The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Public Confession in America

The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Public Confession in America

by Susan Wise Bauer
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Princeton University Press
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The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Public Confession in America

Whether you are a politician caught carrying on with an intern or a minister photographed with a prostitute, discovery does not necessarily spell the end of your public career. Admit your sins carefully, using the essential elements of an evangelical confession identified by Susan Wise Bauer in The Art of the Public Grovel, and you, like Bill Clinton, just might survive.

In this fascinating and important history of public confession in modern America, Bauer explains why and how a type of confession that first arose among nineteenth-century evangelicals has today become the required form for any successful public admission of wrongdoing—even when the wrongdoer has no connection with evangelicalism and the context is thoroughly secular. She shows how Protestant revivalism, group psychotherapy, and the advent of talk TV combined to turn evangelical-style confession into a mainstream secular rite. Those who master the form—Bill Clinton, Jimmy Swaggart, David Vitter, and Ted Haggard—have a chance of surviving and even thriving, while those who don't—Ted Kennedy, Jim Bakker, Cardinal Bernard Law, Mark Foley, and Eliot Spitzer—will never really recover.

Revealing the rhetoric, theology, and history that lie behind every successful public plea for forgiveness, The Art of the Public Grovel will interest anyone who has ever wondered why Clinton is still popular while Bakker fell out of public view, Ted Kennedy never got to be president, and Law moved to Rome.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691138107
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 08/18/2008
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 9.18(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.93(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgements xi

Introduction: From Private to Public Confession 1

Part I: The Shift toward Public Confession

Chapter 1: Grover the Good, Belshazzar Blaine, and the Rapacious Woman 11

Chapter 2: In the Presence of the Elect (With the World Looking On) 22

Chapter 3: Aimee Sample McPherson and the Devil 38

Chapter 4: Confession Goes Public 56

Chapter 5: Ted Kennedy Misreads His Public 76

Part II: The Age of Public Confession

Chapter 6: Jimmy Carter, Traitor to the Cause 97

Chapter 7: Jim Bakker Shoots His Allies 115

Chapter 8: Jimmy Swaggart's Model Confession 143

Chapter 9: Clinton and the Three Public Confessions 152

Chapter 10: Unaware of Change 183

Conclusion: Predictions 207

Appendixes: The Texts of the Confessions Appendix A: Edward Kennedy's Confession 221

Appendix B: Jimmy Carter's Confession of "Lust in My Heart" 225

Appendix C: Jim Bakker's Original Confession 228

Appendix D: Jimmy Swaggart's Sermon of Confession 235

Appendix E: President Clinton's Statements and Confessions 240

Appendix F: Bernard Law's Apologies 265

Notes 287

Works Cited 315

Permissions for the Texts 323

Index 325

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