Tweeting Kate Bowler on Female Evangelical Celebrity Speakers

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Kate Bowler mentioned Christian speaker Sheila Walsh (above) in her plenary address at the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

This weekend at the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History in Virginia Beach, Duke Divinity School historian Kate Bowler gave a plenary lecture titled “The Imperfect Saint: Disclosure and Power in American Megaministry.”  The talk focused on evangelical women celebrity preachers (think Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Sheila Walsh, etc…).

I tweeted (@johnfea1) the session at the hashtag #cfh2016. Over at Christian Century Carol Howard Merritt has posted some of those tweets and others and offered some commentary.

Here is a taste:

I have complicated feelings about this, and maybe Bowler does too. Her amazing NYT article connected with me on a different level than her book on prosperity gospel (although I loved them both), because I saw her scholarly work on health and wealth gospel within a personal context—a 35-year-old woman, (I hesitate to write it… but I will to make my case…) a spouse, and a mother, with stage four cancer.

We know that one of the most enduring works of spiritual memoir was written by a man—St. Augustine. But I have read books where I felt like I was leering into the bedroom window of a neighbor. I felt guilty, dirty, and fascinated. I wondered how the words would affect her children (as the child of a Christian author mom, my mind always wanders there).

I am on the final stages of a book that’s not a memoir, but it does delve into my past. As Meredith Gould described it, “You’re writing from a different place.” I’m not trying to explain large religious movements or even the inner workings of a congregation. I’m trying to describe what happens internally, and the only way I could recount it in detail was to talk about myself.

I made the shift for a couple of other reasons. I know what it’s like to read a scholarly work. I’m interested in the topic, but I’m also skimming a bit, because I’m not concerned about it on a dissertation level. Then, all of a sudden, I notice how my attention gets fully engaged in the words. I become fascinated, and I realize that the author has drifted into a personal narrative, and he or she is suddenly explaining the why. Why the topic matters—not because they want to present a paper at AAR, not because they want to gain tenure, not because they want to make a contribution to their field—but the real-life reason why the person cares. Then I’m fully participating.

Is that because I’m responding to some societal gender construct? And if I write on a personal level, then will my words only be read by women? Will they be disregarded? Maybe. But women read more books than men anyways.

Read the entire post here.