Monthly Archives: May 2014

Quakers and Foundational American Values

This is one in a series of guest posts authored by students in an undergraduate course I taught during Spring 2014, “Protestantism and the Development of American Culture.” Each student’s task was to write an informative essay explaining some way that Protestants have shaped (or tried to shape) American culture. Students knew that their essays would be posted to this blog, so they would have a real-world online audience.

Students are entirely responsible for the content and quality of their essays; I am merely the vehicle for broadcasting them (though on the whole I’m reasonably pleased with the results).


Quakers and Foundational American Values
By Matthew Hurd

What do you know about Quakers? You probably know about the little man on the Quaker Oats tub in grocery stores, the “pilgrim” style of dressing themselves, or that they were some radical religious group that was not in the majority back during the 17th -19th centuries. Believe it or not, there is a lot more to the Quakers (collectively known as the Religious Society of Friends) then meets the eye. One would say that they laid the foundation for many basic civil rights in today’s America. Quakers were heavy backers for abolition of slavery, promoting equal rights for women, promoting education and humane treatment of prisoners, and peace. These may seem like basic civil rights today, but one point in our history they were not. As such, Quakers were ridiculed and prosecuted to measures that would be seen as torture today.

Brief History and Persecution of the Quakers

England:

The origins of the Quakers started overseas in the country of England by a man named George Fox. Ingle, who was George Fox’s biographer, says this was back in the mid 1600’s and Fox expressed the idea that God could speak to all sort of peoples, not just your churchmen that paid their way through the church. In Ingle’s text it said that for roughly 4 years, Fox was recruiting people’s of all types to be potential Quakers; one’s that might have been uncertain about their religion or disillusioned, as well as just common folk that could be persuaded.

Yount explains that Quakers referred to an Inner Light that was shared by every person. It is the doctrine of Inner Light that explains their beliefs in God’s continuing revelation of himself through personal inspiration. Fox sought not to create a new faith, but to restore the authentic faith and practice of the earliest Christians. Yount recounts to the Acts of the Apostles to explain the original community of faith, “There was complete agreement of heart and soul…. A wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship. Indeed there was not a single person in need among them” (Acts 4:43-44).

In Hamm’s Origins of American Quakerism chapter of The Quakers in America, it talks about how Fox was flexible in what the movement could be called. His preference was “Children of the Light”, but other terms for the movement were such as “People of God”, “Royal Seed of God”, and “Friends of the Truth” which is eventually how the official name “Religious Society of Friends” came about.

Hamm’s text also states that one of the definite movements in the founding of Quakerism happened in 1652, after Fox was released from jail. Fox climbed to the top of Pendle Hill where he was led by the Lord to see what places where people were to be gathered. This location, after gathering about a thousand people, was on Firbank Fell where Fox first gave word to the masses of the Quakerism movement.

Eventually there were many movements by the Quakers through the 1650’s and it led across the Atlantic into the New World, later known as the United States.

America:

Worrall writes that scholars are in agreement to who the first Friend (another term for Quaker), from the Religious Society of Friends, was to arrive in North America. It was Elizabeth Harris who travelled in the Chesapeake region to arouse interests from Puritans starting around 1655. Hamm writes that there were nearly sixty Friends that were in the two colonies by 1662. Maryland was very tolerant of the Quakers, but Virginia was a different case. Quakers in Virginia were imprisoned because of their refusal to attend the services of the established church and pay their tithes to it. At least one of the Virginia Quakers died in jail.

Another example of persecution to the Quakers is when they moved to the Puritan colony of Massachusetts. Barbour and Frost write that two women Friends, Ann Austin and Mary Fisher, arrived in Boston and they were immediately imprisoned. Their Quaker books were burned and were examined for witchcraft. Jones writes that between 1656 and 1659, 33 Quakers visited Massachusetts and all were expelled. On top of expulsion, they were often brutally punished in ways of whipping, branding, and other mutilations. Two children of a Quaker couple in Salem were sold to be indentured servants in the Caribbean. It even got to the point where Massachusetts passed a law that imposed death on any Quaker who returned to the colony after being banished twice.

As one can see, Quakers were treated incredibly poorly back in the day. Hamm writes that Quakers were seen as heretics and blasphemers who put blockades in the way of salvation. Their refusal to defer to authority, the power and public roles of Quaker women, and their opposition to oaths all seemed like direct challenges to the Puritan social order.

Elliot’s text gives a good breadth of the spread of Quakerism across the American Frontier. Early in the days, Quakers reached land from the already stated colonies to regions south, north, and west. Regions such as Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, all the way out to the west coast, but more importantly the two colonies of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Jones and Worrall both write that Rhode Island was the colony that was most open to Quakers which was the colony that was founded on religious toleration. This colony had attracted a wide variety of nonconformists, many of which followed the Quaker message. At the same time, toleration did not mean acceptance. When George Fox visited the colony in 1672, Roger Williams, the founder of the colony, challenged Fox to a public debate. Fox could not stay for the debate, but other Friends agreed to do so. Eventually, Quakers started becoming a major force in politics in this region.

The next colony of importance to the Quakers was Pennsylvania which was the region that many Quakers called home. William Penn, a member of the Society of Friends, was the founder of the colony. Penn received a royal grant to this land in 1681 and had absolute power over the colony and the form that its government and settlement took. He framed it according to Quaker principles, which made it the first society in the world to be so established. Penn wanted Pennsylvania and its capital, Philadelphia to be a model for the rest of the world. Penn’s “Frame of Government” provided for complete religious freedom and did not include governmental support for any church, including Quakerism (Penn did limit office holding, however, to Christians). Compared to England, the criminal code was enlightened and capital punishment was only provided for treason or murder.

Penn also encouraged settlement by making land available on easy terms. Many people would settle to this new land. At the same time, he wanted to have fair dealing relations with the native peoples of the land, mainly the Lenni Lenape or Delaware, he even learned to speak their languages. The Indians saw him as treating them equitable and with respect. Since all these things were so attractive to the Friends, more than three thousand friends arrived in Pennsylvania in the span from the founding in 1681 to the end of 1683.

Beliefs of the Quakers

Yount writes that over time, Pennsylvania became the model for the United States. He also says that the liberty Americans take for granted did not originate in the minds of secular Enlightenment thinkers but from the application of the Quakers’ Christian faith. The American Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in Quaker Pennsylvania, the nation’s Bill of Rights was modeled after the Quaker-drafted constitution of Rhode Island. The Liberty Bell was originally the Great Quaker Bell, purchased long before the American Revolution. Despite the obscurity of Quakers in America today, their role in forming the American character can be said to fit the definition of American democracy.

Yount lays out some examples of beliefs by the Quakers that are basic, fundamental rights to all today:

  • Equality: The Friends’ sense of equality was radical for its time, extending to women, African Americans, Native Americans, and many more. This meant suffrage for women and civil rights for all.
  • Informality: The Quakers sense of simplicity in many aspects of life was quickly picked up by fellow countrymen and women
  • Tolerance: The Quakers believed that there is “that of God in everyone”, meaning they welcomed all culturally and religiously different people to have God’s rights of conscience.

Besides some foundations of American character, Quakers also strongly influenced many other aspects of American life:

  • The dialect and word of Quakers was a very muscular speech-bluff, literal, direct, vivid, forceful, and plain-spoke. Unlike other American dialects, their speech employed expressions, pronounced vowel, and stressed the same syllables we find in standard American speech today.
  • The Quaker’s also employed a sense of family life that characterizes many American families today. Puritans and Anglicans were said to employ fear to maintain family unity, where Quakers completely opposed that. On top of this, the idea of Marriage under Quaker thought was ideal for today. Quakers thought it should be a union of “sweethearts”, and love must precede marriage, not follow it.
  • Optimism is another trait that Quakers often strive for. Death was as familiar as life and was not to be feared but welcomed as the beginning on eternity.
  • Education in America today is what early Quakers wished it would be to best serve all students. They completely opposed state churches and were critical of frivolous and speculative education because they believed such schooling caused divisions between the people.
  • For Quakers, work was a fundamental form of worship, doing the service of God through one’s God-given talents. Being occupied was a matter of discipline, one of taking control of your life.
  • Bankruptcy was considered a failure to Quakers, but when happened, they were still there to help their friends who were going through rough times. Since the Quakers believed so much in helping one another, they became a leader in the insurance industry. The oldest corporate business in America was founded by Quakers to insure all against fire.

Besides these values that Quakers held, there were also many other things they influenced such as they way we build our homes, dress ourselves, eat, sport and leisure, defining social status and power, and many others.

Conclusion

The biggest thing I wanted to accomplish with this essay was to let people become a little more aware of Quakers, their influence on America, what their ideals and beliefs were, and the persecution they had to go through. They are not just the little man on the Quaker Oats tub, they are more than that. Quakers hold some of the ideals and beliefs that we place as some of the most important foundational values to America. Whether it is equality, informality, tolerance, optimism, et cetera, the Quakers can be considered to help lay the ground to make America what it is today. I really love Yount’s title of his book because I really do think the Quakers helped “invent” America.

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Televangelists and the Persuasive Tactics They Use to Recover from Scandals

This is one in a series of guest posts authored by students in an undergraduate course I taught during Spring 2014, “Protestantism and the Development of American Culture.” Each student’s task was to write an informative essay explaining some way that Protestants have shaped (or tried to shape) American culture. Students knew that their essays would be posted to this blog, so they would have a real-world online audience.

Students are entirely responsible for the content and quality of their essays; I am merely the vehicle for broadcasting them (though on the whole I’m reasonably pleased with the results).


Televangelists and the Persuasive Tactics They Use to Recover from Scandals
By Cheyenne Woodall

Many people wonder what exactly makes Televangelism successful over other religious programs. The answer is simple; they use specific persuasive tactics to attract their audience and keep their interest by appealing to their wants and needs. But some may ask, what happens when there are scandals involving televangelists? Does this affect their audience base? How must they (televangelists) handle the repercussions of their actions? The televangelists must handle their situations very carefully in order to please their audience and to not push them away to the point where they lose viewers. Two televangelists that have been in a scandal or two, throughout their careers are Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Both of these men handled their situation in similar ways but there were still some differences. The commonality between all televangelists, including Swaggart and Bakker, is their goal to spread the word of God to all people. For the purpose of this essay, only the element of persuasive tactics Swaggart and Bakker use to influence their audience will be analyzed. Overall, it is apparent that in order to come back from a “scandal”, televangelists must be very effective at using persuasive tactics to retain their viewer’s trust and to continue being successful.

Basics of Televangelism

A basic understanding of what televangelism is and how it is differs from tactics used by different churches is essential to understand. Televangelism is a form of television religious advertising that differs from mainline denominations in a couple ways but all groups do have some similarities. Both mainline and televangelists see the purpose of religious broadcasting to be to recruit converts but they are different in the ways in which they recruit these followers. According to Schmidt and Kess, televangelists differ from the mainline in the belief that they see media as “God’s provision of the means by which to carry out His Will.” (36) They also believe that every person should be able to hear the gospel, which makes television a very helpful tool in spreading this message. Another way Schmidt and Kess found that broadcasting televangelism and mainline churches differ is in the fact that televangelists must pay for their broadcasting time, while “television stations have traditionally donated the time used by these other denominations.” Since televangelists do not receive outside support and depend mainly on their viewers, it is very important to handle scandals appropriately so viewers are not lost.

Televangelist broadcasting has certain characteristics that make it different from other shows that are commonly watched. The shows have commonly been described as being generally fast-paced and highly entertaining. Schmidt and Kess characterize the broadcasts to be divided into a series of short segments, which include “songs, a variety of speakers, interviews, film clips, and in most cases, also a sermon.” Having fast-paced and entertaining aspects to the television broadcast are important because if the show cannot keep the attention of their audience, they will not be successful in getting support (funding) from their viewers. Kennedy captured the necessity of donations by the audience when he reported that, “A half-hour of television on cable network can cost more than $11,000, which is more than the Christian education budget for an entire year for many American churches.”

Persuasive Tactics

Throughout much research, there has been three common persuasive tactics that can be found in many sermons of televangelists. Those three tactics are manipulative persuasion, names as mini-advertisements, and saying things indirectly. Each of these tactics has helped televangelists be successful in receiving funding from their audience as well as sharing their message with the world.

Schmidt and Kess summarize the definition of manipulative persuasion as a frequent repetition of a name or product in order to get the audience to remember what the speaker is trying to get across. From analyzing telecasts, Schmidt and Kess found that most of the manipulative persuasion took place in sermons in order to get the audience to remember the names of who is being spoken about or the preacher themselves. By repeating the televangelists name multiple times, it will help the audience recognize the name within society and may influence their choice by unconsciously reflecting on what the preacher had said before. This is also a way to “brand” the televangelist and their broadcast.

Televangelists often use names as mini-advertisements in order to help spread the names of their greatest financial contributors. This tactic not only keeps the contributors happy but also gives them the opportunity to gain more customers from the televangelists spreading awareness of their company. As they gain more customers, they will be willing to donate more towards the televangelist.

The last tactic that will be analyzed is saying things indirectly. Schmidt and Kess describe this tactic as “conveying information that must be interpreted through processes of convention or conversational implicate.” An example of this could be when a televangelist uses specific word choice that could have multiple meanings and the audience is forced to decipher the meaning, which may influence their choices in the outside world. This tactic also helps the televangelist to be persuasive without coming right out to the public and saying it straightforward on topics that may be viewed as controversial by some.

Jim Bakker

Jim_BakkerThe first televangelist who will be analyzed is Jim Bakker. Bakker is the founder of the first Christian talk show “The 700 Club”. He then founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which according to the jimbakkershowwebsite, “still beams around the world with 24-hour a day Christian programming.” After this accomplishment Jim Bakkerhelped create The PTL Club, The Inspirational Network, and Heritage USA.

In 1987 Bakker resigned as President of The PTL Club because of a scandal that was brought to light by the public. The scandal consisted of an affair with a woman in which Bakker attempted to pay the woman $265,000 to conceal the actions. The funding for this cover-up was said to come from “lifetime resort partnerships, “ and of course these funds were not supposed to be used for those purposes. As a result, Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Bakker only served five years of the sentenced years because his case was overturned and dismissed.

In order to handle the backlash of the situation, Bakker issued a public apology towards the mistress and his viewers. In his apology he stated that “It was a terrible mistake and I believe Christ has forgiven me.” When acknowledging the monies from the funds had been paid to the woman, Bakker said that he was not aware that any money had been set aside and he learned about it after his loved ones did what they could to protect the ministries name and Bakker himself.

While Bakker was in prison he wrote multiple books, which consist of “I Was Wrong”, “The Refuge”, “Prosperity and The coming Apocalypse” and “Time Has Come.”The overall theme of these books is one of “grace and total restoration.” Bakker is not afraid to speak of his past and try to help others going through similar struggles that he may have. Bakker promotes the idea of the “redemptive power of love” and believes if God is able to restore Bakker and his wife’s lives then God can do the same for anyone.

Bakker is currently preaching on The Jim Bakker Show, which is a daily broadcast that reaches audiences in the United States and Canada through Direct TV, Dish Network and other satellite providers. The fact that Bakker is still able to have an audience to broadcast to after his scandal shows that his public apologies and books had effective persuasive skills that kept parts of his audience still interested in his message. Kennedy reported that even though “the scandals took their toll on the televangelist audience and donor support, there has been a gradual recovery.” This gradual recovery is portrayed with Bakker’s current broadcast.

When reflecting on the previous persuasive tactics mentioned before, it is clear that two are embraced by Jim Bakker since his current telecast is named after himself; The Jim Bakker Show. The two tacticsused are names as mini-advertisements and manipulative persuasion. The example is a mixture of the two strategies because he uses his name as a recognizable characteristic that could catch his audience’s attention within society and it is repeated multiple times, which makes it a form of manipulative persuasion as well.

Jimmy Swaggart

jimmy_swaggart2Jimmy Swaggart is another televangelist who has had a scandal and found a way to recover from the situation so he would not loose all of his followers. In the prime of his broadcasting days, Swaggart’s programming was “transmitted to over 3,000 stations and innumerable cable systems each week.” His telecasts were also seen by 500 million people worldwide, which made it the most widespread preaching of the Gospel.

Swaggart’s scandal is similar to Bakker’s in that it involves sexual scandal and a public apology. The difference between the two televangelist’s situations is how Swaggart addressed his apology. As a result of his infidelity to his wife, the Assemblies of God directed him to stop preaching for a year but he defied this order and returned to the airwaves for his apology. Instead of aiming his apology towards the audience as Bakker did, Swaggart made his directly towards his wife. He was “tearfully begging forgiveness from his wife,” reported Kennedy.

Instead of dwelling on his past mistakes, Swaggart sings of God’s mercy on his weekly telecast. This telecast is seen “nationwide and abroad on over 78 channels in 104 countries and live over the internet.” Swaggart’s apology contained specific persuasive skills that were very effective in order to retain most of his audience during his scandal.

When Swaggart appeared on the air, crying and begging for his wife’s forgiveness, this is an example of the persuasive tactic of “saying things indirectly.” Swaggarts actions are an example of this tactic because he is trying to convince the audience that he is truly sorry without publicly addressing just the audience about his actions. If Swaggart wanted to only address his wife and apologize to her only, he could have apologized in private with just his wife and no one else observing. His actions show that he acknowledged that this scandal could be detrimental to his number of viewers so he took action in order to try to keep their views.

American Society and Televangelism

From analyzing the actions taken by Swaggart and Bakker to appeal to their audiences after their indiscretions, it is clear that these televangelists understand the wants and needs of their viewers. Since both of these men were able to come back after such scandals and still have a following base to continue production, it is clear that the protestant ideals of forgiveness are very strong. The importance of the protestant belief in forgiveness is found within Martin Marty’s creencias. The creencias are deeply held protestant beliefs thatinfluenced the way Protestants shaped and continue to shape America. Both Swaggart and Bakker knew that in order to keep their funding from their audience, they had to publicly apologize for their actions, even though they did not directly affect the viewers. If their following base did not have these strong protestant ideals of forgiveness, then these televangelists may not have been able to come back and continue broadcasting. With the help of manipulative persuasion, names as mini-advertisements, and saying things indirectly, Swaggart and Bakker were able to continue receivingfunding from their audience, which led to a recovery with minimal amount of damage to their audience base.

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Satan at Harvard

So here’s my two bits, or three, about the black Mass controversy at Harvard.

1 bit. I’m not really buying the claim of the cultural studies club who sponsored the event that their “purpose [was] not to denigrate any religion or faith… but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.” I can see how they could convince themselves that was a sincere statement. But the Satanic Temple is an organization that engages in iconoclasm to make political points–like their petition to erect a statue of the devil at the Oklahoma state capitol in order to protest the erection of a Ten Commandments display. Great move, as far as I’m concerned. (If the statue gets the green light, I’m happy to pitch in a few bucks.) But you can’t pass iconoclasm off as a benign exercise in multicultural exposure. “We just wanted to observe Satanists at worship… Just like the Shinto tea ceremony we’re going to stage next week.” Oh please.

Iconoclasm is offensive: that’s the point. So have the backbone to stand by it as such if your club is going to sponsor it. Instead of this pablum about experiencing other cultures, issue a feisty statement about free speech. At the end of the day, Harvard’s president, eager though he was to appease Massachusetts Catholics, did a better job of defending free speech than the cultural studies club did.

2 bits. Opponents of the black Mass have been using the word “blasphemy” a lot. (High-ranking clergy have also used the occasion to affirm the reality of the devil and his works, which I found intriguing from a “post-secularization theory” angle.) If Harvard permits the “blaspheming of Catholic sacramental practice,” Francis Clooney asked readers of the Harvard Crimson, “what’s next?” “Historical reenactments of anti-Semitic or racist ceremonies?” “Parodies that trivialize Native American heritage?”

Before I go after Fr. Clooney’s rhetoric with my penknife, I’m going to submit myself to a discipline of empathy. I understand why he’s upset. If, let’s say, an evangelical student group on my campus were to invite a countercultist to come lecture on Mormonism, and if it were announced that this speaker were going to don Mormon temple robes and reenact portions of the ceremony which adherents treat as ritual secrets–that would get my blood boiling in much the same way, I imagine, that the black Mass upsets Catholics.

But if we’re going to play the “What’s next?” game, let me offer some alternative scenarios. If outraged Catholics can successfully pressure a student group to cancel plans to stage an event that the Catholics consider blasphemous–what’s next? Could outraged Catholics successfully pressure a student group to cancel plans to invite a member of Roman Catholic Womenpriests to celebrate Mass? Could outraged Muslims successfully pressure a student group to cancel plans to invite Salman Rushdie? Could outraged Hindus successfully pressure a student group to cancel plans to invite Jeffrey Kripal? Could outraged evangelicals successfully pressure a student group to cancel plans to invite, I dunno, John Shelby Spong or Gene Robinson? Those are all cases in which critics could invoke the term “blasphemy.” How far does Fr. Clooney expect his university to go in deferring to charges of blasphemy? I’d like to know.

3 bits. Let’s be clear about what happened here. A religious group that enjoys considerable clout on the local scene launched a protest against an event planned by a minority religious group that resulted in the minority group’s event being, in effect, shut down. (Emphasize “in effect.”) In these situations, my sympathies tend to lie with the underdog. How good does domination taste, Massachusetts Catholics?

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Protesting a Hindu invocation in the Senate

I was aware of this 2007 incident, and of an earlier controversy over a Hindu invocation in the House in 2000. But I’d never seen footage of the incident until the video showed up on my Facebook wall a couple of days ago (very belatedly).

The protesters, who you can hear praying and quoting scripture off screen, were Ante and Katherine Pavkovic and their daughter Christan, members of Operation Rescue. (From North Carolina, I understand–former stomping grounds of mine.) The cleric whose meditation they interrupted was Rajan Zed, from Nevada. Just to make things a little more interesting with an eye to religious pluralism: Zed had been invited to serve as guest chaplain by Harry Reid, a rather rare Mormon Democrat.

This was the first time that a Hindu had been invited to serve as the Senate’s guest chaplain. Some Christian Right organizations and publications objected to the Hindu invocation on the grounds that Hindus don’t worship the Christian or Judeo-Christian God acknowledged by the Founders.

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Exploring the Burned Over District

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I’m in the thick of preparing for final exams, so here’s a quick post: My sister-in-law directed me recently to the blog Exploring the Burned Over District. Fun for an American religious historian like myself! Their slogan: “Chris and Luke visit all the sacred sites in upstate New York that will let them in.” I’ve been wanting to do a tour along those lines myself, on a smaller scale. So far, they have a nice mix of different religious traditions whose sites they’ve visited, as you’ll see if you scroll down to their list of Categories. I like their map feature, too.

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