinding theatrical sermons that rivaled Tinseltown’s spectacular shows. As McPherson’s power grew, she moved beyond religion into the realm of politics, launching a national crusade to fight the teaching of evolution in the schools, defend Prohibition, and resurrect what she believed was the United States’ Christian heritage. Convinced that the antichrist was working to destroy the nation’s Protestant foundations, she and her allies saw themselves as a besieged minority called by God to join the “old time religion” to American patriotism…..
On one level this is the story of the rise, fall and redemption of one of the most fascinating characters in American history, Aimee Semple McPherson. But it is much more than that. It is also the story of how Americans came to embrace a thoroughly modern form of evangelicalism that had its roots in McPherson’s innovations and concerns, one that flourished to this day. Indeed, the tensions and controversies that characterized McPherson’s world have come to define faith and politics in the twentieth-first-century United States. — Matthew Sutton in “Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America”
About Matthew Avery Sutton
He’s a very good teacher. He knows a lot about what he’s teaching….
LOVED this professor…he is really passionate about what he teaches especially his topic of choice, Mcpherson…
He’s amazing. I absolutely loved his class. He made a subject that I care very little about, into something so intersting. I was always excited to got to his class….
One of the best profs in any department at OU. Funny, interesting, fair, smart, caring–not too many profs have ALL of those qualities!….
Professor Sutton is by far the most devoted teacher I have had thus far….
I loved prof. Sutton. He’s a good guy who knows his stuff….
Professor Sutton is incredibly passionate about the subject he teaches!….
excellent professor. Clearly, his forte is history as he has abounding knowledge and passion for this subject area; as a history major, I enjoyed the lectures and multimedia aspects and found his method of visual and auditory stimulators to be the perfect method of teaching to all different types of people, which cannot be said for many profs!….
Professor Sutton is young and energetic. His class is very interesting. He made me enjoy history…. I enjoyed this class and this professor. History is definitely his thing and he is very passionate and enthusiastic about the subject!….
I never liked history before this class. He made learning American history fun and interesting he breaks up the class with documentaries, films, class discussion, reading, and lectures….
Yeah, he is a great teacher, He is young, fun, and very multimedia, makes the new deal exciting, I would definitely reccomend him to anyone, really aprreciates students, very down to earth. — Anonymous Students