Chapter

The Spiritual Injuries of Class

Omri Elisha

in Moral Ambition

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267503
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950542 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520267503.003.0005
The Spiritual Injuries of Class

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The chapter examines the reflexive critique of class and the ways that it feeds into the discourse of outreach mobilization among socially engaged evangelicals. This critique is entirely distinct from and somewhat antithetical to the “prosperity gospel” notoriously associated with charismatic televangelists and preachers like Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar. The critique described here draws on a far more pervasive evangelical discourse of antimaterialism, which among other things provides suburban evangelicals with theological concepts, such as “incarnation” and “stewardship,” with which to negotiate their conflicted sense of class awareness. Pastors and churchgoers concerned with social outreach talk continually about the need to convince suburban evangelicals to leave their “comfort zones” and transcend the culture of apathy and insularity that the materialistic impulses of a consumer society are seen to create. The reflexivity intrinsic to the critique is based on a felt need to confront what it means to be “middle-class”, a vague category associated with broadly discernible social attainments and privileges and a desire to reconcile the apparent incongruities between class-based aspirations and Christian virtues of sacrifice, humility, and benevolence. Suburban evangelicals strive to embody a righteous and transcendent faith, yet they readily admit to feeling the pressures of status anxiety and the temptations of material comfort and prosperity.

Keywords: class; televangelists; suburban evangelicals; incarnation

Chapter.  13114 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology of Religion

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