The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics

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Overview

"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

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
Harding's central subject is the rhetoric of fundamentalism, the language of its persuasion. But she also explains how Falwell, and others like him, have brought the fundamentalist community into politics . . . Harding's headlong exuberance propels [the book] and carries us deep into the mind and heart of a subculture that is increasingly mainstream.
— Ronald D. Elving
Sociology of Religion
An eloquent and incisive study of religious fundamentalism in the United States. . . . [A] theoretically rich and highly original work.
— Jeremy Stolow
Christian Century
Harding's own mastery is on display throughout her book. . . . By the end . . . she has skillfully shown the myriad ways in which fundamentalist rhetoric created and transformed both the fundamentalist community itself and the wider American culture. Her work should be required reading not only for students of American religion, but for anyone who wishes to study sympathetically and fruitfully a different religious culture.
— Jonathan Moore
Journal of Religion
So much has been written about resurgent Christian fundamentalism that it is difficult to imagine that someone might find something fresh to say about it. Yet Susan Friend Harding gives us some amazing glimpses into contemporary fundamentalism's heart and soul. . . . [A] bold, artful, and largely convincing book.
— Joel Carpenter
The Christian Science Monitor
Harding has brought the finely tuned eyes and ears of an anthropologist to her research inside Falwell's fundamentalist Baptist community. Her analysis is incisive and empathetic.
— Linda L. Giedl
The Christian Science Monitor - Linda L. Giedl
Harding has brought the finely tuned eyes and ears of an anthropologist to her research inside Falwell's fundamentalist Baptist community. Her analysis is incisive and empathetic.
Washington Post - Ronald D. Elving
Harding's central subject is the rhetoric of fundamentalism, the language of its persuasion. But she also explains how Falwell, and others like him, have brought the fundamentalist community into politics . . . Harding's headlong exuberance propels [the book] and carries us deep into the mind and heart of a subculture that is increasingly mainstream.
Sociology of Religion - Jeremy Stolow
An eloquent and incisive study of religious fundamentalism in the United States. . . . [A] theoretically rich and highly original work.
Christian Century - Jonathan Moore
Harding's own mastery is on display throughout her book. . . . By the end . . . she has skillfully shown the myriad ways in which fundamentalist rhetoric created and transformed both the fundamentalist community itself and the wider American culture. Her work should be required reading not only for students of American religion, but for anyone who wishes to study sympathetically and fruitfully a different religious culture.
Journal of Religion - Joel Carpenter
So much has been written about resurgent Christian fundamentalism that it is difficult to imagine that someone might find something fresh to say about it. Yet Susan Friend Harding gives us some amazing glimpses into contemporary fundamentalism's heart and soul. . . . [A] bold, artful, and largely convincing book.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2001 Award for Excellence in Religious Studies in Analytical-Descriptive Studies, American Academy of Religion

Honorable Mention for the 2001 Cawelti Book Award, American Culture Association

Honorable Mention for the 2000 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Sociology and Anthropology, Association of American Publishers

"Harding has brought the finely tuned eyes and ears of an anthropologist to her research inside Falwell's fundamentalist Baptist community. Her analysis is incisive and empathetic."—Linda L. Giedl, The Christian Science Monitor

"This is a highly readable book. . . ."—Library Journal

"Harding's central subject is the rhetoric of fundamentalism, the language of its persuasion. But she also explains how Falwell, and others like him, have brought the fundamentalist community into politics . . . Harding's headlong exuberance propels [the book] and carries us deep into the mind and heart of a subculture that is increasingly mainstream."—Ronald D. Elving, Washington Post

"An eloquent and incisive study of religious fundamentalism in the United States. . . . [A] theoretically rich and highly original work."—Jeremy Stolow, Sociology of Religion

"Harding's own mastery is on display throughout her book. . . . By the end . . . she has skillfully shown the myriad ways in which fundamentalist rhetoric created and transformed both the fundamentalist community itself and the wider American culture. Her work should be required reading not only for students of American religion, but for anyone who wishes to study sympathetically and fruitfully a different religious culture."—Jonathan Moore, Christian Century

"So much has been written about resurgent Christian fundamentalism that it is difficult to imagine that someone might find something fresh to say about it. Yet Susan Friend Harding gives us some amazing glimpses into contemporary fundamentalism's heart and soul. . . . [A] bold, artful, and largely convincing book."—Joel Carpenter, Journal of Religion

Library Journal
In the early 1980s, Harding (anthropology, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) followed Jerry Falwell's rising Christian fundamentalist movement. Focusing on Falwell's subtle dance between American evangelicalism and Bible-based fundamentalism, she calls her study not theology but the vernacular of Bible believers. By interpreting sermons, speeches, direct mail, videos, and TV broadcasts, she labors to elucidate this "language of cultural ferment" that ultimately serves, through the personal witness of Falwell, to bring fundamentalism out from its separatist tendencies and into a political revolution to save America in the 1980s. This is a highly readable book, though Harding can be a tad defensive of Falwell. When the media lumps him with the "telescandals" of lesser evangelists, she hedges on the line between participant and observer. Still, she remains true to her post-structuralism agenda, finding in the rhetoric of Falwellian fundamentalism the catalyst for social change and political fervor. Recommended.--Sandra Collins, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Lib., Pittsburgh Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691089584
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/2/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.88 (d)

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

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