Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture

Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture
Heather Hendershot
University of Chicago Press, 2004

In 1999, the Reverend Jerry Falwell outed Tinky-Winky, the purple character from TV’s Teletubbies. Events such as this reinforced in many quarters the common idea that evangelicals are reactionary, out of touch, and just plain paranoid. But reducing evangelicals to such caricatures does not help us understand their true spiritual and political agendas and the means they use to advance them. Shaking the World for Jesus moves beyond sensationalism to consider how the evangelical movement has effectively targeted Americans—as both converts and consumers—since the 1970s.

Thousands of products promoting the Christian faith are sold to millions of consumers each year through the Web, mail order catalogs, and even national chains such as Kmart and Wal-Mart. Heather Hendershot explores in this book the vast industry of film, video, magazines, and kitsch that evangelicals use to spread their message. Focusing on the center of conservative evangelical culture—the white, middle-class Americans who can afford to buy “Christian lifestyle” products—she examines the industrial history of evangelist media, the curious subtleties of the products themselves, and their success in the religious and secular marketplace.

To garner a wider audience, Hendershot argues, evangelicals have had to carefully temper their message. But in so doing, they have painted themselves into a corner. In the postwar years, evangelical media wore the message of salvation on its sleeve, but as the evangelical media industry has grown, many of its most popular products have been those with heavily diluted Christian messages. In the eyes of many followers, the evangelicals who purvey such products are sellouts—hucksters more interested in making money than spreading the word of God.

For sale at University of Chicago Press.

About Heather Hendershot

Heather Hendershot studies TV news, conservative media, political movements, and American film and television history. She has held fellowships at Vassar College, New York University, Princeton, Harvard, Radcliffe, and Stanford, and she has also been a Guggenheim fellow. Her courses emphasize the interplay between creative, political, and regulatory concerns and how those concerns affect what we see on the screen (big or little). Students are encouraged to consider the ways that TV and film writers, directors, and producers have attempted innovation while working within an industry that demands novelty but also often fears new approaches to character and narrative. Hendershot is the editor of Nickelodeon Nation: The History Politics and Economics of America’s Only TV Channel for Kids (2004) and the author of Saturday Morning Censors: Television Regulation before the V-Chip (1998), Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture (2004), What's Fair on the Air? Cold War Right-Wing Broadcasting and the Public Interest (2011), and Open to Debate: How William F. Buckley Put Liberal America on the Firing Line (2016). For five years she was the editor of Cinema Journal, the official publication of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Her latest book—When the News Broke: Chicago 1968 and the Polarizing of America—is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in fall 2022.

 
 

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