In Tornado God: American Religion and Violent Weather (Oxford UP, 2020), Peter J. Thuesen links the “numinous” religious experiences of Americans as they experienced the uniquely destructive weather phenomenon of the tornado. Thuesen shows how the weather has shaped theological dialogue in America since the colonial era. New England Congregational ministers such as Cotton Mather developed doctrines of providence as they grappled with the underlying meaning and randomness of violent weather events. Thuesen compellingly shows how, “in the tornado, Americans experience something that is at once culturally peculiar (the indigenous storm of the national imagination) and religiously primal (the sense of awe before an unpredictable and mysterious power).” These questions of providence and weather are not simply historical events, however; they continue to shape the cultural debates over climate change. Thuesen’s book explores the mystery of the weather, and how Americans have made sense of these extreme events beyond their control.
Lane Davis is a doctoral candidate in the Graduate Program in Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University where he studies modern American religious history. You can follow him on Twitter @TheeLaneDavis.