Bible-Carrying Christians: Conservative Protestants and Social Power

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In the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of Protestant churches whose members habitually carry their Bibles with them. These churches—often referred to as "evangelical" or "fundamentalist"—play a crucial role in shaping American society. In this book, David Watt draws on years of fieldwork to present an elegant reinterpretation of the way that conservative Protestants influence American politics and culture. At the heart of the book is a sympathetic, but far from uncritical, analysis of those forms of social power that are assumed to be natural among Bible-carrying Christians. While outsiders often presuppose that evangelical Christians take for granted the authority of certain institutions (among them the American state, corporations, ministers, men, and heterosexuals), Watt argues that the reality is far more complex. This is a concise and lively book that sheds new light on the way that Bible-carrying Christians influence the way that people in America think—and avoid thinking—about social power.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"These descriptive analyses are eminently readable. Watt presents an elegant reinterpretation of the way that conservative Protestants influence American politics and culture...The portrait that emerges is far more compelling than standard depictions of conservative American Protestants."—Journal of the International Society of Bible Collectors

"David Watt's intensely personal engagement with bible-carrying Christians transforms our understanding of their churches by his sensitive exploration of the diverse ways in which these groups understand and make use of the Bible. His book illuminates brilliantly the vital issues of patriarchy, feminism, gender, sexuality, and politics in these very different contexts."—Philip Greven, author of Spare the Child

"While the cultural studies movement has given us good accounts of the workings of power in many contemporary social institutions and cultural formations, it has largely failed to concern itself with the relationship between religious practices and social power. When it has done so, the studies have too often been artless, polemical, and predicable. In sharp contrast, Watt's compelling account of Bible-carrying Christians is a subtle and intelligent analysis of the norms and practices of 'conservative' Protestants in the contemporary United States. Highly readable and theoretically sophisticated, this book will interest (and surprise) many who have no prior interest in American Evangelicalism."—Christina Crosby, Wesleyan University

"At a time of growing interest in ethnographic studies in American religion, David Watt offers us a compelling, self-reflective, theoretically informed study of three Philadelphia congregations. This is a welcome addition to the emerging literature on lived religion."—Robert A. Orsi, Harvard University

"David Watt's Bible-Carrying Christians reveals anew why the practice of ethnography is transforming the way we think about religion in the United States. Edgy, disconcerting, provocative, archly self-aware, Watt's ethnography examines without flinching the asymmetries of power that stratify Christian communities and the nation. It is a profound testament of scholarly candor and engagement."—Leigh Eric Schmidt, Princeton University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195068344
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/14/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1. Fieldwork
2. Philadelphia
3. Social Power
4. Oak Grove Church
5. The Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship
6. The Philadelphia Church of Christ

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