Preaching to the Converted: Making Responsible Evangelical Subjects Through Media

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Thomas, Holly Michelle




This dissertation examines contemporary televangelist discourses in order to better articulate prevailing evangelical subjectivities and televangelist participation in an increasingly mediated religious landscape. My interest lies in apocalyptic belief systems that engage end time scenarios to inform understandings of salvation. Using a Foucauldian inspired theoretical-methodology shaped by discourse analysis, archaeology, and genealogy, I examine three popular American evangelists who represent a diverse array of programming content: Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and Jack Van Impe. I argue that contemporary evangelical media packages now cut across a variety of traditional and new technologies to create a seamless mediated empire of participatory salvation where believers have access to complementary evangelist products twenty-four hours a day from a multitude of access points. For these reasons, I now refer to televangelism as mediated evangelism and televangelists as mediated evangelists while acknowledging that the televised programs still form the cornerstone of their mediated messages and engagement with believers. The discursive formations that take shape through mediated evangelism contribute to an apocalyptically informed religious-political subjectivity that identifies civic and political engagement as an expected active choice and responsibility for attaining salvation, in line with other more obviously evangelical religious practices, like prayer, repentance, and acceptance of Christ as savior. The discursive formation that surrounds what I term responsible salvation constitutes the responsible evangelical subject; a subjectivity that epitomizes evangelical tenets while using apocalyptic beliefs and salvation as a governing structure for everyday religious, mundane, and political decision-making. I examine the complexities of this evangelical subjectivity that constructs believers as active participants in both personal and national salvation. This work articulates a comprehensive understanding of how prevailing evangelical subjectivities govern everyday decisions regarding health and financial lifestyles, charitable giving, and national and international political engagement. In doing so, this dissertation attempts to better understand the increasingly complex relationship between religion, media, and politics in North America. This work contributes to a growing literature concerning the role of mediated religion in public life by advancing a discussion of the complex intersections between apocalyptic discourse, salvation, and evangelical discursive governance.


Mass Communications




Carleton University

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