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The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

National polls show that approximately 50 million adult Americans are born-again Christians. Yet most Americans see their culture as secular, and the United States is viewed around the world as a secular nation. Further, intellectuals and journalists often portray born-again Christians, despite their numbers, as outsiders who endanger public life. But is American culture really so neatly split between the religious and the secular? Is America as "modern" and is born-again Christian religious belief as "pre-modern" as many think?

In the 1980s, born-again Christians burst into the political arena with stunning force. Gone was the image of "old-fashioned" fundamentalism and its anti-worldly, separatist philosophy. Under the leadership of the Reverend Jerry Falwell and allied preachers, millions broke taboos in place since the Scopes trial constraining their interaction with the public world. They claimed new cultural territory and refashioned themselves in the public arena. Here was a dynamic body of activists with an evangelical vision of social justice, organized under the rubric of the "Moral Majority."

Susan Harding, a cultural anthropologist, set out in the 1980s to understand the significance of this new cultural movement. The result, this long-awaited book, presents the most original and thorough examination of Christian fundamentalism to date. Falwell and his co-pastors were the pivotal figures in the movement. It is on them that Harding focuses, and, in particular, their use of the Bible's language. She argues that this language is the medium through which born-again Christians, individual and collective, come to understand themselves as Christians. And it is inside this language that much of the born-again movement took place. Preachers like Falwell command a Bible-based poetics of great complexity, variety, creativity, and force, and, with it, attempt to mold their churches into living testaments of the Bible. Harding focuses on the words--sermons, speeches, books, audiotapes, and television broadcasts--of individual preachers, particularly Falwell, as they rewrote their Bible-based tradition to include, rather than exclude, intense worldly engagement. As a result of these efforts, born-again Christians recast themselves as a people not separated from but engaged in making history. The Book of Jerry Falwell is a fascinating work of cultural analysis, a rare account that takes fundamentalist Christianity on its own terms and deepens our understanding of both religion and the modern world.

Synopsis:

"The Book of Jerry Falwell is a brilliant and fascinating account of how the Reverend Jerry Falwell and his colleagues changed the face of Protestant fundamentalism in the United States in the 1980s. Sensitive and sophisticated, it challenges conventional wisdom about the Christian right and makes the world of fundamentalist believers available to the rest of us. Harding is an original thinker, and, along the way, she gives us new insights into the power of rhetoric and the way it creates the world for us all."--Frances Fitzgerald, author of Cities on a Hill

"Few social scientists understand the power of language as well as Susan Harding does. And nobody has done a better job of investigating the language of fundamentalists. The Book of Jerry Falwell will jar its readers again and again--from its thought-provoking title to Harding's account of Falwell's controversial fund-raising techniques to her own 'encounter' with the holy spirit. Just when scholars thought they had put the wraps on fundamentalism and relegated Falwell's Moral Majority to the archives, Harding asks us to reconsider. This is a book that demands (and will surely generate) widespread debate."--Robert Wuthnow, author of After Heaven: Spirituality in American Since the 1950s

"Susan Harding's Book of Jerry Falwell tells the fabulous tale of Falwell's empire building and the rise of the moral majority in the 1980s through a densely textured ethnographic reading of people, institutions, media, and events. Here biblical language is profoundly generative, living, and political. The book is a model of cultural theory and critique as it shows how seemingly opposed movements in history such as fundamentalism and secular modernity are, in fact, mutually constituting and that the critic sees this only by standing in the gap-entering their force fields yet resisting conversion."--Kathleen Stewart, University of Texas, Austin

Synopsis:

National polls show that approximately 50 million adult Americans are born-again Christians. Yet most Americans see their culture as secular, and the United States is viewed around the world as a secular nation. Further, intellectuals and journalists often portray born-again Christians, despite their numbers, as outsiders who endanger public life. But is American culture really so neatly split between the religious and the secular? Is America as "modern" and is born-again Christian religious belief as "pre-modern" as many think?

In the 1980s, born-again Christians burst into the political arena with stunning force. Gone was the image of "old-fashioned" fundamentalism and its anti-worldly, separatist philosophy. Under the leadership of the Reverend Jerry Falwell and allied preachers, millions broke taboos in place since the Scopes trial constraining their interaction with the public world. They claimed new cultural territory and refashioned themselves in the public arena. Here was a dynamic body of activists with an evangelical vision of social justice, organized under the rubric of the "Moral Majority."

Susan Harding, a cultural anthropologist, set out in the 1980s to understand the significance of this new cultural movement. The result, this long-awaited book, presents the most original and thorough examination of Christian fundamentalism to date. Falwell and his co-pastors were the pivotal figures in the movement. It is on them that Harding focuses, and, in particular, their use of the Bible's language. She argues that this language is the medium through which born-again Christians, individual and collective, come to understand themselves as Christians. And it is inside this language that much of the born-again movement took place. Preachers like Falwell command a Bible-based poetics of great complexity, variety, creativity, and force, and, with it, attempt to mold their churches into living testaments of the Bible. Harding focuses on the words--sermons, speeches, books, audiotapes, and television broadcasts--of individual preachers, particularly Falwell, as they rewrote their Bible-based tradition to include, rather than exclude, intense worldly engagement. As a result of these efforts, born-again Christians recast themselves as a people not separated from but engaged in making history. The Book of Jerry Falwell is a fascinating work of cultural analysis, a rare account that takes fundamentalist Christianity on its own terms and deepens our understanding of both religion and the modern world.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments ix

A Guide to Terms xv

INTRODUCTION Standing in the Gaps 3

PART ONE RITES OF ORIGIN 31

CHAPTER ONE Speaking Is Believing 33

CHAPTER TWO Fundamentalist Exile 61

PART TWO SITES OF REVISION 83

CHAPTER THREE The Art ofJerry Falwell 85

CHAPTER FOUR Sacrificial EconormIcs 105

CHAPTER FIVE Cultural Exodus 125

CHAPTER SIX The Moral Majority jeremiad 153

CHAPTER SEVEN The Pro-Life Gospel 183

CHAPTER EIGHT The Creation Museum 210

CHAPTER NINE The Last Days 228

CHAPTER TEN The Born-Again Telescandals 247

Postscript 270

Appendix A Thomas Road Baptist Church Statement of doctrine 277

Appendix B Sources of Jerry Falwell's Sermons 280

Notes to the Chapters 283

Bibliography 313

Credits 329

Index 331

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691089584
Author:
Harding, Susan Friend
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton, N.J.
Subject:
Rhetoric
Subject:
Anthropology - Cultural
Subject:
Language and languages
Subject:
Sociology of Religion
Subject:
Fundamentalism
Subject:
Christianity - History - Protestant
Subject:
Religion
Subject:
American history
Subject:
American Language and Literature
Subject:
Anthropology
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
American literature
Subject:
Religion Western-Social and Political Issues
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
1
Publication Date:
July 2001
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Illustrations:
10 halftones
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 17 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
Reference » Rhetoric
Religion » Christianity » Church History » General
Religion » Christianity » Evangelical
Religion » Christianity » General
Religion » Christianity » Miscellaneous Denominations
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Religion » Western Religions » Social and Political Issues
Science and Mathematics » Physics » General

The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics New Trade Paper
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Product details 352 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691089584 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "The Book of Jerry Falwell is a brilliant and fascinating account of how the Reverend Jerry Falwell and his colleagues changed the face of Protestant fundamentalism in the United States in the 1980s. Sensitive and sophisticated, it challenges conventional wisdom about the Christian right and makes the world of fundamentalist believers available to the rest of us. Harding is an original thinker, and, along the way, she gives us new insights into the power of rhetoric and the way it creates the world for us all."--Frances Fitzgerald, author of Cities on a Hill

"Few social scientists understand the power of language as well as Susan Harding does. And nobody has done a better job of investigating the language of fundamentalists. The Book of Jerry Falwell will jar its readers again and again--from its thought-provoking title to Harding's account of Falwell's controversial fund-raising techniques to her own 'encounter' with the holy spirit. Just when scholars thought they had put the wraps on fundamentalism and relegated Falwell's Moral Majority to the archives, Harding asks us to reconsider. This is a book that demands (and will surely generate) widespread debate."--Robert Wuthnow, author of After Heaven: Spirituality in American Since the 1950s

"Susan Harding's Book of Jerry Falwell tells the fabulous tale of Falwell's empire building and the rise of the moral majority in the 1980s through a densely textured ethnographic reading of people, institutions, media, and events. Here biblical language is profoundly generative, living, and political. The book is a model of cultural theory and critique as it shows how seemingly opposed movements in history such as fundamentalism and secular modernity are, in fact, mutually constituting and that the critic sees this only by standing in the gap-entering their force fields yet resisting conversion."--Kathleen Stewart, University of Texas, Austin

"Synopsis" by , National polls show that approximately 50 million adult Americans are born-again Christians. Yet most Americans see their culture as secular, and the United States is viewed around the world as a secular nation. Further, intellectuals and journalists often portray born-again Christians, despite their numbers, as outsiders who endanger public life. But is American culture really so neatly split between the religious and the secular? Is America as "modern" and is born-again Christian religious belief as "pre-modern" as many think?

In the 1980s, born-again Christians burst into the political arena with stunning force. Gone was the image of "old-fashioned" fundamentalism and its anti-worldly, separatist philosophy. Under the leadership of the Reverend Jerry Falwell and allied preachers, millions broke taboos in place since the Scopes trial constraining their interaction with the public world. They claimed new cultural territory and refashioned themselves in the public arena. Here was a dynamic body of activists with an evangelical vision of social justice, organized under the rubric of the "Moral Majority."

Susan Harding, a cultural anthropologist, set out in the 1980s to understand the significance of this new cultural movement. The result, this long-awaited book, presents the most original and thorough examination of Christian fundamentalism to date. Falwell and his co-pastors were the pivotal figures in the movement. It is on them that Harding focuses, and, in particular, their use of the Bible's language. She argues that this language is the medium through which born-again Christians, individual and collective, come to understand themselves as Christians. And it is inside this language that much of the born-again movement took place. Preachers like Falwell command a Bible-based poetics of great complexity, variety, creativity, and force, and, with it, attempt to mold their churches into living testaments of the Bible. Harding focuses on the words--sermons, speeches, books, audiotapes, and television broadcasts--of individual preachers, particularly Falwell, as they rewrote their Bible-based tradition to include, rather than exclude, intense worldly engagement. As a result of these efforts, born-again Christians recast themselves as a people not separated from but engaged in making history. The Book of Jerry Falwell is a fascinating work of cultural analysis, a rare account that takes fundamentalist Christianity on its own terms and deepens our understanding of both religion and the modern world.

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