Big Religion: The Cultural Origins of the American Megachurch
Richardson, Kip Carroll
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CitationRichardson, Kip Carroll. 2017. Big Religion: The Cultural Origins of the American Megachurch. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
Abstract“Big Religion: The Cultural Origins of the American Megachurch” narrates the complex historical genealogy of the “megachurch,” the ubiquitous congregational model that now dominates the practice of contemporary evangelical Protestantism. I interpret these congregations as the culminating expression of a longstanding set of debates within American Protestantism over the theological significance of size, scale, growth, material expansion, and numerical quantification. Tacking between the particularity of churchly context and the formation of wider patterns, this project charts the intellectual, social, and material channels through which congregational “bigness” was transformed from a spiritual danger into a theological mandate. Each chapter explores one of the many instantiations of this growth imperative within the American evangelical tradition: the “popular” preaching churches of the Gilded Age; the “institutional” architectures of the social gospel evangelicals; the revivalist tabernacle worship of the fundamentalists and Southern Baptists; and the novel creedal trajectories represented by wonderworking Pentecostals, undenominational Baptists, and positive-thinking Protestants. Throughout, I provide a culturally contextualized reading of these evangelical ecclesiologies, seeking to show their developmental ties to the American culture of celebrity and mediation, its capitalist imaginaries, its racial and gendered formations, and its politics of secularism.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41142036
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