Enlarging the Faith Books and the Marketing of Liberal Religion in a Consumer Culture

Matthew S. Hedstrom

in The Rise of Liberal Religion

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195374490
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979141 | DOI:
Enlarging the Faith Books and the Marketing of Liberal Religion in a Consumer Culture

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The first major event in the modernization of religious publishing in the twentieth century was the Religious Book Week of the 1920s, an initiative spearheaded by Frederic Melcher and the National Association of Book Publishers. Religious Book Week brought together an emerging American consumerism and a liberal Protestantism in crisis to forge a new approach to marketing religious books, and indeed liberal religion itself. Among the key factors facing the Protestant establishment was a crisis of authority rooted in deep gender anxieties, anxieties revealed in the work of popular author and advertiser Bruce Barton, but most especially in the advertising posters and other materials used to promote Religious Book Week. This commercial poster art reflected a moment of cultural transition, as religious, economic, and cultural forces transformed the long-standing cultural value of character into an emerging ethos of personality. The marketing of liberal religion in Religious Book Week unwittingly aided this cultural shift, even as many of its leading promoters expressed nostalgia for older norms and practices. The work of the psychologist and bestselling author Henry C. Link illustrates many of these developments, especially the emergence of laissez-faire liberalism from religious middlebrow culture.

Keywords: religious book week; advertising; poster art; religious publishing; Frederic Melcher; Bruce Barton; liberal Protestantism; Henry C. Link; character; personality

Chapter.  13103 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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