Sacred Allies: Cold War South Korea and the Rise of American Evangelicalism

“I employ an underutilized bilingual and bi-national approach to highlight the stories of otherwise invisible historical actors, expanding US history’s cast of characters. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Helen Kim Emory Candler School of Theology Contact Me

About this first book grant for scholars of color

Sacred Allies argues that networks built during the Korean War (1950-53) were indispensable for making modern American evangelicalism, as revealed in the histories of World Vision, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), and Campus Crusade for Christ. At mid-twentieth century, against the backdrop of the 38th parallel dividing Korea, white fundamentalists allied with South Korean Protestants to rebuild their religion; South Korean Protestants were a transpacific racial “other” and anticommunist ally, yet they were not merely “duped.” Rather, South Korean Protestants shared with these white-led evangelical institutions a triumphalist vision for a world order reshaped by a vast and unparalleled enterprise: the evangelization of the entire world. South Korean Protestants sought a Korea-centered Christian empire, a vision grounded in the tender hearts of individuals and entangled in the hard politics of South Korean authoritarianism and US Cold War empire building. Not until the 1980s and 1990s did the Christian Right solidify in both countries, but this transpacific story, from 1950-80, foreshadows the emergence of non-state actors as powerful architects of conversion and conservatism. The following is a Pacific-facing US history—one not previously told—using bilingual sources from US and Korean archives and oral histories.