Christianity and the Mass Media in America: Toward a by Quentin J. Schultze

By Quentin J. Schultze

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Extra resources for Christianity and the Mass Media in America: Toward a Democratic Accommodation (Rhetoric and Public Affairs Series)

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Although the secular media pay attention occasionally to national religious figures such as Billy Graham, they focus primarily on entertainers, newsmakers, and experts. Americans were inclined to identify themselves with particular consumption communities as much as with religious, ethnic, or other traditionally defined groups. By the end of the twentieth century there was essentially no difference between Christians’ and non-Christians’ rates of adoption of new media technologies, while the older technologies such as television and radio had saturated the Christian tribes.

Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority to Rev. M. G. “Pat” Robertson’s Christian Coalition, evangelicals have led tribal 32 Quentin J. 73 Sometimes these right-wing religious attacks elicit left-wing religious counterattacks, such as those led by Norman Lear’s People for the American Way. One could argue that the American Christian groups that were pushed the farthest to the perimeter of mainstream American culture have worked the hardest to build strong self-identities. They taught themselves how to use tribal media effectively to build their own constituencies, raise funds, and launch cultural attacks on their foes.

36 But American Christianity has been tremendously diverse at least from the early years of the twentieth century forward. For all of the apparent standardization and homogenization among so-called megachurches during the 1980s and 1990s, and in spite of the weakening of some denominational allegiances, American Christianity is still a smorgasbord of tribes. Using rhetorics of discernment, the various Christian groups in America formed their own social institutions, including specialized mass media, partly to shore up support for their local groups grounded in familial, ethnic, and community ties.

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