Lerone A. Martin | The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism


The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover is a groundbreaking new history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Based on a yearslong Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit against the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice, and thousands of newly declassified never-seen FBI documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, prize-winning Historian Lerone A. Martin reveals how J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI teamed up with leading white evangelicals and Catholics to make the FBI a squadron of white Christian soldiers trained to use any means necessary to bring America back to their God. This never told story shows how Hoover and white evangelicals and Catholics fundamentally transformed American religion and politics. Not only did this partnership solidify the political norms of white evangelicalism and contribute to the political rise of white Christian nationalism, it also established religion and race as the bedrock of the modern national security state, giving shape to today’s FBI, and setting the terms for today’s domestic terrorism debates.

Related Reading

 Preaching on Wax: The Phonograph and the Making of Modern African American Religion (New York University Press, 2014).

What We Know—and Don’t Know—About Martin Luther King: A Conversation with Lerone Martin

About the Speaker

Lerone A. Martin is the Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor in Religious Studies and Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, where he joined the faculty in January 2022. Previously, he was a member of the faculty in the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics and Director of American Culture Studies at Washington University in Saint Louis.

Martin is the author of the award-winning Preaching on Wax: The Phonograph and the Making of Modern African American Religion (New York University Press, 2014). The book received the 2015 first book award by the American Society of Church History.

In support of his research, Martin has received a number of nationally recognized fellowships, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, The American Council of Learned Societies, The Institute for Citizens and Scholars (formerly The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation), The Teagle Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, the Louisville Institute for the Study of American Religion, and the Forum for Theological Exploration. Most recently, Martin became Co-Director of $1 million grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to fund “The Crossroads Project,” a four-year, multi-institution project to advance public understanding of the history, politics, and cultures of African American religions. He has also been recognized for his teaching, receiving institutional teaching awards as well as fellowships from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. His commentary and writing have been featured on CNN, CSPAN, Newsy, and PBS as well as The New York Times, Boston Globe, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He is currently writing a book on the relationship between the FBI and white Christian Nationalism, to be published by Princeton University Press this year.

About the Series

In 1891, thirty-five scholars gathered to form a community in a new university. In that spirit, this series welcomes senior humanities faculty to the Stanford community to present their work. 

Learn more about our public lectures