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Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism

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Overview


Conservative evangelicalism has transformed American politics, disseminating a sometimes fearful message not just through conventional channels, but through subcultures and alternate modes of communication. Within this world is a "Religion of Fear," a critical impulse that dramatizes cultural and political conflicts and issues in frightening ways that serve to contrast "orthodox" behaviors and beliefs with those linked to darkness, fear, and demonology. Jason Bivins offers close examinations of several popular evangelical cultural creations including the Left Behind novels, church-sponsored Halloween "Hell Houses," sensational comic books, especially those disseminated by Jack Chick, and anti-rock and -rap rhetoric and censorship. Bivins depicts these fascinating and often troubling phenomena in vivid (sometimes lurid) detail and shows how they seek to shape evangelical cultural identity.

As the "Religion of Fear" has developed since the 1960s, Bivins sees its message moving from a place of relative marginality to one of prominence. What does it say about American public life that such ideas of fearful religion and violent politics have become normalized? Addressing this question, Bivins establishes links and resonances between the cultural politics of evangelical pop, the activism of the New Christian Right, and the political exhaustion facing American democracy.

Religion of Fear is a significant contribution to our understanding of the new shapes of political religion in the United States, of American evangelicalism, of the relation of religion and the media, and the link between religious pop culture and politics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Jason Bivins takes readers on an engaging but unsettling tour of 'the dark corners and sub-basements of American culture,' from Hell Houses to comic books, and along the way we learn a great deal about religion and politics in the United States. Indispensable for those interested in popular culture and conservative evangelicalism." --Thomas A. Tweed, author of Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion

"In this fine work of critical cultural analysis, Bivins finds the anxious heart of modern conservative evangelicalism in the United States, showing that fear, powerfully nurtured and exacerbated, has been a potent energizer of Christian public activism. This is a dark but necessary story. Democracy always has its demons, and it is best we know their names. This is a sharp work of social and religious analysis that deserves to be widely read." --Robert Orsi, Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies, Northwestern University

"Jason Bivins takes us on a fantastic tour of Christian Right efforts to -- quite literally -- scare the hell out of true believers. Along the way, Religion of Fear reveals edgy new ways of drawing the age-old line between a righteous us and a sinful them. Lucid, graceful, fun, and disquieting." --James Morone, author of Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History and coeditor of Healthy, Wealthy and Fair

"Well-written and clearly argued, Religion of Fear makes a major contribution to the study of religion in American culture. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above; general readers." --Choice

"Adroit and theoretically sophisticated... Bivins has offered a theoretically astute interpretive framework that is relevant for the analysis of far more than the particular examples to which he masterfully applies it in this book. Religion of Fear is a persuasive study in its own right, but it also offers critical tools for understanding our contemporary religio-political situation. In addition, it provides a compelling argument for attempting to do so. I recommend this book very highly, and I hope it acquires the rich and idverse readership within the academy and beyond that it clearly deserves." --Journal of the American Academy of Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195340815
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/29/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jason C. Bivins is Associate Professor of Religion at North Carolina State University and the author of The Fracture of Good Order: Christian Antiliberalism and the Challenge to American Politics. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

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Table of Contents

1 Scary Jesus: Locating the "Religion of Fear" in Conservative Evangelicalism 3

2 "A Common Thrill": Evangelicalism and the Culture of Fear 23

3 "Jesus Was Not a Weak Fairy": Chick Tracts and the Visual Culture of Evangelical Fear 41

4 "Runnin' with the Devil": Conservative Evangelical Fear and Popular Music 89

5 "Shake 'Em to Wake 'Em": Hell Houses and the Conservative Evangelical Theater of Horror 129

6 "Already Decided and Carrying a Weapon!" The Political Terrors of Being Left Behind 169

7 "Like Beating the Dog": Fear, Religion, and American Democracy 213

Notes 237

Bibliography 283

Index 303

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