By What Authority? The Rise of Personality Cults in American by Richard Quebedeaux

By Richard Quebedeaux

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If Moody could couch the gospel message in the style of Harp­ er's Weekly, if Sunday could express it in the vernacular of the baseball field and the vaudeville stage, others would be able to deck the faith in the new fashions set by the communicators of Hollywood and Madison Avenue. 20 Hollywood Christian Group The centrality of the celebrity leader in the religion of mass culture in America clearly owes much to the historical example set by revival­ ism . Its particular accommodation to the sports industry can be traced back to Billy Sunday, who brought the baseball milieu to his revival campaign pulpit, and its growing association with the stars of the Hol­ lywood entertainment industry was pioneered by Aimee Semple McPherson .

Negative thinkers are bad, positive thinkers are good, and-as such--can expect to be prosperous . In principle, good or bad thinking is the only kind of good or evil there is. All moral references in any traditional sense, therefore, are lost. Not only has the religion of mass culture mentalized the Protestant work ethic, it has also "instrumentalized" faith itself and God himself. Popular religion has its own "how to do it" technology of salvation, its own techniques to change individuals and the world.

He reproduced the jerks of the camp meeting while those who watched were transfixed. At the end of his sermon, he was drenched with perspiration. S unday was a Presbyterian minister, but you'd never have known it. Staged in advance , his "familiar" style of discourse, the shirt-sleeved talk full of illustrations from daily life, became a subtle weapon to control the crowds. Like Jonathan Edwards, Billy Sunday firmly be­ lieved that sinners were in the hands of an angry God, and he didn't hesitate to tell them so, denouncing sin and sinner alike.

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