As we near the end of the first Black History Month in age of the first black president, I want to quickly share with everyone the arrival of an important and timely book: Watch This: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism, by Jonathan L. Walton.
In case you didn’t already know, President Obama’s road to the White House revealed most clearly that African American religion continues to occupy a most pivotal place in the American cultural imagination. Moreover, his dramatic falling out with Jeremiah Wright (I know, this conversation is already exhausted) confirmed that the common assertion of the United States as a Christian nation is a claim in need of further clarification. While African Americans have long inserted themselves into the Christian story, the Obama-Wright show served to illustrate that not all forms of American Christianity (really, protestantisms) achieve equally footing in the public culture of the U.S.
Jonathan Walton’s “Watch This” provides a compelling a critical account of the varieties of black Christianity that now dominate airwaves both in the U.S. and around the globe. I’ve had the privilege of dialoging with the author as the project moved from dissertation to book, and I know him to wield one the sharpest and most insightful interpretations of African American religion, in particular, and religion and culture in America, more broadly. While I’ve just started to get into the book myself, I am confident that anyone who picks it up will learn something new about religion and race in America.
Kudos, Congratulations, and Thank you, Jonathan!
What follows is the beginning of his discussion of the book on the website ReligionDispatches:
Ten Questions for Jonathan Walton on Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism
What inspired you to write Watch This?
My interest in African American religious broadcasting came from what I perceived to be the gaps in the fields of African American religion and Religion, Media and Culture. For the most part, scholars of African American religion in general and black theology in particular theorize about Afro-Protestantism in America according to a particular historiography that privileges liberal Protestantism in general, and civil rights motifs in particular. But the prevailing narrative of the freedom fighting “black church” is in many ways inconsistent with a number of African American Christians whose view of the faith is informed by Trinity Broadcasting, the Word Network, and Streaming Faith.com. Just the same, for sociologists and communication theorists who have examined the world of evangelical religious broadcasting, it is predominantly framed as the domain of the white, Religious Right.
This book, then, is my attempt to illumine, unpack and interrogate the theological and social orientations of prominent black religious broadcasters in order to understand them as a source of attraction and ethically evaluate their dominant messages…
To continue reading go to ReligionDispatches.org.
To purchase book, go to www.nyupress.com