Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Red-Hot and Righteous

Red-Hot and Righteous

The Urban Religion of The Salvation Army

Diane Winston

ISBN 9780674003965

Publication date: 10/02/2000

In this engrossing study of religion, urban life, and commercial culture, Diane Winston shows how a (self-styled "red-hot") militant Protestant mission established a beachhead in the modern city. When The Salvation Army, a British evangelical movement, landed in New York in 1880, local citizens called its eye-catching advertisements "vulgar" and dubbed its brass bands, female preachers, and overheated services "sensationalist." Yet a little more than a century later, this ragtag missionary movement had evolved into the nation's largest charitable fund-raiser--the very exemplar of America's most cherished values of social service and religious commitment.

Winston illustrates how the Army borrowed the forms and idioms of popular entertainments, commercial emporiums, and master marketers to deliver its message. In contrast to histories that relegate religion to the sidelines of urban society, her book shows that Salvationists were at the center of debates about social services for the urban poor, the changing position of women, and the evolution of a consumer culture. She also describes Salvationist influence on contemporary life--from the public's post-World War I (and ongoing) love affair with the doughnut to the Salvationist young woman's career as a Hollywood icon to the institutionalization of religious ideals into nonsectarian social programs.

Winston's vivid account of a street savvy religious mission transformed over the decades makes adroit use of performance theory and material culture studies to create an evocative portrait of a beloved yet little understood religious movement. Her book provides striking evidence that, counter to conventional wisdom, religion was among the seminal social forces that shaped modern, urban America--and, in the process, found new expression for its own ideals.


  • Red-Hot and Righteous, Diane Winston’s shrewd and graceful history, explains how the Salvation Army scaled the heights of urban culture and explores the ways in which New York City and the Army in fact conquered each other… [She] shows that the key to the Army’s history was its practice of plunging headlong into the emerging commercial culture of city life… Red-Hot and Righteous is consistently nuanced and thoughtful, and a valuable corrective to 20th-century cultural histories that neglect religious energies. Winston helps us to understand how a religious movement that railed against ‘the destroying menace of selfishness in the environment’ built itself by embracing modern celebrations of the fluid self: costume, advertising, and the theater of personal conversion.

    —David Glenn, New York Times Book Review


  • Diane Winston is a Research Fellow at the Center for Media, Culture and History at New York University.

Book Details

  • 304 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press