Worthen, Molly. 2014. Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. Oxford University Press.
The role of ideas for collective action has long been regarded as central to the study of social movements. However, the focus fluctuates between implicit and explicit discussions. This vacillation is complicated by the fact that, at times, ideology has been perceived as a derogatory component only advanced by religious, social, or political extremists (Oliver and Johnston 2000; Kniss and Burns 2004). Too often, when scholars attempt to distinguish the role ideology plays in movement mobilization and potentially factionalism, it gets reduced to artificially simple and coherent sets of ideas that necessarily unite members. Yet, ideologies center on cognitive, emotional, and morally charged experiences for individuals and groups as they are localized and constructed in response to varied knowledge and conditions; it’s the very stuff that we have stakes in for understanding any social movement (Williams and Platt 2002). In light of this, then, ideological production and negotiation are vital to examine, as they point to how movements choose among alternative courses of action.
Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism by Molly Worthen takes up a history of ideas and institutions that undergird the twentieth century evangelical movement in the United States. Tracing the core act of ideas and thinking—judgment, reasoning, making connections—Worthen elaborates upon the evangelical “imagination” challenging readers to not just view it as a singular mindset. Continue reading
Hallelujah Acres is a health ministry and social movement aimed at evangelical Christians in the United States. The organization encourages an alternative to conventional medicine and to the standard American diet (which they call “SAD”). Hallelujah Acres advocates a vegan, raw foods diet (food is not heated above 115°F) as God’s plan for perfect eating and as a curative treatment for most illnesses and diseases. My research shows that, for the most part, believers turn to Hallelujah Acres when conventional medicine fails to cure their ailments and that belonging to the Hallelujah Acres community affirms a sense of distinction and moral superiority that resembles evangelical ideology generally.[i] This essay explores how the group demonizes and criminalizes conventional medicine in order to present the Hallelujah Diet as medically and scientifically superior. Continue reading
The relationship between science and religion is often divided into ideal types. John Hedley Brook proposed conflict, separation, and interaction (1991: 2-4) while Ian Barbour suggested conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration (1997: 77). Stephen Jay Gould developed the concept of “non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA), in which “each domain of inquiry frames its own rules and admissible questions, and sets its own criteria for judgment and resolution” (1999: 52-53). In contrast to the new atheists’ belligerent insistence on conflict (e.g. Dawkins 2008; Harris 2008), the vast majority of writings about science and religion tend to fall within these lines of conciliation, whether via separation or some form of amalgamation. Discussions of the conflict thesis often draw a parallel between religious fundamentalists who draw scientific data from religious texts and those practitioners of “scientism,” who develop (not falsifiable) metaphysical and ontological commitments out of falsifiable scientific evidence (Midgley 2002 ; Barbour 1997: 78-84). Yet these groups are not entirely parallel, as the latter certainly acknowledges and seeks to exacerbate the conflict while the former insists that, if understood correctly, there is actually no conflict at all. Continue reading
Courtesy of the Occupy movement, journalists and social critics in the past year have been talking a great deal more than before about a stark divide between the super-rich and the ninety-nine percent. For religious or religiously literate people it is hardly a new topic. We might suppose that in the U.S., today’s mainline Protestant inheritors of the late-nineteenth century social gospel have powerful theological resources for thinking about the growing economic divide and its effects on the social fabric. Mainline Protestant denominations are the ones more likely than their theologically conservative Protestant counterparts to affirm efforts to change the social world rather than see social change as a distraction from personal piety focused on the next world. Theologically liberal Protestantism, strong in Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist and Congregationalist traditions in the U.S., do not lack for text on economic justice or the primacy of people, and God, over profits.[i] Yet it is not clear that the politically progressive voices of mainline Protestants are prominent in America’s vexed, current conversation about money and power. Continue reading