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Selling God : American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture - R. Laurence Moore

Selling God

American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture

Paperback Published: 13th July 1995
ISBN: 9780195098389
Number Of Pages: 336

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Religion in America is up for sale. The products range from a plethora of merchandise in questionable taste--such as Bible-based diet books (More of Jesus. Less of Me), Rapture T-shirts (one features a basketball game with half its players disappearing in the Rapture--the caption is "Fast Break"), and bumper stickers and Frisbees with inspirational messages--to the unabashed consumerism of Jim Bakker's Heritage USA, a grandiose Christian theme park with giant water slide, shopping mall, and office complex. We tend to think of these phenomena--which also include a long line of multimillionaire televangelists and the almost manic promotion of Christmas giving--as a fairly recent development. But as R. Laurence Moore points out in Selling God, religion has been deeply involved in our commercial culture since the beginning of the nineteenth century.
In a sweeping, colorful history that spans over two centuries of American culture, Moore examines the role of religion in the marketplace, revealing how religious leaders have borrowed (and invented) commercial practices to promote religion--and how business leaders have borrowed (and invented) religion to promote commerce. It is a book peopled by a fascinating roster of American originals, including showman P.T. Barnum and circuit rider Lorenzo Dow, painter Frederick Church and dime novelist Ned Buntline, Sylvester Graham (inventor of the Graham cracker) and the "Poughkeepsie Seer" Andrew Jackson Davis, film directors D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, Norman Vincent Peale and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Moore paints insightful portraits of figures such as Mason Locke Weems (Weems's marriage of aggressive marketing and a moral mission--in such bloody, violent tales as The Drunkard's Looking Glass or God's Revenge Against Adultery--was an important starting point of America's culture industry), religious orator George Whitefield (who transformed church services into mass entertainment, using his acting talents to enthrall vast throngs of people), and Dwight Moody, a former salesman for a boot-and-shoe operation who founded a religious empire centered on the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago (and who advertised his meetings in the entertainment pages of the newspaper). Moore also shows how the Mormons pioneered leisure activities (Brigham Young built the famed Salt Lake Theater, seating 1,500 people, months before work on the Tabernacle started), how Henry Ward Beecher helped the ardent Protestant became the consummate consumer (explicitly justifying the building of expensive mansions, and the collecting of art and antique furniture, as the proper tendencies of pious men), and how the First Amendment, in denying religious groups the status and financial solvency of a state church, forced them to compete in the marketplace for the attention of Americans: religious leaders could either give in to the sway of the market or watch their churches die.
Ranging from the rise of gymnasiums and "muscular Christianity," to the creation of the Chautauqua movement (blending devotional services with concerts, fireworks, bonfires, and humorous lectures), to Oral Robert's "Blessing Pacts" and L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology, Selling God provides both fascinating social history and an insightful look at religion in America.

Industry Reviews

"Moore's work will become the standard for scholars and students who are interested in the historic links between religion and commercial culture in America. Selling God compels us to take a new look at American religion."--Lewis Baldwin, Vanderbilt University "A fresh look at an ongoing problem which has fed secular confusion about the Church and its mission. Moore nails it!."--Glenn Thomas Carson, Charleston Southern University "A rather interesting book."--Gerald Michael Schnabel, Bemidji State University "A most wonderful book!"--Scott Gibson, Gordon-corwell Theological Seminary "Long overdue, stimulating thinking about secularization in America."--Mike Ascraft, Truman State University "Moore's work will become the standard for scholars and students who are interested in the historic links between religion and commercial culture in America. Selling God compels us to take a new look at American religion."--Lewis Baldwin, Vanderbilt University "A fresh look at an ongoing problem which has fed secular confusion about the Church and its mission. Moore nails it!."--Glenn Thomas Carson, Charleston Southern University "A rather interesting book."--Gerald Michael Schnabel, Bemidji State University "A most wonderful book!"--Scott Gibson, Gordon-corwell Theological Seminary "Long overdue, stimulating thinking about secularization in America."--Mike Ascraft, Truman State University "An interesting, informative, and well-written book with a fresh perspective."--John Carey, Agnes Scott College "This is a wonderful book, informative, provocative, and entertaining."-Richard Vinson, Averett College "It raises crucial questions about the prospects for transmitting religious traditions within capitalism. Highy recommended."--Religious Studies Review "This book is an excellent cultural history of the United States."--Missiology "If you are interested in the development of American culture or in religion especially religion as an economic entity, Selling God offers a provocative description with implications for the consumer movement. If you are curious about incorporating variables related to religion into your work, Moore's persuasive and complex history models a judicious and effective approach. Finally, if religion's current political power intrigues you, Moore provides insights into its history, economic strengths, sources of cultural appeal, and motivation."--The Journal of Consumer Affairs "This book shows that using religion as a tool of advertising -- and advertising as a tool of religion -- is a practice as old as capitalism itself."--he New York Times Book Review New & Noteworthy Paperback "Only in America was Christianity hawked as a 'bargain.' The astonishing results reach from the 1790s to the 1990s and are splendidly scrutinized in this subtle, discerning, and witty book. A real treat!"--Jon Butler, Yale University "A lively history--undisparaging, undogmatic, and unabashed--of how religious entrepreneurs have influenced popular culture by packaging pious products that satisfy many buyers."--John Higham, Johns Hopkins University "Helpful, well researched. Clearly written."--John N. Stewart, Princeton Theological Seminary "Moore's book makes an important new contribution to the secularization debate by parsing the secularity of religion in our time as its commodification."--Catherine L. Albanese, Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara "With keen intelligence, gentle wit, and a deep knowledge of U.S. cultural history, R. Laurence Moore explores the way religion has used market strategies, new technologies, and entertainment techniques to maintain its central role in American life. Selling God convincingly shows that the line between the sacred and the secular, in the U.S. context at least, is far hazier than we might like to think."--Paul Boyer, Merle Curti Professor of History and Director, Institute for Research in the Humanities "This is an interesting and readable book....This is a book that should be read widely--not because of its contribution to spirituality, but because of its different way of examining the place of evangelical Christianity in society."--Methodist Recorder

Selling Godp. 1
Introductionp. 2
Moral Sensationalism and Voracious Readers: Religious Strategies in the Antebellum Book Marketp. 12
the Spoken Word, Stage Performance, and the Profits of Religious Spectaclep. 40
the End of Religious Establishment and the Beginning of Religious Politics: the Parallel Rise of Churches and Political Partiesp. 66
Americans Learn to Play and Religion Learns to Let Themp. 90
the Market for Religious Controversyp. 118
Chautauqua and Its Protective Canopy: Religion, Entertainment, and Small-Town Protestantsp. 146
Selling Religion in the Workplace: Wage Earners and the Pressures of Marketed Moralityp. 172
Religious Advertising and Progressive Protestant Approaches to Mass Mediap. 204
Recent Market Entries: Contemporary Evangelicals and Purveyors of the New Agep. 238
Epiloguep. 266
Notesp. 277
Indexp. 311
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195098389
ISBN-10: 0195098382
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 13th July 1995
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 21.54 x 14.17  x 2.11
Weight (kg): 0.29

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