Research Programs: Fellowships

Period of Performance

7/1/2019 - 6/30/2020

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

J. Edgar Hoover’s Stained Glass Window: The FBI, Religion, and National Security in American History, 1935-72

FAIN: FEL-258047-18

Lerone Allen Martin, PhD
Washington University (St. Louis, MO 63130-4862)

Research and writing of a book on the relationship between religious institutions and the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the directorship of J. Edgar Hoover (1935-1972).

J. Edgar Hoover's Stained Glass Window chronicles how the FBI partnered with clergy, faith communities, and parachurch organizations to shape popular notions and policies concerning religion and national security in the twentieth century US. Studies of the FBI and religion have overwhelmingly fixated on COINTELPRO and the Bureau’s other efforts of surveillance, counter-intelligence, and hostility towards clergy and religious groups. This focus, combined with the reading of contemporary views of the FBI back into religious histories, has hindered scholars, clergy, and causal observers of American religion from recognizing other modes of the FBI’s religious engagement. J. Edgar Hoover's Stained Glass Window intervenes with such studies by focusing not on the Bureau’s religious antagonism and counter-intelligence, but rather its religious devotion and partnerships. For the FBI, a secure America was a Christian America.

Media Coverage

Religion News Service (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Bob Smietana
Publication: Religion News Service
Date: 3/10/2023

The cult of J. Edgar Hoover (Review)
Author(s): Adam Hochschild
Publication: The Nation
Date: 3/7/2023

Two Books on J. Edgar Hoover (Review)
Author(s): Jessica T. Mathews
Publication: Foreign Affairs
Date: 2/28/2023

Publishers Weekly (Review)
Date: 3/11/2023

The FBI's White Christian Nationalist Roots (Media Coverage)
Publication: The Takeaway
Date: 3/11/2023

Associated Products

The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism (Book)
Title: The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism
Author: Lerone Allen Martin
Abstract: On a Sunday morning in 1966, a group of white evangelicals dedicated a stained glass window to J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI director was not an evangelical, but his Christian admirers anointed him as their political champion, believing he would lead America back to God. The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover reveals how Hoover and his FBI teamed up with leading white evangelicals and Catholics to bring about a white Christian America by any means necessary. Lerone Martin draws on thousands of newly declassified FBI documents and memos to describe how, under Hoover’s leadership, FBI agents attended spiritual retreats and worship services, creating an FBI religious culture that fashioned G-men into soldiers and ministers of Christian America. Martin shows how prominent figures such as Billy Graham, Fulton Sheen, and countless other ministers from across the country partnered with the FBI and laundered bureau intel in their sermons while the faithful crowned Hoover the adjudicator of true evangelical faith and allegiance. These partnerships not only solidified the political norms of modern white evangelicalism, they also contributed to the political rise of white Christian nationalism, establishing religion and race as the bedrock of the modern national security state, and setting the terms for today’s domestic terrorism debates. Taking readers from the pulpits and pews of small-town America to the Oval Office, and from the grassroots to denominational boardrooms, The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover completely transforms how we understand the FBI, white evangelicalism, and our nation’s entangled history of religion and politics.
Year: 2023
Primary URL:
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Type: Single author monograph
Copy sent to NEH?: No