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John C. Pinheiro’s Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War is about how religion and war play about in the Americas (mainly in the United States) in the middle of the nineteenth century. It compares Mexico’s dominant Catholicism to the United States dominant Protestantism religion and what led up to the Mexican-American War. I found it quite difficult to keep along with this book due to Pinheiro’s use of complicated sentence structure and diction (a weakness). I did think that he did proper and a good amount of research before writing the Missionaries of Republicanism book without making it sound like fluff (a strength). But, in a few cases I believe that he does not provide proper evidence for his statements (a weakness). However, he does a good job at describing the background and chronological history of the events happening in the Americas surrounding religion and the Mexican-American War without it feeling like one is reading a history textbook (a strength).
One weakness I believe presented in this book is that Pinheiro tries to make himself seem too “fancy” by using big, complicated words that honestly at times confused me or I did not know what they meant. I felt that so many times throughout the book I had to stop and look up the word in an online dictionary or thesaurus because I had no clue what they meant. This extended my reading time almost by double and I had to re-read sentences and paragraphs just to make sure I was understanding the context. For example, “In this book the designation “anti-Catholic” refers not to person who disagreed doctrinally with Roman Catholic theology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. Therefore, Protestant efforts merely to convert Catholics to a Protestant Christian vision of reality cannot qualify as an ideology deserving the name, “anti-Catholicism,” for Catholics of course hoped to convert Protestants, and this alone would not qualify as anti-Protestantism” (4-5). Honestly these two sentences are so fluffed up that it will dumfound anyone. When in reality it should just say in this book anti-Catholicism refers to a person who disagrees with the values and structure of Roman Catholicism and their belief in the final destiny of the soul after death. Therefore, Protestants trying to convert Catholics to Protestant Christianity should not be called anti-Catholics because Catholics who also hoped to convert Protestants should not be called anti-Protestantism. If he wrote in statements like this then analyzing this book would not have been so difficult and have been an easier read.
However, a strength Pinheiro shows is that I do believe he did proper research before writing this book because he has good amounts of quotes and cited statements to back up his writing without it feeling like he is just fluffing up his work. “Beecher called on all true republicans and Protestants to end their complacency and accomplish two goals: stop Catholic immigration through legislation and establish Protestant schools and churches in the west
8” (21). There are many statements similar to this one throughout the book that are cited which show that he is giving credit for his research to the people that deserve it.
But at the same time another weakness I found is there were some statements that I feel he did not give proper credit to or seemed like he just put there for the sake of placement. For example, “The vast majority of strident anti-Catholics were “evangelical Protestants,” a group one historian calls “the principle subculture in antebellum America” (5). I believe that if he is going to make a statement like this that he should put the name of the historian to make it sound more credible and not like he is making this up. Thankfully there are not too many statements throughout Missionaries of Republicanism similar to this because if there were then I would not find Pinheiro and the purpose of this book as credible.
Another strength I found is I do believe that Pinheiro did a good job at going in chronological order without making it seem like you are reading a timeline with just facts underneath a date. Instead of naming every chapter a new date, such as 1834-1836, he named every chapter title the topic of what he would be speaking about while still writing in chronological order of the events going on at that time. It is a smart idea because if they were all just titled dates then it would feel as if one is reading a history book.
I would recommend this book to someone who is interested in religion and the United States presidency or someone that takes interest in history or at least is interested with the Mexican-American War. I would tell them that it is a tough read at first but it does get better once you get past the introduction. The introduction can scare some people off, myself included, because it is very complex, wordy, and somewhat confusing but once one gets into the chapters the read does get easier but I still would not call it an easy read. The lowest age level I would recommend Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War to is to those in their Junior or Senior year of high school but even then they would have to have a very advanced level of reading and understanding of what is being written. It is very interesting as I had not been too familiar with the Mexican-American War and its tie with religion so it was a nice insight to the religious background of that event and the religious ties of the Americas at that time. I love learning about the transition of America from past to present. I believe that the aim of the book was to educate the readers on the events of this timeline and I believe that Pinheiro achieved that. Additionally, I do believe that this book adequately addresses some aspects of the relationship between religion and the United States presidency.
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