Oil is like manna from heaven for the individuals to whom it brings fabulous riches and the states that gain geopolitical and economic strength. It is only natural, then, that societies who have oil believe that they have been blessed from above.
This ethos is laid plain in a fascinating new book about America’s connections with oil, religion, and history itself: Darren Dochuk’s Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America (Basic Books, 2019). These connections are not ephemeral or imaginary – they concretely shaped the way Americans acted both at home and abroad. Dochuk, a historian at Notre Dame University, spent eight years producing what he calls a “religious biography of a natural resource with outsized—and seemingly otherworldly—importance” (p. 9).
Over 560 pages, Dochuk describes how the Christianity-oil synthesis developed along two tracks. The first was “wildcat Christianity,” captured by the individuals who staked their fortunes and…
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