Item description for The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics. by Susan Friend Harding...
Overview Examines the 1980s resurgence in born-again Christianity, trends in contemporary Christian fundamentalism, and the role played by Reverend Jerry Falwell and his associates, focusing on how Falwell used biblical language to inspire and transform his followers. Reprint.
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.
Citations And Professional Reviews The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics. by Susan Friend Harding has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Christian Century - 11/21/2001 page 36
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Studio: Princeton University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.24" Width: 6.1" Height: 0.88" Weight: 1.1 lbs.
Release Date Jul 22, 2001
Publisher Princeton University Press
ISBN 0691089582 ISBN13 9780691089584
Reviews - What do customers think about The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics.?
A good mix of history and cultural study Aug 15, 2004
This book offers a survey of Fundamentalist politics from the perspective of the fundamentalist leader Jerry Falwell. Harding weaves together historical analysis with anthropological commentary whilst also letting the subjects speak for themselves through the inclusion of lengthy quotes from fundamentalist preachers.
One of Harding's main comments is on the often misunderstood rehetorics of fundamentalist political language and she explains how they what fundamentalists hear when Falwell speaks is often different to how other hear the same words. The book is divided into chapters (obviously!) with each dealing with a different topic (eg abortion, creationism etc). The strength of this book is that it gives a context through fundamentalist history of contemporary positions. The end result is a very readable fairminded glimpse into the different world that is christian fundamentalist politcs and one that is recommended for those interested in the subject.
My one major criticism is that their is often a lack of theological grasp of some of the issues involved which of course you cannot particularly blame Harding for (she is an anthropologist). This is a book that would have benefitted from a co-author (Mark Noll immediately springs to mind).
Overall though this is definitely recommended.
Fascinating Nov 30, 2002
Harding does not attempt an expose, per se, although readers will be disturbed, perplexed and perhaps shocked by some of this book. For her research, the author immersed herself in the world of evangelical fundamentalism, getting to know the people, even becoming (in a sense) an insider herself. The fruit of her time is The Book of Jerry Falwell, an exploration of the way words are used in the fundamentalist "subculture" (though I am not sure if this is a designation Harding herself uses), specifically in the ministry of one of modern fundamentalism's key figures, televangelist Jerry Falwell.
The author's analysis rings true to life, for over the course of the past couple of years I have been on a pilgrimage away from my fundamentalist past, and can identify with many of her observations. For example, nowadays in conversation with fundamentalists I find I have to adapt my language and way of thinking to their language and way of thinking. When I have connected my worldview (still Christian, just not fundamentalist) to theirs, I can start to understand. Similarly, I find myself having to suspend my own mental system when talking to my new-age friends, and learn how words work in the world they inhabit. For this reason, Harding's perceptive commentary on fundamentalist political and religious speech resonates with my own perceptions, and thus emerges as fascinating, incisive and authentic.
Inside Jerry Falwell Oct 3, 2001
In light of Rev. Falwell's unfortunate comments about the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, I recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand, "Why would that guy say that stuff?" Harding presents an objective, intelligent, perceptive analysis of the way that Fundamentalist language shapes the way in which they relate to the world, and how Jerry Falwell changed that shaping from withdrawal to the active Moral Majority of the 1980s. Harding combs through Falwell's history and sermons to observe how the language of "being born again" affects the listener, showing Falwell's shift from separatism to political activism. She critiques both Falwell and Falwell's critics in a fair and keenly insightful way. Good reading and good understanding.
A Good Start to a Rich and Rewarding Subject May 9, 2000
One of the biggest insults I ever received was from a friend who thought he was saying something good about me, telling me, as if I'd broken some law of mutual exclusivity, I was both a Christian and an intellectual. I was an intellectual first, and had a born-again experience -- and my first real prayer offered to a God I scarcely knew included the phrase that, though I would follow Christ, I would not become one of those "nutty religious-righters". My first lesson as a Christian: you don't dictate terms to God. Now people who meet me with no exposition to my life tend to stereotype me pretty quickly, because the last firewall of the bigot in the USA is that against Christians. Increasingly at the end of the twentieth and dawn of the twenty-first century after Christ, "extremists" are defined as those who seem to actually believe what they profess to believe; and to believe fervently is the mark of a cultist, and probably a threat to society; and Christians are thought and written about, though not yet so mercilessly, in the same sort of ways that Jews were toward the end of the nineteenth century. Yet if God offered revelation to the Jews, not only of God's nature ("I Am That I Am") and of man's fall from Grace, and God came as a Jew in Jesus as sacrifice for our sins, and Christ rose from the dead to prove His power, one cannot be half-hearted in clinging to that salvation, though accepting it does not make one perfect. Throughout Christian history there has been an ebb and flow. At certain periods -- the twelfth century, the sixteenth, and the twentieth, for instance -- many Christians see their faith as becoming too worldly and corrupted and there was an impulse to go back to roots, to fundamentals, and rebuild as if from scratch the Church's relationship with God. Such an impulse drove modern "fundamentalism", a nebulous term that is increasingly being defined by those who would eradicate it. As in the twelfth century, when there was a rise of monasticism to separate the Church from society, in the twentieth century the impulse was pretty sedate. But in the 1970s many "fundamentalists" and evangelicals became increasingly politically active to join the increasingly complex marketplace of ideas, so that Christ wouldn't be lost in the babble of modern plurality. Dodging from one party to the next, first with the Democrats and Jimmy Carter, they were not isolated as enemies until they supported Ronald Reagan, when the intellecutal elite, to use an idea of Solzhenitsyn's, in the academic, artistic, and media communities began scapgoating Christian fundamentalists. The biggest scapegoats were the perceived leaders, the most famous (or infamous) being Jerry Falwell, whose name, in a wacky sort of way, became synonymous with intolerance and extremism. Because of media conditioning Christian fundamentalists (in precis: those who actually believe what they profess, and live that seven days a week and not just an hour on Sunday) have been perceived as easily-manipulated rubes, a nuisance rather than a subject for academic attention. However, just as people cannot be categorized simply by reference to their race, gender, or nationality, Christian fundamentalists cannot be put in a jar and labelled, for they come from all walks of life and all degrees of learning and intelligence. Though we hate to feel we're living under a microscope, there is some small glimmer of hope that this book will help to raise understanding and a level of tolerance toward fundamentalists, before society has to have the jolt it had to have tolerance for the Jews after World War II.
Well-Written and Researched Apr 3, 2000
This was a very readable study of an otherwise complex subject matter. In spite of all the names and dates interspersed, it did not detract from the flow of the narrative. I appreciated the endnotes to substantiate the author's facts. This is definitely one of the more better books printed on this controversial historical subject matter.