Books by Thomas C. Reeves

Released: Nov. 1, 1999

From the author of The Empty Church (1996) comes another ideology-saturated piece of propaganda masquerading as history. Twentieth-Century America claims to be a college textbook, but it is really a lament about the crumbling of "traditional" values. In a chapter called "The "Best Years,—" Reeves declares that "to a great many Americans who lived through them, the years 1953 to 1963 were an especially pleasant time in this country's history." Before we can suggest that Betty Friedan (not to mention Rosa Parks) might take issue with his description of life under Eisenhower, Reeves quotes a 1995 journalist's assertion that elderly women who were young mothers in the suburbs during the '50s would "tell you those were the best years they can remember." His portrait of the century's close is revealing: He crows about the collapse of welfare as we know it, and wonders where have all the morals gone. Reeves relies entirely on the work of William Raspberry and Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom when discussing African-Americans in the '90s, and he is more concerned with black participation in the sports stadium than in the voting booth (the large photograph of Michael Jordan will tell you you—re on the right page). The erosion of Christendom is a favorite theme, and in the final chapter Reeves proclaims that "the courts, in the name of the separation of church and state, were a major force in restricting the impact of the Christian faith. Among other things, they outlawed prayer in the public schools and drove Christian symbols out of public places. The highly influential New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, applauded these rulings." Somehow, Reeves neglects to mention that the NYT's and the ACLU's applause was part of an international Jewish plot. If you want to learn about contemporary cultural conservatism, start here; if you—re interested in the nation's past, skip Twentieth-Century America. (30 halftones) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 14, 1996

Possibly the most slanted, conservative take on American church history to appear in recent memory. Reeves (History/Univ. of Wisconsin, Parkside; A Question of Character: The Life of John F. Kennedy, 1991, etc.) here publicly airs his grievances with dying mainline Protestant churches. He provides mountains of details to demonstrate that they are dying— no news there—and then makes the bold and unsubstantiated leap to the claim that they are failing because they have been overrun by liberal bleeding hearts who are hell-bent on neglecting the gospel, undermining patriotism, and teaching their Sunday school pupils to use condoms. Reeves also assails such predictable targets as multiethnic theological education, the churches' ``aggressive lesbian contingent,'' and homosexual ordination. At bottom, he asserts that mainline churches are ``stuck in the sixties'' in their affinity for social justice and confusion about personal morality. His incessant liberal-bashing is irritating and banal, but that alone does not make it poor history. Reeves accomplishes that by ignoring the larger, more provocative questions that other scholars have posed concerning the mainline's decline. Ultimately, Reeves's singleminded preoccupation with the dangers of liberalism diverts attention from a persistent motif of American history, which is that only religions not associated with power and authority will inevitably flourish, as, for instance, antiestablishment fundamentalist sects are doing today. An even more damning problem is that Reeves utterly ignores the phenomenon of religious pluralism (``Is modern America secular or Christian?'' he asks, as if these were our only options). This is predictable, considering Reeves's insistence that America's founding ``fathers'' intended it to be a Christian nation. A far better choice is Randall Balmer's brilliant ethnography, Grant Us Courage: Travels Along the Mainline of American Protestantism (1995), which sensitively and provocatively explores the real issues underlying contemporary American Protestantism. Mainline churches may be dying, but they deserve a more intelligent eulogy than Reeves can provide. Read full book review >
Released: May 8, 1991

Twice-told tales of JFK's alleged womanizing and his domination by lecherous, ruthless father Joseph Kennedy. A former admirer of Kennedy, Univ. of Wisconsin history professor Reeves (The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy, 1982; Gentleman Boss, 1975) vents his spleen and disillusionment against the claims of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Theodore Sorensen, and other Camelot chroniclers. In this telling, Joseph Kennedy drilled into Jack and his siblings ``an intense self- centeredness, aggressiveness, and a passionate desire to win at any cost'' that left Jack without the high moral character American Presidents requires for greatness. Although crediting JFK with intelligence, wit, charisma, courage, and forthright defense of free-world principles during the Berlin and Cuban Missile crises, Reeves also criticizes the President for macho posturing and disdain for moral principle in his conduct relating to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the assassination plot against Fidel Castro, the steel price-hike, and civil-rights movement, and deepening involvement in Southeast Asia. Above all, he finds, his former hero ``abused his office for personal self-gratification'' through relentless philandering that exposed him to potential blackmail. Yet most of these instances of the seamy reality behind Camelot can be found in previous works by Joan and Clay Blair, Herbert Permet, and Peter Collier and David Horowitz. Absurdly, Reeves also contradicts his own evidence at times (e.g., claiming that JFK was ``not his father's puppet'' after spending the entire book demonstrating how completely the President accepted his father's political viewpoint and financial largesse). For a truly searing discussion of the character issue, see Garry Wills's The Kennedy Imprisonment (1982), not this superficial treatment focused so exclusively on adultery and the inherited sins of founding father Joe. Read full book review >